Saturday, October 27, 2007

Speaking my truth is up to me

I thought I'd written here yesterday -- and then realized I'd hadn't!

It was a hectic week. On Thursday night we held a function, an art show and silent art auction fund-raiser for the shelter where I work.

We put our heart and souls into doing things. Often, we over-extend ourselves to ensure something happens, and when it doesn't, we blame ourselves, or others for what didn't transpire.

It's human nature. The nature of the beast, or as Bill Watterson, author and creator of Calvin and Hobbs says, “The problem with people is that they're only human.”

Yesterday, I met with my boss to talk about the function. He mentioned that the principle from the art studio who had sponsored the event had spent 45 minutes talking to him about me and what a terrible job I'd done working with her on organizing everything.

My initial response was, Hello? The evening went off smoothly. All the guests had a wonderful experience. They laughed and chatted. Enjoyed themselves. The room was filled with 250 people wandering through the art her students had created. She had two television interviews, the event was on several radio stations and there was an article in the newspaper. And she took time out from the celebrations to talk about her disappointment? What is wrong with this picture?

Well, there's lots wrong, but her stuff isn't about me. My stuff is.

I attended this event last year when the art studio held it on behalf of another organization. The principle of the studio wanted to work with our organization this year because... and she listed a host of reasons why the other group did not do a good job of making the event a success.

Red flag and I chose not to pick it up.

I knew the group from the other organization. They did their best. And the event was a success. When someone criticizes others about something that to everyone else is successful, perhaps that individual can only see what went wrong in eveything. If everything appears to have gone right and someone thinks it all went wrong -- can anything ever go right?

Last year everyone agreed, the venue was awesome, the food superb, the wine great, the art beautiful. The major criticism by everyone who attended was that the opening bids for the art were too high. The high entry bid prices discouraged guest participation. When I discussed this aspect with the woman from the studio, she was adamant that she would not let her artists' work sell for less than it was worth -- and she determines its worth based on a standard system used by the industry.

True -- however, in my experience, if the event is meant as a fund-raiser, then the value of the works needs to encourage participants to bid -- not discourage.

Huge lesson for me here.

I stayed silent when we discussed this critical aspect of the event.

Well, not completely. We talked about it briefly, mostly 'around' the issue as she was adamant, firm in her belief that she was right in doing it her way.

In my silence I let go of the opportunity of doing the right thing. And, in not doing the right thing, I undermined my enthusiasm, my passion and my sense of accomplishment.

See, it wasn't about the price of the art -- it was about my ignoring my 'inner knowing'.

An issue for me is always how do I deal with conflict. My foray into talking about this issue with her demonstrated to me that to push the point would result in conflict. I backed down -- in spite of all my knowing, I let it go.

In letting the issue ride, in not standing true to what I believe in, I let myself down.

The owner of the studio was adamant that she wanted television media before the event. I promised to do my best -- she felt I didn't.

And that's about me. Not her.

I did get television coverage for the day of the event. And that was successful -- but it didn't meet her expectations. Hence, her disquiet.

What an awesome experience for me. In looking at my role in 'underperforming', I can see the flaw in the picture and recognize it for what it is. No amount of media coverage was going to encourage people to come out and bid thousands of dollars on art that is produced by amateurs -- no matter how beautiful the art -- unless we were upfront about the issue in the first place.

Because I didn't voice that truth early on, the issue festered. To justify my lack of performance with getting media out before the event, I fell into a couple of my self-defeating games, acting arrogant and condemning, "Doesn't she know how media works? They're not about to do a story on an art studio before the event. It speaks of self-promotion and advertising. yada. yada. yada."

My silence can be deadly. It is a huge issue for me. One I'm continually dealing with. In recognizing the truth today, I know what I need to do to speak up.

When my boss and I discussed the event yesterday we agreed it is a format and an endeavour we'd like to do again -- whether or not we do it with this studio will be dependent upon our post-event meeting next week. To have a successful postmortem, I need to ensure all the issues are on the table -- and I need to get my ego out of the way. Sure, it annoys me she would spend time out from the evening telling my boss what a poor job I did, particularly when there is some truth in it -- but not from the perspective she is talking -- her stuff is about her. For me, the poor job I did isn't about the work I did around the event. That work was actually okay. No. The poor job I did was in communicating clearly, respectfully and honestly with this woman. And that's all about me.

What I need to be clear on is what's my responsibility, what can I learn and what can I do differently -- and the major issue is -- not being silent. I need to breathe. Trust in my knowledge and my abilities to stand up and state, without fear of the outcome, what is true. I also need to stay clear of my core tape -- which is that negative voice deep within me that believes, "It's all my fault."

I made mistakes. We all did. And it is not all my fault if she is unhappy.

I take a breath. I know my truth. It's up to me to speak it.

The question is: Where do you hold back on speaking your truth for fear someone won't like what you're saying? Where does your fear of confrontation keep you mired in silence?

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