Have you ever felt so angry, that the hot lightning force of rage and indignation ripples through you, and you feel like your body will explode? Yup, that’s how I felt when yet again, the loud overbearing voice of a community member of an organization I was part of, not only hijacked but steamrolled over a quieter more informed voice in our monthly meeting.

“No, that’s not the way I see it at all, and I’ll tell you why,” was their monthly battle cry as they hijacked the running, focus, and safety of the meeting.

‘Why are we continuing to let this go on, month after month, someone’s gotta do something about it!’ I was ranting inside my head. Then my loving, open, voice of instinct, which I call my LOVI voice, echoed back (with throat clearing for emphasis) “Yes, darling, and that would be you!”

“I can’t, I argue with her. I’m just a newbie. I’m not even a full-fledged member yet! There’ll think I’m a troublemaker.” Before I could even finish my thought, I knew it was a lie that I was telling myself and the truth was I was simply scared.

Like so many people, I’m a study of contradictions. One part of me is a fierce see-something, say-something truthteller, while the other, is a recovering or not so recovering people pleaser that wants to keep the peace and “not stir up anything.” With all the craziness in the world right now, my mantra is, “Let’s keep the drama to Netflix.” 

Now was not the time. I was triggered. Experience has taught me both in my own life and my work with individuals and teams, when we’re in Emotional Ferrari mode, and our emotions go from 0 to 160 in less than 30 seconds, duct tape on the mouth is the best strategy.

I even have a LOIS-ism* for it: 

“If you drive down the emotional highway within the speed limit, you can often avoid roadkill, but if you careen down it at 90 you and the people around you become emotional roadkill.” 

Kind of graphic but true!

The only option. Sit with my feelings, not concoct a plan of action, character assassinate the person but sit with my feelings. The hardest part. Where do I feel it in my body? And yes, breathe, really breathe. 

Next, get support. I called a good friend, not in the association, and had what I called a Goddess Vent. I just let it rip. She just listened and gave the gift of rapt attention. The best gift that’s largely underestimated in value but is always a game-changer.

I revisited my relationship with the person in the association whose behavior I had been so incensed by. She had bullied me and exhibited similar behavior. Unless I separated my feelings towards her, I could never be effective as a leader and create new protocols and boundaries for running the meeting and making it a safe space.

I reached out to a few board members that had influence and were aligned with the mission of this association and its goals. Once I was no longer triggered, I could have a fruitful conversation, expressing my concern about the impact of this behavior and brainstorm different solutions. 

The two people (one of which was the business chairperson) felt the same way and were daunted as well. We discussed changes in the format of running the meeting with a few language hacks that would establish clearer boundaries, which would make the meeting safe and run more effectively. It took several iterations of language and input on it, but we were a united front. There was no finger-pointing or vilifying but rather a clear language and protocols and a commitment to honoring them. 

The morning of reckoning was here. My peeps were in place.  

Time was ticking. The board report was running late. “New business unfortunately will have to be shelved for next month,” my heart sank. I was warned that this happens often. “But Lois has a point of order she’d like to share with the group. You have 60 seconds to share with the group the proposed changes you’re suggesting to the structure and format of our meetings and why. 

Attempting to sound conversational, perched at my computer, with the language right in front of me, I gave a quick pitch about the importance of everyone’s voice being important and valuable and offered the change in the format that would hopefully prevent this behavior from happening. 

Dead silence. The longest 5 seconds. My stomach felt like it was having a heart attack. Someone finally chimed in. “I make a friendly request to extend the business meeting five minutes so we can vote on Lois’ amendment. Gulp. I’m not alone.

 A symphony of I’s wafted through the phone wire. Keep breathing Darlin. “All in favor of Lois’ suggested language of not speaking over others and allowing all voices to be heard, say I.” One after another people voted in favor. “Any opposed?” Dead silent. One quiet “I abstain” eked out. “Great the motion has passed and Lois’ friendly amendment to the format of how we run our meeting will be added.” 

I felt like Lois Brokovich, and Lois Rae all in one! While I didn’t clean up any toxic wasteland in the heartland and save lives, I did contribute to making this local association meeting run a bit safer and more efficient. I was so moved by the process. But what came after was the biggest payoff.

People who I didn’t even know, started emailing me, texting, and calling me, and thanking me for having the courage to speak up. Many struggled with the same things I did. Others were thinking of leaving because they felt so turned off by the behavior. They had the same feelings and concerns but felt too scared to say anything. 

Then I realized the real importance of owning your voice, especially to build safe and transparent cultures. That when we dare to speak up, share our truth in a kind, respectful manner, and frame it into the mission it’s not only about us but also about giving permission for others to do the same.

I’ve never considered myself a fearless person, not at all, quite the contrary, I often perseverate several times over, before I take an action that scares me. But what I realized is that if we want to be a leader on any level, we don’t have to be fearless at all. We just must take that extra step to say something.

The core message of my Courage to SPARKLE brand is to shine bright, share our gifts, and make a difference. Yet part of that sometimes is the willingness to shine the light of truth on areas of darkness that are not just putting you on dimmers, but those around you.

The biggest challenge I see is building and maintaining trust and transparency and using boundary setting and clear protocols to do that. Ironically, the simple yet seldom easy answer is to communicate in a clear, direct, and kind way, something I call being “Beautifully Honest.” Yes, kindness and honesty can be great dance partners without stepping on each other’s toes.

Yes, it can feel scary at times, but I believe it’s the building blocks to creating safe and transparent communities and cultures both in and out of the workplace. 

Lois Barth is a Human Development Expert, Motivational Speaker in NYC, Coach, and Author. She works with heart-centered go-getters who crave greater meaning, impact, and success in their lives. In addition, as a coach and consultant she supports leaders in clarifying their vision and works with the team to uplevel their leadership and well-being what she calls, Behavioral Wellness meets Professional Development. 

Thanks for tuning in and not tuning out!

*LOIS-ism stands for Lessons, Opportunities, Insights, and Solutions

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