Volume control

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.  But should it?  I’ve written before about amplifying or making a space for the quiet voices, the unheard voices.  A little while ago, I had a conversation with a friend and we were wondering together how one turns the volume down on all the really loud voices so that we can hear the others better, or more equally, or basically not only listen to the loudest voices.

I was recently reminded of my default during a discussion about parents in sports.  I made some thoughtless comment and a colleague (a father himself) quickly reminded me that the parents making the headlines for starting fights with coaches and screaming at referees were only a tiny fraction of the parents at games–most of the other parents who are being respectful and cheering on their kids also wish they could throw these juvenile grown ups out of the game.  And he was right.  It’s not unlike how some people are terrified of flying but get into cars without hesitation even though our chances of dying in a car accident are significantly higher.

There are some sharp (and painfully funny) tweets about the #WomanCard, and one recurring theme is how women get paid less than men in the same positions.  There are multiple factors, but one big one is that men are much more likely to ask for higher pay to start and/or to ask for a raise.  Can you imagine if we applied this to education and only gave kids the opportunity to go to school if they explicitly told us that they wanted to go to school?  Or only didn’t discriminate against people if they asked us specifically not to be denied housing, healthcare rights, education, voting rights, the right to have their family legally recognized, the right to informed consent, use of the restroom without assault–oh, wait.

How do you create volume control?

Maybe it’s making sure you’re hearing from a diversity of voices.  Maybe it’s amplifying the quiet voices, like those Steve Hartman stories capping off the evening news by reminding us that there are still good people out there.  Maybe it’s making sure we balance our media intake with primary sources.  Though it’s not all media; this happens with people as well.  There are some friends, some colleagues, some people whose voices carry more weight with us, for whatever reason.  Or maybe some who simply speak up more.  Maybe it’s pausing to consider the source and what their motivations might be.  Maybe it’s pausing to consider who isn’t in the room.  Maybe it’s remembering what you value and trying to block out all the other voices.  Giving due based on contribution/content rather than on the volume (auditory or otherwise).  Maintaining all your wheels instead of ignoring them until you hear a squeak.

Maybe it’s all or none of these things.

Any ideas?  How do you create volume control in your life?

The Quiet Kids

Earlier today, I read this post on tips for mastering meetings as an introvert, and it made me think about how often we listen to whoever or whatever screams the loudest. I am fortunate to work and have worked with some uncommon people who know me well, who know that sometimes I don’t speak up because I’m digesting things or because everybody else has jumped in and I try not to interrupt or am trying to catch up and listen.  They make a point to ask for my thoughts, clear a space for me amid the cacophony.

Tweets, posts, air time.  Everyone is clamoring to make their voices heard.

Or are they?

Someone forwarded me a story from a teacher who said that, every week, s/he asked students to nominate a classmate who’d been an exceptional classroom citizen that week, as well as the students they would like to sit next to the following week.  But what this teacher is really looking for is the kids whose names don’t get mentioned.  As a colleague once said of his philosophy at summer camp: “I look for the quiet kids.”

I recently joined a discussion panel, and one of the things the facilitator reminds the group of is:

Consider who is not in the room.  What might they say if they were here?

Or even if they are in the room, maybe they are not at the table.  Or maybe they are not speaking up for this or that reason.

How can we clear a space for their voices to be heard?  How often do we bother to look around the room, looking for the quiet ones?