How To Speak Your Truth Without Getting Cancelled
Let’s talk about Chloe and Mel. Chloe and Mel are friends, best friends. They love the same music, the same clubs and cafes and the same Netflix series. Sometimes they have liked the same guys. But they differ too. Mel is a little bit hipster and Chloe dresses straight from the year 2000. Mel’s in university and Chloe is going to work for a while. But they’re both at a place in life where they’re trying to figure out who they really are and what they really want.
There’s a lot in their lives that they are pretty fluid about. And they live by the words “you do you”. Mostly.
After all, they’re pretty enlightened. They’ve seen a lot in their young lives. In past generations, potentially divisive opinions were kept on the DL. You didn’t talk about religion, politics, money, or even health. Now, it’s all out there for everyone to see. So now you don’t just have to figure out what your values and beliefs actually are, you need to figure out what the hell will happen to you if you share them. And whether it’s worth it.
They each have things in their lives that they are passionate about and when they’re with like-minded people, they’re happy to go off about it and really dig deep into the perspectives of the group.
But what about out in the world? Nobody has to share their world view, their opinion, their emotions, their anything. But sometimes we really want to, or even feel like we need to. But what do we risk right now in doing that? And what are the benefits anyway? For one thing, it’s pretty rare that you can change someone’s mind. For another, is there any room left in the world to see things differently and not be vilified? Or still be accepted? Or at least tolerated?
Whether you call it cancel culture or consequence culture, just your opinion can get you sidelined, ostracized or outright ended.
The world seems so polarized right now with so little tolerance for anything but the “correct view”. You know the one, the one that happens to be in the mind of the beholder. Your view might fit, or it might not. But that shouldn’t stop you if you don’t want it to. Maybe there’s something that you feel passionately about that you want to share with others, to see what they think. To start a conversation, to inform and be informed. But what are you risking in doing that?
I bet you’ve asked yourself if it would be better to just say nothing. To carry on, in your bubble, living your life, bothering no-one but wrestling with the feeling that you’re compelled to bust out and connect with people in a much deeper way. Are you reluctant to tell the world what you’re so passionate about? Or would you feel more authentically you if you did bust out? If you did say what you think and feel and know and be free to be you. All of you. Opinions, perspectives, ideas and all. Ask yourself why. What compels you to share this? Is it for their benefit or yours? And does that even matter?
Is this hitting home for you? Do you know what matters to you? In your life and in our world, what gives you the feels – good or bad? What stirs passion? What inspires awe? What do you care enough about to stand up for, to speak up about, to risk acceptance for? Then ask yourself, how much do I really know about these issues? Am I expert enough to be sharing facts about these things or am I sharing an opinion? Be clear on this because if you’re going out into the world to talk about these things, you’re going to need to make sure that you know what you’re talking about so that you can defend yourself if the haters come.
Now being true to yourself means having boundaries, and respecting other people’s. Let’s check in on Mel and Chloe again because they’ve found something that they don’t agree on. And of course, it’s the most pressing issue of the moment in the whole wide world right now. The C word. COVID. And what they don’t agree on is whether to be afraid or not. So how do they deal? They’re best friends with different opinions and a different approach to the recommendations. Chloe is working at a very popular restaurant in the city and she has to take all the shifts she can get to cover her expenses. Outside of work, she’s still socializing with friends, mostly dinners out and low-key indoor and outdoor gatherings. Mel is doing online classes and going almost nowhere, though she does see her family occasionally.
Each of them is entitled to their own view, of course. And neither should impose theirs on the other. It gets complicated because they very much still want to see each other. But how should they do that when they’re not on the same page as to what that should look like? Each of them wants to express their opinion and each hope’s they’ll sway the other so that the other will adopt their idea of a balanced approach to COVID safety. But will they? They’re both really uncomfortable about saying what they think about this. Mel is considering just lying to Chloe and making an excuse next time she asks to get together because she doesn’t want to tell her that she feels unsafe with her because of her defiance of the restrictions. Chloe sees how anxious Mel is and how depressed she is becoming because she has virtually no life and wants to tell her that her approach is doing her more harm than good. But she’s wondering what that will do to their relationship and whether she should just claim that she’s too busy working to see her. Especially because Mel expects her to see no-one else in the days leading up to their visit.
Each of them knows that lying isn’t the way to do a friendship but they’re also afraid that sharing their opinion will make the other feel judged. And that they’ll be rejected, not just their opinion.
I’m sure you know what I’m going to say here. Don’t lie, say what you think. But do it with love, compassion and respect and make it your intention to share it wrapped up as your real concern for the person and your friendship. How do you do this when you feel so passionate about the issue, when you’ve done your research, when you’re so connected to your truth and when the whole freaking thing is impacting every aspect of your life and you can’t get away from it? These are the passions of war, of peace, of equality, of racism, of freedom, of autonomy, of body sovereignty. These are not about whether to eat Indian or Italian tonight. Humanity has been here before. The thing to remember is that your opinion is your truth not an absolute truth. And that judging the truth of another is simply resisting their truth. Remember that what you resist persists. We need to find room and hold space for the views and opinions of others. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree with them, or agree with their opinion or let them change ours. It just means being willing to hear and see another human. Seeking first to understand means we go into a conversation with an open mind and an open heart. We’re ready to hear their truth and respectfully share ours.
And sometimes, our passion isn’t as much about how something is affecting us, as how it’s affecting someone else. In this case, Chloe is really worried about Mel’s mental health. The last time she did see her, she seemed to barely be holding it together. Her place was uncharastically a mess, she was still in her pajamas at three in the afternoon and she told Chloe that she was failing two of her courses and she’d never struggled in school before. Chloe thinks Mel needs to get out of her apartment and see some people, do some things. As well as get some mental health support.
The goal of these conversations shouldn’t be to change anyone’s mind or force a compromise. It might be that someone’s mind does change. Hopefully at least you’ll affirm each other’s right to have an opinion. In the case of Chloe and Mel, Chloe laid out her concerns, and gave Mel the published data on risks of COVID for her demographic and social isolation overall. She shared the research on how to mitigate them along with data on the benefits of social connections, physical activity and nature and made some suggestions as to how they could safely connect outdoors. Mel talked about the case numbers, her stress and anxiety, her fears and all that she’d been seeing on the news. They made a plan. It’s a compromise that honours each of their opinions and works for both of them. Boundaries held. Judgment rejected. Self honoured. Friendship intact!