Speaking Truth to Power, and to Yourself

I just finished putting on a conference at the university this week, and spent yesterday just scratching the surface of some level of rejuvenation. It was a beautiful day so I went for several walks – one to drop off something at my daughter’s school, one to the dog park with my four-legged buddy, and one along the river with my wife. Sunshine, warmth, and no email are great medicine.

Speak the truth even if your voice shakesAt the conference, my friend Mary mentioned the importance of speaking truth to power. Like me, she’s a fan of Brené Brown, who stresses the importance of speaking truth to power, as well as “calling out bullshit” when necessary. We need more of this these days, but, whenever possible, using the most civil tone and methods possible. Otherwise nobody listens and we make matters worse.

Honesty is so vital for both a civil society and good relationships, whether with colleagues or neighbours or family, or even those who disagree with you politically. Frankly speaking, these days it seems like we let ourselves get so fired up that we just make shit up to either A) try to prove others wrong or B) try to shut others down. If somebody does that to you, you should “call out the bullshit”. If somebody “calls out your bullshit” then you really need to take a step back and own it (“you’re right, I screwed up, I’m sorry”).

While on my walks yesterday, especially the first two, I had a lot of time to think because I didn’t have anyone with me who I could carry on a conversation with (of course I talk to my dog, but she just wags at me). I’d forgotten my earbuds in the car the day before so I couldn’t listen to music or podcasts on my walk either. This created a good opportunity for some reflection. It gave me a chance to do some surface level thinking about my priorities now that the conference is over, the areas of my life that need more attention, and the things that I can be doing better at.

This was me speaking truth to myself. It’s an ongoing conversation, but one that I think we all need to make time for often because it helps keep us grounded and moving on a path that aligns with our vision and values. Yes, I read my manifesto twice a day to remind me of the person that I want to be on a daily basis, but I need to make time to really think about how well I’m meeting that ideal, time to call out my own bullshit, time to pat myself on the back, time to course correct when needed.

 

Photo courtesy of Duncan Hull under a CC-BY license.

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4 thoughts on “Speaking Truth to Power, and to Yourself”

  1. Very true! Interestingly enough, the theme of the American Evaluation Association conference this year is “Speaking Truth to Power”. Fortunately, there seems to be a willingness in that field to also speak truth to itself and “call out the bullshit”, but like you said, it’s something that needs to be done regularly.

    1. Brian,

      I think we need to make being honest with ourselves a habit. I don’t know how we can really be honest with others if we keep lying to, or hiding from ourselves. Thanks for reading!

  2. “Speak the truth even if your voice shakes” is such a call to action for me. Love your courage and introspection!!

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