One of the challenges around communication right now is that nuanced discourse is on a sabbatical. Instead, we are surrounded by people who confuse their opinions with facts. Flanked by people more interested in winning the argument than with building understanding. And, we encounter more and more people unable, or unwilling, to truly listen.
This is exhausting. It also leads to more intractable people. Those unable to change their minds when encountering new, more factual, information.
These are the bad actors in public speech right now. Their goal is to silence other voices and they are often effective.
It is difficult enough when you encounter these voices within social media. But what about when these bad actors are in your meeting, sitting in your presentation, or in your face (likely without a mask on)?
I’d like to tell you that there is some perfect neuro-physical hack or rhetoric that will move these people. But there is not. Most of the time, all of you can do is walk the true-line. This post is specific to interactions between peers. If you are in a position of power, you need to take more responsibility for the space being created. If you are in a subordinate position, you may need to enlist help from up the chain.
Here is what walking a true-line looks like:
- First, if you are in danger, just leave.
- If you must engage: Take more breaths, inhaling before each statement and taking extra time and space.
- Say what must to said in the clearest, most direct, and truthful way.
- Try not to allow yourself to be distracted by someone’s bad behavior. It is okay to repeat what you just said verbatim, rather than take your thoughts on a justification tour.
- If it is safe to do so, and you are comfortable with it, you can call out the behavior you see. This should be clear, as dispassionate as you can muster at the moment, and offer the offender an exit to their behavior. A couple of examples: “You are interrupting me quite a bit, perhaps you can share your ideas when I am done.” Or, “It looks like this conversation is amplifying your emotions — should we reschedule?”
- Accept that you are going to have emotional charge in these situations. Keep breathing, it will help you think, and do what you need to do to complete your task and get out of the situation.
Most importantly, please accept that it is not your job to reparent other humans in public spaces. Some people are locked into devastatingly bad behaviors in public life. Sometimes you can avoid them, sometimes you can call them out, but in the end, you can’t make someone else want to be a better person.
Do you have stories about interacting with bad actors? I’d love to hear them so leave a comment or shoot me an email.
This Friday at 12:30 pm EDT, Gina will host an office hour over Zoom that will also be live on FB. These will be short voice alignment sessions aimed at voice skills building. Come to the Zoom for the session and/or to ask any questions you have about voice function or practice or just join me over FB Live. Register here or watch it live on the GROW Voice FB page. I hope to see you there.
Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay. She has over 16 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user. Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker. For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit www.growvoice.com.