‘When we share we heal, reconnect and grow’
– Grace Tame, National Press Club of Australia
I know I am late to the party in celebrating our current Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, for her honesty and bravery in stepping up and speaking out about the abuse she suffered. I recently listened to her speech at the National Press Club, and it was powerful, mainly due to her ability to use clear and concise language. It was a call to action for our nation’s leaders, but also to all Australians. She imbues that now is the time to speak up, now is the time to talk about behaviours and actions that previously been accepted by silence.
I have felt momentum building steadily this year with many marginalised groups feeling empowered and strong enough to break their silence. We have seen marches and protests all around the country.
However, you don’t have to give an inspirational speech or organise a rally to allow space for sharing meaningful stories. We don’t all get such a powerful platform to speak from. It is however possible to have real and meaningful conversations with those around you about topics and issues that are important to you.
One of the first steps is to label these types of conversations in a way that creates space for them. Often, they are referred to as difficult, uncomfortable or harsh conversations. Language influences your mindset, for example if I knew I was about to enter an uncomfortable conversation it would be safe to say I would be feeling quite nervous and it may cause me to act defensive during. An alternative is to label them genuine conversations. This is a signal to everyone involved can they feel comfortable to share a part of themselves.
Next step is to invest time and meaningful effort of your relationships. Strong trusting relationships provide us with the safety to share. I think we all have people in our lives that we have known for a while, but you keep the conversation surface level and are friendly enough, but never go deeper, and you would not feel comfortable to share and open up to them. That is because whilst the time has been invest the effort is missing, both ingredients are required in order to create trusting relationships. Relationships are critical to our ability to have real genuine conversations as communication is all about the response you receive. If you haven’t invested the time and effort to build relationships the person you are speaking to may have reason to not trust what you have to say.
It is important to be clear on your own expectations when having these conversations. Ask yourself ‘what is the purpose of this conversation and what do you hope to get out of it?’.
Often these conversations can be regarding topics or issues you are passionate about which can mean sometimes your emotions can get the better of you. Being planned and clear on your expectations will help you deliver a clear and concise message.
In every situation we all have a choice about how we respond. We can voice our opinion and have a genuine conversation, we can stay quiet, or we can walk away.