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How to Speak Up (Without Losing Your Voice)

How to Speak Up (Without Losing Your Voice)

How to prevent losing your voice, just when you’re beginning to find it.

Last week, millions of people all over the globe came out to speak up and be heard. Marches around the world gave voice to many people who had never marched before. Some were marching for themselves, but even more marched for their neighbors, wives, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, and grandmothers. We saw 80-year-old women, groups of tweens and three generations of families. In these tumultuous and terrifying times, millions of people are using their voice. If there’s a silver lining, that’s it. But are you losing your voice (literally or figuratively), just when you’re beginning to find it?

As week one of the new administration came to a close, thousands of you voluntarily went out to JFK on a Saturday night. What is this new reality? Mirah Curzer‘s article, “How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind” struck a chord with many new activists. Self-care has become a necessity and information overload is leading to conscious media breaks to store up and refuel. Many others are struggling to find balance in these changing times and burning out on the regular. Others are literally hoarse with voices that are unable to recover between protests.

As we continue to #resist, here are tools and techniques to sustain and strengthen our voices:

Start meditating: If you don’t already have a mindfulness practice, start one now. You can download an app like Headspace or keep commitment minimal with Meditation Lite (where you simply count breaths in and out). Meditating is about training the mind and fixing and releasing attention—not about getting rid of fears/thoughts/feelings. Practicing presence can help stave off downward media/despair spirals.

Know what you want to say: While you’re endlessly calling your Reps, think about what you want to say. Rather than sticking to a script, have more ownership by articulating the essence of what you want to ask. Be specific and practice saying it a few times while improvising and changing up the words.  Include stories, which change the brain by activating the Trust molecule. Most importantly, make a connection with the person on the other end of the line. Not going great? Luckily you’ll be calling daily so try again tomorrow.

Amplify your voice:  Ever wonder how babies can scream for hours and not lose their voices? Tension builds up over decades and inhibits and strains our vocal cords. If you’re newly protesting and you’re exhausted, you’re doubly at risk for losing your voice. And bottom line: If you don’t have a voice you can’t be heard.

Losing your voice is real, but it can be avoided with preparation. Practice three-dimensional breathing and speaking from your diaphragm. Bring an amplification device, like a bullhorn or cardboard tube. Drink water and stay hydrated to prevent vocal fry and exhaustion. Practice Amplification: Speak out for others and let them speak out for you. (And if you’re in New York City, join us on February 11th and Amplify Your Voice with Bespoken and Lisa Pertoso!)

Take breaks: Declutter your phone, and put it away for a while. Take mindfulness breaks. Practice Square Breathing. Seize opportunities to get out of your head and into your body. Cherish friends. Hug your family. Smile at a stranger and invest in your community. These are strange times, but speaking up and empowering others to do the same is the best way to get through it.

 

 

Office Politics: Talking about the election at work

Office Politics: Talking about the election at work

Is it still possible to keep politics out of the office? 

Your co-worker has had a skip in her step the past few weeks. You’ve disagreed over the years but you’ve agreed on one thing—to not talk politics at work. A client references the election, your co-worker smirks and your blood boils. You won’t make it four more days (let alone four years) in this environment.

The far-reaching implications of this particular election make it difficult to not talk politics in professional communication. It’s never been riskier (or more unavoidable) to talk about an election. More than a quarter of working Americans reported at least one negative outcome as a result of political discussions at work during this election season.

According to a VitalSmarts survey, 9 out of 10 people feel the 2016 elections are more polarizing and controversial than the 2012 elections and 1 in 4 say they’ve had a political discussion hurt a relationship. Ouch.

Talking politics at work right now is like walking into a minefield. It may be unavoidable, but these tips will optimize your chance of coming out unscathed:

Set the stage

Be intentional in setting up the conversation. Acknowledge the problem and invite your co-worker to have a discussion about it. Schedule it at a mutually convenient time (that may mean scheduling it in the future to let emotions settle). Set some parameters, which may include having another co-worker act as mediator.

Agree on ground rules

It’s your conversation and you should set some rules together. Discuss your desired outcome. Take breaks every 20 minutes. Decide to make eye contact. Pick a neutral space.  This helps build a productive environment before you start talking about the tough stuff.

Implement tools

We need tools when discussing politics in any situation and this is especially true at work. According to Harvard Business Review, with these four simple tools you are 5 times more likely to be seen as diplomatic, 4 times more likely to be seen as likable, 140% more persuasive and 180% more likely to maintain relationships with others: 1. Focus on learning and be curious about their perspective, 2. Ask for permission to have the conversation, 3. Over-communicate your respect for the other person and 4. Focus on common ground by looking for areas of agreement.

Share these tips with your co-worker so you are starting from the same place.  Let us know how it goes!

How to Win When Talking Politics

How to Win When Talking Politics

When talking politics, speak from the heart without losing your head 

Tips from a Communication Coach

Leah Bonvissuto
Leah Bonvissuto

When I talk politics I get heated. A messy mix of feelings take over my mind and body. I may be a Communication Coach—I teach people how to own their voice and speak their mind—but even I’m guilty of letting my emotions run amok when talking politics.

We don’t know how to talk about politics, and that’s not surprising—we’ve been told our whole lives not to! In today’s climate, people are using their voices, but they often lack the tools to actually be heard.

We’re a year-and-change into the most vitriolic, unpredictable election in my lifetime—maybe yours too. There’s plenty of theories as to why that’s the case.   Pew Research Center findings of an “electorate that has become steadily more radicalized over the last decade.” What was once taboo (talking politics) today seems completely unavoidable. The issues hit so hard and run so deep that even our most neutral voices are having trouble staying silent. Relationships are being strained. We can’t find common ground. Social media wars are out of control.  And it’s only July…

We are not hearing each other.

When you’re heated, you react rather than respond. Reacting can be infuriating (and entertaining!) but it certainly doesn’t lead to effective communication.

Michael Eichenwald wrote in Fortune that “today, in these times of activated moral engagement, leaders must help to equip employees with the tools to handle—and ideally grow from—the tension that comes from the surfacing of emotions or articulation of ideas that run in conflict with their own.” But too often leaders leave it to us to fend for ourselves and the rules are not always clear.

Instead of acting on impulse, put these tools into practice so you can set yourself up for success when talking politics, and not end up a hot mess:

Take a breath

When your blood starts to boil take a step back. Physical reactions to anger and fear are uncomfortable, but they’re supposed to be.  Slow, deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic reaction—which can have the effect of calming you down. Practice square breathing before you respond. It will root you and help you feel grounded.

relax-method

Set an intention

We all know about best laid plans but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the effort. Set an intention and make sure it’s active and positive (“To educate him”. “To soothe her”. “To inspire him”). Keep it specific and use it as a reset button as tensions rise.

Turn the table

If you let emotions like anger and fear steer the conversation, you are less likely to be heard. Instead of focusing on what you want to say, make it your goal to be understood.  Instead of shouting, focus on listening. Not only does it build mutual respect but listening leads to more effective and efficient dialogue and sets a tone of forward momentum.

Collect little victories

Take advice from our good friend (and client) Katie McKenna and seek out discourse that makes you feel good. Store up positive interactions with people you agree with and those you don’t. You may not be able to remain level-headed with that cousin on Facebook—yet—but start practicing these tools in spaces that are safe and small, and slowly, your courage and resolve will build.

No matter which side you’re on, it doesn’t feel good to repeatedly and uncontrollably devolve into a shrieking, angry, mess. We all suffer when we start to doubt our own ability to have the conversation in the first place. Bad interactions lead to others and the spiral continues downward. When we don’t feel heard, we get frustrated beyond belief and act out. Like internet trolls. And no one likes those guys.

Leave us a comment and let us know how it goes!