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‘Every Voice’ Includes Your Own: On Choosing to Listen — and to Speak

June 28, 2018 | Kristen Haveman

There are times in our professional lives when we choose to hold our cards close: a client keeping the hard numbers of their budget to themselves, an agency vetting a lead by aiming high in a quote for services. These situations are common and have strategic reasoning.

Then there are other situations, such as an individual keeping an aspect of themselves private to the point it becomes harmful. This can easily become an unhealthy habit that holds them back from connecting with others. It becomes a crutch, an excuse for silence.

Although I’ve been raising my voice at Pride events since my teen years, I still often hold my own story very close out of habit. I’m a confessed people-pleaser which can come at the expense of my own comfort or happiness. As a bisexual person, I have shied from sharing this fact about myself in past circumstances where it would have been appropriate; I worried it would risk changing the tone of the conversation or causing discomfort. Looking back, I realize the discomfort I was avoiding was my own and I’ve walked away from too many opportunities to share and learn.

Many people make the decision to keep quiet about themselves simply out of survival. I recognize that there is much heteronormative privilege in my life. It’s easy for me to use this as a safety blanket and let others presume what they may.

But what I’ve been reflecting on this Pride month is another privilege I live with: my incredible colleagues and the business I’ve been working with since 2014. Our founder is an excellent leader and teacher and has been supportive of me from the beginning — as a member of our team and as an individual.

Our experiences flow through us and influence our reactions to what life presents. I am grateful to work in an environment where alongside my coworkers with their diverse skills and backgrounds, every voice is heard. I am inspired by their talents and heartened by the support we offer one another. Listening to the people with whom we spend so much of our time holds us together and makes us a stronger team.

Looking within the community where I live, I see opportunities for progress as well as cause for celebration. When I attend professional events or discussions on diversity, I see the West Michigan digital community reaching out and using its reservoir of innovative thinking to create an increasingly inclusive space.

We make the choice to listen. And when we chose to make a habit of listening, it becomes behavior. The same applies to speaking up.

As I reflect on all of this, what I aim to do better is speak up about who I am and share my ideas. To not shy away. To be an example.

You can encourage a person to speak by listening when they do — you may never know how difficult it was for them to do so.

Each of us has something to share, something to bring to the table. Let’s be sure we’re making room.

Happy Pride Month.