There is so much heartbreak, fear, frustration, and confusion going on. He thought I would be judged as tone-deaf.
Then I remembered why I’m doing what I do, why I believe a coaching mindset can help us get through this time together, and why I’m grateful to my black and brown coaching community for shedding a light on my invisible privilege, my biases, and the depth of what I still need to learn.
Coaching has taught me that it’s not about engaging in Blunt Talk, Straight Talk or even Real Talk. We are most effective when we just shut up and listen.
If I shut up, open up, and listen with compassionate curiosity, I can receive what is offered. I can better understand. I can learn what to say.
When I coach people, they often uncover lies they have been telling themselves to feel they are okay. My colleagues have helped me to accept the lies I have told myself to feel I am okay, the ones that kept me from listening.
The biggest lie I believed was that I understood what it felt like to be marginalized. I grew up a Jew in a predominantly white Christian town. I experienced exclusion and bias. I heard stories from my parents how being a Jew affected their ability to make a living. For my immigrant grandparents, being a Jew threatened their lives, and forced them to leave behind their families who were killed for being Jews.
AND I am still white, with a “goy” name, and able to earn an educational level and income that smacks of privilege. My whiteness has protected me even when I went down a dark path and turned 20 in jail. It was my white privilege that allowed me to turn my life into a path of success.
For most of my adult life, my thinking I understood kept me from learning. My trying to explain what I meant when I was insensitive kept me from understanding. My thinking that I get it now is my worst lie of all.
The National Seed Project published an article by Peggy McIntosh written in 1989 where she said, “I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. condemned riots, but said that they are “the language of the unheard.” The first time I taught a class in Nairobi, Kenya, I realized I was afraid to walk the streets. I asked my client about their level of crime. She said, “People break their own rules when they are desperate.”
Coaching has changed my life. It taught me that every day, not just now, I should:
Shut up and listen.
Give up thinking I know what others are experiencing.
Be compassionately curious.
Then, if you are still asking, “But what can I do?” Keep reading and discussing articles, books and videos that open your mind to what you did not see before. Keep listening to how others interpret the words. Stand for racial justice. Stand for equality. Stand for noticing, calling out, and finding ways to end systemic racism. We can make a difference.
I am trying to get this right, and I don’t know what I don’t know, but I am proud to release my book this week. I believe it can help us more consciously transform. I hope it gives us all ways to listen to each other with more compassion.
PS THANK YOU FOR HELPING TO MAKE MY BOOK A BESTSELLER. Coach the Person, Not the Problem hit #1 in its category even though it was on Blackout Tuesday. I appreciate your support and hope the book makes a difference for us all.