In a world of viral media, it is incredibly easy to attach your voice to a cause these days. It used to require a serious investment to think something through, then sit down and hand write a few drafts, then pull out the typewriter, and painstakingly put your thoughts on paper to deliver to the world. And that doesn’t even touch the topic of duplication and the postage required.
Today: Tweet. 140 characters. Done. Worldwide interwebs. But there is a problem with soapboxes, those issues that get us so worked up and passionate inside that we just want the world to (always) hear what we have to say:
Soapboxes are slippery.
In a recent conversation with other young leaders about how to approach a “hot topic” without being seen as a nag or hot-head, it made me think about how I’ve been able to have particular topics that are near and dear to me, but also be able to share those thoughts without slipping off a soapbox and falling on my rear. I think this applies to everyone, but is especially true for young leaders who are full of energy to make a difference in the greater organizations often lead by generations ahead of us.
1 – Listen before speaking.
I remember sitting in a retreat environment with a task force I was serving on (which was also a great benefit), and during prayer everyone was taking turns leading out. I was trying to decide what prayer I would contribute and then I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Kathy, don’t speak unless you know it’s My Voice.” That very specific instruction for that day also became a discipline for my life, as I have always been one who was willing to speak up first. In many environments, it’s our willingness to first NOT be heard that allows us to later BE heard. sfgnn
2 – Ask questions to learn.
I don’t know it all. I’d really like to think that I do, but I don’t. And I have often heard other leaders ask questions of a group only so THEY could then tell everyone THEIR answer. As much as you may think you bring to the table on your heart’s topic, ask others about their experience, success and failures, and listen for everything you can learn from them. You’ll become more educated and then when you’re asked for your input, those leaders are more likely to truly be listening to your answers.
3 – Engage in more issues than just one.
Somewhere someone created the concept that you don’t want to be a “one trick pony.” You also don’t want to be a one-issue leader. To have true influence and the opportunity to participate in true change for the future, you must be engaged at multiple levels. This goes for our actions and our speech. Connect with leaders on their heart issues as well. Allow your passion to grow in multiple areas. Otherwise, whenever someone sees you coming, she’ll roll her eyes and tune you out, thinking, “I’ve heard this from him before.” Your voice will be more powerful when speaking to your soapbox issue if you don’t carry that box around everywhere.
What about you? This definitely isn’t an exhaustive list, and there are many ways to do this well. What has opened doors for you to be able to speak about a topic that is your true passion, and be fully heard for the long term?