A mere 100 years ago, in 1916, Reverend Charles Courtenay wrote the first full treatise on the subject of silence. He argued the historic merits of silence and described how it has been used systematically, religiously, and politically throughout the generations to disciplinarily control groups of people, especially women and children. While he advocated that disciplinary silence was problematic, he wanted to fill the world with a more reverent silence, which included a hushed woman. A direct quote from his 1916 treatise, The Empire of Silence, reads, “But a talking woman is an awful judgment, and a mystery, and an oppression” (p. 185).
Women and children were considered chattering disruptions, and the disciplinary silence was not always a gentle rebuke to be quiet. At times, women were tortured to force their silence. Courtenay’s treatise described different ways the tongue was screwed by iron nails, seared at the tip, or actually bridled to keep women in a forced state of silence.
I think we can all agree – we have come a long way. The disciplinary silence of the past is reprehensible but have we replaced the physical restraints with psychological ones? We judge those who protest on issues we disagree. We debate what causes warrant which reactions. We argue politics in black and white terms as if the value is either/or versus both/and. When I see men, women, and children protesting with signs and chanting to be heard – I wonder if they feel silenced or if they feel heard. Protest is a form of voice and one which we need to ensure is never silenced.
Regardless of your political views, look beyond the issues and instead focus on how it takes courage to raise voice in the face of adversity. Whether women march for choice, immigration, equality, life or sacredness – they march with voice. To be silenced is a far worse fate.
How do you silence or honor those with different viewpoints?
Perhaps it is the extended break that accompanies the holiday season, the weather, a long-lasting food coma, or a family hangover (I heard recently that this is a thing). So far–2017 feels sluggish. It is possible the political antics of 2016 are still creating a fuzzy buzz that keeps clarity in a marginalized place in my brain. How will our new president-elect lead? How will the government respond to the environmental, economic and foreign affair issues that plague our country and cause me to worry?
Along with this global uncertainty is the general ambiguity of a new year? What should I focus on for health and wellness? Like everyone else, I’m now older and with age come changes in responsibility to maintain my body. Then there is career. How will my practice shift and do I want or need those changes? I have never been a fan of New Year resolutions because like many, I struggle to maintain them. However, I have been quite disciplined in several categories. In 2016 I finished a Ph.D. which required an enormous level of cognitive discipline. I have managed to be gluten-free for six-weeks. I realize that is not very long… but that is a long time without Pillsbury Grand Biscuits. I also succeeded in shunning my black lab for two days after he snarled at a guest in our home.
We can do whatever we set our minds to but sometimes I am not sure what my mind needs, and thus, I settle into a sluggish behavior where decision making is delayed, and a lack of energy keeps me moving slow, waiting for something or someone to prompt me to take a definitive next step.
What has assisted me manage the sluggish struggle are other people. When I get an email from a colleague asking me to go to lunch to brainstorm ideas – I get motivated. When a client contacts me and says, I need to resume coaching, I take action. I have decided not to let any message or request go answered. I respond with a yes, even when my mind wants to stay lazy and put things off. When all else fails, taking some type of action helps.
I know I’m not the only sluggish fallible human being on the planet. Even as I write this transparent blog, I am wondering about the person who most needs to read this. As leaders, we have to be for others what we need for ourselves. Who have you asked to lunch or coffee in January? Who do you need to connect with that you have not done so in a while because the holidays were a good excuse?
Someone besides me is feeling sluggish, and you are the person they need to hear from to move them out of their inertia. Do not wait – reach out today!
For my fellow sluggish readers, say yes to the next request.
Carrie Arnold, PhD, MCC, BCC
In no particular order: Author | Dog mom to Moose | Speaker | Reader Mom to human offspring Wife | Lover of Learning Leadership coach & consultant, The Willow Group | Fellow, Institute for Social Innovation | Program Director for Evidence-Based Coaching at Fielding Graduate University