Confession: I don't always have the popular opinion. As an educated African American woman, it is often expected that I will blindly fall into line with the perspectives of the communities that I belong to. That's not the case. Recently, I was told that I am a "contrarian leader" and after this last year, I have to say that I agree. I am often the dissenting opinion, but there is a good reason. I promise.
In the last year, I have found myself taking a back seat during conversations about politics and policy. In particular, it has become harder for me to talk about the most sensitive issues of the day like race, immigration and sexuality. This may sound counter-productive to those who know that my true passion in life is helping people from different cultures (or perspectives) come together. The more that divisive issues took the main stage, the more I found myself taking to the backstage. Honestly, this retreat began to make me question if I was really cut out for the true work of creating common ground. And then it hit me...
We can not achieve our goal for a more equitable world if we are always the "actor", at some point, we have to have a seat in the director's chair and eventually we will be able to produce.
During my time in the "director's chair" I have facilitated and sat in on many conversations that addressed the heated issues brought to the surface by the 2016 Presidential election. I didn't realize it then, but by allowing the actors to act and only providing direction when absolutely needed I have been able to truly understand the varying opinions. Although I didn't always agree with them, I grew more knowledgeable about the "why."
It all began to make sense to me. As a contrarian, I am always asking for people to give me more of who they truly are so that I can understand the "why" behind their actions. As "actors" we often attack opinions that are not like our own. While I understand the instinct to defend our own beliefs and perspectives, that defense makes it almost impossible to understand why a situation has occurred or what circumstances have led to the current state.
The recent trend of publicly attacking opinions that we don't agree with, without pause is a regression. It's time for us to take a seat as a society. Instead of isolating those with an unpopular opinion we should be asking more questions. It is time for us to focus more on the "why" so that we can make a way forward.
As a proud dissenting voice, I implore you to listen to understand. Starting today for the next week, try only speaking out when you are ready to ask the most important question: "Why?"
P.S. If you haven't read it check out "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek