Two “mantras” that express how I approach life both in the work environment and outside are “Be Kind” and “Be the Change you want to see.” Often as we use Social Media we can see opinions and comments being shared which are not in line with those approaches to life and we see the harshness of people’s comments from the comfortable anonymity of their internet enabled devices.
I was especially mindful of that this morning when I read the comments about Colin Jackson and his revelation of his sexuality. Many of those I saw commenting across Social Media implied that that they already knew about Colin Jackson and I saw comments such as “tell us something we didn’t know”. It struck me again how quick people can be to express their opinion without thinking about what they are commenting on. They were clearly missing the point. It’s not about them; it’s about Colin and how he feels and being comfortable to share something that is intensely personal with the wider world.
What’s the relevance to the broad topic of my Learning & Development blog you might wonder? All too often in the workplace, as I touched on in my recent posts about Difficult Conversations,” we can be very quick to make judgements without considering the experience of those we are dealing with. Each individual has been on a journey shaped by the world, the people they have encountered and their own experiences and have made decisions based on that journey.
At age 50 Colin Jackson grew up in a world which is so different to the more accepting environment we live in today. He grew up when people were denied opportunity, were routinely ostracised, and would face violence and intimidation. A world where the idea of taking a same sex partner to a “work event” would have been unthinkable because of the snide comments, the sneering looks, the impact on one’s opportunities at work that would have ensued.
He grew up in a world where being different made one feel scared of being oneself. A world which didn’t accept that you couldn’t be anything other than “normal” as defined by society.
As the years pass of hiding who you are for fear of the repercussions it becomes the norm to be reticent, to use language which introduces and sustains ambiguity when it comes to whom one loves.
Today, we live in a world which is more accepting of people being themselves; although many still face that fear of being themselves because of the reaction of those around them.
Fear is an emotion which it is hard to let go of so as Colin tells the world who he is and who he chooses to love – have a little thought for those that still struggle with the fear they feel.
If you can do one thing, it’s not to sneer and say “yes we knew.” It’s to be the change in the world that allows others to be true to themselves. Above all else Be Kind!