I’m sure you’ve been in situations like this – the ones where someone is talking way more than anyone else in the group. Maybe you were at a party, maybe it’s a group of friends, or perhaps it happens at work.
Share the Air
In workshops, we always have an agreement about sharing the air. I explain this simply: some of us have an easier time sharing our ideas and thoughts, and some people need more time to process. If you notice you are talking a lot, please leave space for someone else to add their thoughts. This is easier said than done, of course. And often we have to remind people of the guideline.
But there is another aspect to this – and it’s about privilege.
How we take up space…
When we have dominant group identities, we can become accustomed to having (and therefore taking) the floor: Stepping into conversations, dominating conversations, having people listen (or appear to be listening). I saw a perfect example of this the other day. It was a small group: four women, one man. The man started the conversation. He spoke at length. Then, when he was done, he asked the rest of the group what they thought about what he had said (interesting, yes?). When I went over and gently suggested that the others may have something to add, he realized what he was doing, and stopped. But before long he was talking again, and his colleagues were listening.
This is how privilege works. It’s subtle, but it gives us access. Remember the definition we are working with is: “a set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group.” http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/what-is-privilege/
This was a white male. So he had two types of privilege going for him.
Both of these identities are dominant and so make it easy to speak up, share one’s opinion, and dominate a conversation. Which leaves those without (or with less) privilege not speaking, not sharing – being silent. If there had been another man in the group (especially a white man), he likely would have been comfortable cutting this guy off. Privilege can meet privilege.
True, personality has a lot to do with speaking up – or breaking into a conversation that someone is monopolizing. But so do the invisible rules we learn that are tied to privilege. And if you look around, you’ll notice these at play.
Food for thought:
Two questions this week:
What are you noticing about how people exercise their privilege, and the ripple effects on others?
How can we use of privilege to create space for others to step into?
Mark your calendar!
Post-series Zoom call to talk about Privilege: Thursday November 16th, 2:30pm-3:00pm EST.
No sign up required, just join us at: https://zoom.us/j/856382748