As every condemnation of the events of the past couple weeks comes across my screen, I feel more and more sad. More angry. More confused. More scared. Not scared like Black people are scared, of course, because I’m white and have little to truly fear. No; I’m sad because the condemnations are too often sanitized and shallow. They seem to just want to make a statement of acknowledgment but not to offend. And I get why, I’m the same; personally, I’m scared of going deeper, speaking what is in my heart and thereby saying something that hurts my business. I’m afraid of offending someone, and that their anger at me will somehow undermine my reputation — or they’ll somehow have a way of getting between me and potential clients.
I’m not fearing for my safety or my life or my children, because even if my business fell completely apart, I’m white, educated, somewhat smart, and would likely find a job and be able to put food on the table.
I almost sent this this week, but my marketing advisor advised caution, reminding me that I am posting as my brand, and warning that it therefore could come across performative or opportunistic. So I put it on my personal Facebook page rather than in my ‘branded’ newsletter. Funny, huh? I’m afraid of my truth losing me business, and she’s pointing out that it could be perceived as “riding a coat tail” of tragedy to get business, especially if it’s perceived as ‘off brand.’ But is it off brand? I’m a HUMAN Strategist™ for God’s sake. If this isn’t my brand, I’ve been doing something wrong. I’m nothing if not about finding strategies for being a better, more loving, more compassionate human and injecting humanity back into organizations that have forgotten that without people they’ve got NOTHING. No, I am not trying to garner business with those words or these; they are simply my truth.
And yes: I am heartbroken and outraged about Mr. Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, the riots, the looting, the injustices, the use of force against peaceful protestors…the disproportionate toll our systems take on people of color. Let it be registered that I condemn the deaths, the brutality, the injustice, white supremacy and racism; and that I acknowledge and am deeply saddened by the role I have played in it all, consciously, subconsciously, and otherwise, that has allowed this culture to continue and flourish. Because I know I have laughed at racist jokes. I know I have not stood up when witnessing racism because it looked normal to me. I know I have let white people use the N-word and even though I cringed inside, I said nothing. I condemn racism to those that agree with me and hide my light from those that disagree, letting them believe I am on their side — or worse, letting them believe I am too much a coward to stand against them, thus proving their bullying works. I don’t want to do that anymore.
These feelings aren’t off-brand, they are my brand. I work with people and teams to have the difficult, HUMAN conversations that lead to better Honoring of one another, because by honoring each other we come to and seek to Understand them. And Understanding them is key, not because I as a white middle-class male will ever fully get it, but to understand what is real for them, irrespective of my personal perceptions and experiences. Only in that understanding can I truly Honor them.
Because of that Honor, because of that desire to understand and that willingness to accept them, we can actually Manage our reactions — because we are in control of ourselves. By actively seeking knowledge and insight, we are choosing to see — and choosing to accept even the parts we can’t see. If I can accept that a million dollars exists even though I have never actually seen a million dollars, I can accept the truth of a black person’s life, experiences, fears and barriers even though they don’t exist in one iota of my life. Because we are in control of this Honor, we are able Respond in conversation, rather than react. If we are not reacting, there is nothing for us to defend, nothing to pretend, because it’s not about us — it’s about them. Do you see it coming together?
Because the better we seek understanding of another person’s point of view, the more capable we are at being able to describe and state their position, hopefully stating it so well that they exclaim, “YES!!!! That’s it, you get it! You are hearing me. Thank you for listening.” Could you imagine our black brothers and sisters feeling that way? Heard? Seen? The more we can do that, the more we can give that to them, the more likely WE are to be affected, to be changed, because we will have seen through different eyes, felt different feelings, explored different thoughts.
As Einstein taught, a mind once expanded seldom returns to its original shape and dimension. We will never BE the person we are trying to hear and understand; that isn’t our goal. Our goal is to see them instead of denying them; accept them instead of trying to prove them wrong or minimize their pain; to love them because they are human and desire to be seen, loved and accepted. So many from all sides of the spectrum like to say we are more alike than different — without ever really trying to understand our alikeness. When we reach that place of seeing, loving and accepting, we will find that overlap. Because it’s no longer about right and wrong, it’s about connection. And in that sweet spot we will find ourselves Attracting a desired outcome grounded in our alikeness.
Rumi teaches that out there beyond right and wrong is a field; let’s meet there. I was once asked what’s in that field and replied: acceptance, love, understanding, compassion. It’s an important question. And equally so is the one that asks what is not there: judgement, fear, winning, separation.
If we can
Honor one another
Understand, truly understand and accept their perspective, their feelings, their experiences that cause them to interpret circumstances the way they do,
Manage our reactions so we remain in conscious choice rather than knee-jerk defensiveness,
Then we are in the position to
Attract a desired outcome.
It’s at that point we are ready to
Negotiate — not to win or be right, not to prove anyone wrong or score points, but to negotiate from a place of integrity and values. Said another way, with integrity, we value them in our discussions and problem solving.
That in turn Attracts the desire outcome by managing our reactions as we seek to understand one and honor the other as a HUMAN, a person, who, like you, needs to be seen, to be validated, to be accepted for who they are; and in seeing that humanity, we WILL evolve, because when we honor and feel honored, we want to bring joy to the other.
I don’t want to just feel bad, send prayers and have my heart and thoughts go out to the families that are losing loved ones. I want to be a catalyst in implementing a HUMAN Strategy™ that changes the world.
I may not have the answer, but I do have the questions. I’m not going to stop asking them — and I hope that’s always a part of my ‘brand.’