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The Courage to Speak Your Mind

Finding Your Voice

Karen and Jay share thoughts on the importance of having the courage to speak your mind

In today’s increasingly divisive world, there is immense pressure to conform – to stay silent and acquiesce to the views of others. Even in those moments when you know that the views being expressed go directly against your core values. There is a fear of being ostracized by the group, criticized for your beliefs or even worse. Yet, it is precisely in these moments that we need to summon up the courage to share our views – certainly in a civil, respectful, and positive manner, because in a real sense, we have an obligation to do this. For if we do not, the discussion and the others in the group will be deprived of the value of our thoughts. And, even more so, our silence makes us suffer the internal discomfort of tacitly giving our approval to views with which we disagree. By contrast, there is a validation and an exciting feeling of positive energy when we have the courage to speak our mind.

It has been said that the opposite of courage in our society today is not cowardice. It’s conformity. For instance, have you ever had a moment where you’ve wanted to share your opinion, but might fear the reaction? It’s tough these days to share our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs openly and honestly, especially if they may be unpopular or controversial. But there’s something to be said about being true to yourself and your values and not being afraid to stand up for what you believe in.

Yes, speaking your mind can sometimes lead to criticism or conflict with others, but it also allows for open and honest communication, which is essential not only for personal growth and positive relationships but also for social progress. When we speak our mind, we both empower ourselves and others to engage in meaningful discussions and take actions that align with our values and beliefs. Not to mention, free thought and open dialogue are the basis of a free society and American democracy. As the saying goes, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.”

Speaking your mind comes in many forms though. If you are in a position to provide feedback to someone, speaking your mind can mean expressing your thoughts honestly and constructively in a helpful manner. It can also mean advocating a cause near and dear. If you feel passionately about a particular issue, speaking your mind means using your voice to advocate for change. Speaking your mind also helps broaden perspective. For example, if you're discussing politics with a friend or family, you might speak your mind by sharing your thoughts on a particular issue, while also listening to and considering their perspective. While you may not agree, there’s always an opportunity to learn in some capacity.

The next time you find yourself in fundamental disagreement with the way a conversation or discussion is headed, please speak up. Share your thoughts. Be thoughtful and reasoned in your approach. But don’t be afraid to do so. You will be making a major contribution to others and meanwhile, bolstering your own sense of purpose, identity, and integrity! Give it a try. It may take some practice, but I guarantee you will find satisfaction in your efforts.

New England Town Meeting – True Opportunity to Speak Your Mind

The Town Meeting is a unique New England practice where the townspeople are the legislative body that makes the decisions for the upcoming year. This is where citizens meet in a group session to hash out the pros and cons of the various articles being proposed. Importantly, these Town Meetings give citizens the opportunity to speak their minds in front of the whole ‘legislative body’ of their fellow community members on a range of local issues.

In New Hampshire, it has become common to hold this ‘deliberative session’ in a separate meeting – prior to a subsequent meeting when the actual voting takes place. And these deliberative sessions are really where the action is - where public comment is the focus of meeting. No matter what town in New Hampshire you choose, I am sure there is someone in that town who has stories and fond memories of those gatherings, e.g., from Girl Scout Cookies to apple cider donuts in the hallway as you walk in or specific issues that have been debated. It takes a certain bravery or internal fortitude to speak in front of a crowd of people, especially if taking a position for or against an issue. And, even more so, when these are your friends and neighbors with whom you have an ongoing relationship.

I once heard a story of a police chief who refused his own pay raise at the deliberative session, because the budget was controversial as the police department was asking for an increase in pay. He made a speech in which he actually declined his own pay raise in order to gain support for the remainder of the proposed police department budget – an amount that he believed critical for the town. As a result, he was not only successful in helping the budget to be approved, but it was approved by voters overwhelmingly – and they were so impressed by his passion that the entire budget passed with no changes – including the chief’s pay raise!

While today some are challenging this tradition of town meetings because it might seem out of date, it’s really, true democracy in action because it is an opportunity for the average citizen to speak in front of the entire town and say their piece. In other words, speak their mind. It’s the time when minds can be changed, and the voters have an opportunity to display individual courage and share their views – whether those views may be popular or not. A great example of good ol’ fashioned democracy at the grassroots level.

Granite State Citizens – Speaking Our Minds, Impacting the Nation

In the world of American politics, the New Hampshire primary holds a unique position as the first in the nation primary. Every four years, presidential candidates descend upon the state to campaign, debate and meet with voters. One of the most important and iconic features of this process are the small in-person meetings – sometimes in voters’ living rooms, sometimes in school gymnasiums or public buildings where candidates can connect with voters in an intimate, personal and direct setting. These candidate forums are even sometimes referred to as ‘candidate town meetings.’

Over the years, these town hall meetings have become an essential aspect of the primary process. They give voters the opportunity to put questions directly to candidates, allowing them to evaluate their positions and character. It is an important democratic practice as it empowers citizens to participate actively in the political process. By giving citizens a chance to engage directly with candidates, it helps to create a much more informed electorate. This of course works most effectively, only if, and when, citizens have the courage to speak up – to ask the difficult questions, to state their views candidly and forcefully and give candidates the opportunity to respond.

Town hall meetings make candidates sharpen their skills before moving on to the rest of the country. It allows them to practice their messaging, debate skills, and public speaking in a semi-controlled setting. This early test is essential to their campaign as it provides them with valuable feedback that they can use to improve their message and connect with voters across the country.

In addition, politics is the unofficial sport of New Hampshire. The small size of our state and the highly engaged electorate make it the perfect place for candidates to connect with voters. New Hampshire residents are highly informed and politically active, which creates an engaged and motivated audience for the candidates.

Positive Profile of the Week: Chris Thompson

This week we are delighted to highlight a leader in our state who definitely and consistently demonstrates the courage to speak his own mind - Chris Thompson.

I first met Chris a few years back at our mutual friend’s annual charity event. The following morning, I opened up my copy of the New Hampshire Union Leader and saw a column entitled “Closing the Deal,” by Chris Thompson. I was impressed by his writing and loved his outlook and expressive nature. It wasn’t just about best practices in business, but it was the approach that he took. Courage combined with civility. I also did some research on a number of his earlier columns and found the same thing. This Queen City native and Central High graduate has a deep commitment to the Granite State, and you see it in his weekly writings – sharing insight, but never afraid to share his point of view.

During the pandemic he cautioned his fellow writers not to conform to consensus simply for the sake of conformity, but rather try and keep a sense of skepticism in a very uncertain time. He raised questions about the massive government spending and reminded people that down the road we would have to pay for it. Today, we have record inflation along with many people not wanting to go back to work. Agree with him or not, he was not afraid to share his thinking, especially when his views may not have been part of the mainstream narrative.

Another article that caught my attention was his calling out local stakeholders regarding the homeless crisis facing Manchester. Chris wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and as a father, he advocated for action not words – concerned that children deserved the opportunity to enjoy the great spaces of Manchester – while also helping those who want to get off the streets and get the care they need.

But Chris just doesn’t simply take controversial positions, he is also a big-hearted individual. He uses his column to showcase some of the businesses and organizations making a difference in our communities. He serves on the boards of Make-A-Wish and the Elliot Perry Foundation. At an event or just out and about, you’ll enjoy a good laugh with Chris for he is friendly, funny, and fueled with a commitment to speak up and recognize those in need.

Chris goes against the grain when necessary and speaks up when others won’t. I encourage you to check out his weekly column in the Union Leader.

Quotes of the Week: Courage to Speak Your Mind

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"It takes courage to speak up for what you believe in, but if you do not, then you are never truly living." – Unknown "Your silence will not protect you." - Audre Lorde "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." - Bernard Baruch "The only way to change the world is to speak up." - Unknown


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