As you step into stages three and four of the four stages of visibility, you’ll find yourself developing a voice inside your industry.
You’ll step forward, from time to time, to participate in shaping the industry.
To do this, you have to first know that your voice matters. And that your perspective brings something to the industry that isn’t being said.
You don’t have to wait to be the most well-known person in your industry to do this (in fact, it’s the very act of speaking up that makes you well known, so waiting until you’re known before you express an opinion is a guaranteed way to keep you invisible).
You also don’t need to have all the answers. You simply need to decide that your voice is important enough to help shape the direction in which your industry is moving.
You’re also not speaking just for the sake of speaking. Goodness knows enough people are doing that.
This isn’t about adding to the white noise. It’s about noticing something that’s happening in your industry that no one is speaking about. Or seeing a conversation happening, not agreeing and not seeing many people express an alternate perspective.
It’s also about timing. Often you can say the exact same thing at two different times. One time, people don’t or can’t hear you. The other time, they’re ready for exactly what you have to say.
So some of the keys for me are:
- feeling that pull to say something you wish someone would speak up about
- feeling into the timing; is in the industry in the middle of discussing something else at this moment and unlikely to pay any heed to what you have to say? Or perhaps people want to talk about anything but the topic du jour?
- intentionality; getting clear about exactly what it is you want to say.
Then comes the question of how to speak up to your industry. Sometimes this looks like a keynote speech at an industry conference, sometimes it’s an open letter to a peak industry body, sometimes it’s a post on social media using hashtags that people in your industry always use (hashtags being one way that industries engage in debate online).
Here’s a sample of a post I shared recently which came out of my frustration with many yogis acting in a particularly unyogic way in response to a Yoga Journal article.
There are a few things to note about the post.
- I choose my image very deliberately. I wanted to communicate something about yoga, whiteness, and the kinds of people I (mainly) see arguing for their human rights in a world where their human rights have almost never been violated. I also wanted them to see the post and so used an image they’d connect to.
- I knew there must be people like me who understand yoga not just as a tool for individual freedom but also as a set of guidelines around how to support your fellow humans. I hadn’t seen much focus on that side of the yogic tradition for quite some time and it felt timely to raise it.
- In times when you’re being asked to choose a side, I knew there were people in the middle whose voices weren’t being heard. I was thinking about yogis and yoginis and people working in complementary health who are also happy to work with their communities to stop the spread of a deadly virus. I knew these voices were being drowned out or just not speaking up at all. I’d also heard of many people leaving yoga because of what it’s becoming in the West. So I needed to choose; show them another face of yoga, or walk away myself.
- I know that like many people in the yogic world, I bring to the industry a background that’s diverse and complex. In this instance, my background in the law and social justice and my training as a philosopher. All of these elements felt very important to express at a time when there was a drive toward just one perspective. When you find yourself in a similar position where you literally embody multiple aspects of an issue, your voice becomes important because those points of intersection mean you shed a different light on the discussion than would otherwise be possible in discussions that are more narrowly focused.
- I took some time writing the post because I wanted to get the wording right and I wanted it to be easy to share. That meant it had to be easy to understand. Taking that extra 30 minutes or an hour or two to get your wording right can feel like a waste of time when you’re talking about social media but let’s look at the stats.
At the time of writing this, they look like this; the post reached 8,150 people organically (we didn’t advertise this post, we just shared it in the usual manner with the SOV community), it was shared 943 times, has received 208 comments, has been liked 1,765 times, has received 3,458 post interactions, and 502 people followed the SOV account off the back of that post. (To put this in perspective, our regular reach for a post has been sitting consistently between 500 and 2,000 people for quite some time. The number of shares and comments and follows of the back of a post is almost always under 100.)* This doesn’t happen to many or even most of our posts, but it does happen, which means that extra time spent getting the wording right can be worth the effort. The trick of course, is you don’t know which post will be the one that gets shared in the same way. So my advice is that when it comes to social media, it’s better to opt for quality over quantity.
- Finally, the responses I’ve had to different popular posts have been wildly different depending on who has shared it. In this instance, 99% of people were absolutely lovely. Very supportive and cheering on the message. This was because it was shared by a few different people who were very aligned with the message I was sharing. (Which makes it sound like there was something orchestrated about the sharing. There absolutely was not. Every single share on this post was organic and a lovely surprise to me. I could see who was sharing it a lot of the time because they’d tag me in their story, so I got a good understanding around which communities it was being shown to.)
When I had a post organically reach over a million people, the comments weren’t all so kind. And if you’re wondering how to manage those kinds of comments, you’ll find this post useful. For today, let me say this; every interaction I’ve had with people in the comments section of my social media has been helpful to me personally. In particular, it has helped me clarify my boundaries. I no longer engage in conversation at all with people who are just jumping over to the SOV social pages to spew an opinion and then leave. I want to make sure my time is well spent which means I’m happy to have a long conversation with people who are invested in us. People who follow us on socials or receive our weekly emails and who contribute to the community in some way (big or small). But random individuals who will never be a part of our community and who aren’t actually interested in doing anything other than imposing their views in as many spaces as they can, aren’t people I want to invest my time in. (I learned this after wasting my time interacting with trolls and men who wanted to tell me all about their expertise on women’s issues.) I’m also not a big fan of people who spend a long time setting out a very judgmental comment, telling you what your post should or shouldn’t have said, and then ending it with, ‘Sending love!’ or ‘Love and light!’. That feels breathtakingly disingenuous and passive-aggressive to me. So, all engagement teaches you something, including and especially what your ideal community does and doesn’t look like.
Mostly, here’s what I hope you take this away from this post; speaking up in your industry isn’t always easy. Especially when the tide is working against your perspective. But speaking up in those moments is also really beneficial. Sometimes because it helps you clarify your own thoughts. Sometimes because it opens you up to a new perspective you wouldn’t otherwise have heard. And sometimes because it helps you build resilience and generally become a better communicator. Either way, the path of visibility is littered with gifts, if you’re willing to walk it.
*If you’re wondering where to find these stats for your own account, using your phone, go to your IG page, look for the insights button, press on it and you’ll be all set.