Kristen Haveman, Digital Marketing Manager

Symposia Labs
June 28, 2018

There are many situations in our professional lives when we choose to hold our cards close: A client keeping the hard numbers of their budget to themselves, a contractor omitting certain work they’ve done due to a contractual gray area, 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 themself private to the point it becomes harmful. An unhealthy habit that holds them back from connections with others. It becomes a crutch, an excuse for silence.

Although I’ve been raising my voice at Pride events since my late teens, I still 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 in West Michigan, I often omit this fact about myself from conversation as it may risk disrupting the tone. Thus, I’ve walked away from too many opportunities to share and to grow.

Many people make the decision to keep quiet about themselves simply out of survival. As a woman married to a man, there is certainly much hetero-norm privilege in my life. It’s easy for me to use this as a safety blanket and let others presume what they may.

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 accepting and supportive of me from the beginning — as a member of our team and as an individual.

We walk around every day with our experiences flowing through our blood and influencing our reactions to what life presents us. I am encouraged 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 incredible cause for celebration. When I attend professional events, 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.

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 and many of us have something that’s just waiting to join at the table.

Happy Pride Month.