We all know people who are very adamant (and vocal) about sharing their beliefs. They have Facebook feeds chock full of pointed articles, status updates, and pictures that support specific causes. Whenever you meet them in person, topics generally go straight to those causes, and if you are even remotely argumentative, you will spend the evening having a debate. The world needs these types of people with strong belief systems who fight inertia and status quo in the hopes of making an impact. I applaud their efforts when I agree that their causes are ones worth fighting for.
I am, however, not one of these people.
I am a more moderate person by nature. Although I love a good structured debate, life is seldom structured. I hate hurting other people’s feelings, so unless I know a person really well, I tend to keep the topics more conversational than confrontational. It’s not that I don’t believe in causes. It’s more that it emotionally taxes me to argue with people, so I need to know that the benefit of arguing is worth the stress it will put on me.
If you find yourself in the same boat, here are a few rules of thumb that I follow before I engage in a cause. In these situations, it has always been worth the effort to take a stand, even if it took me out of my comfort zone:
1. When you can set an example.
The best way to stand up for a belief is to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. If you really believe in something, then don’t just argue, do something about it. Attend fundraisers for awareness, get involved locally, and get yourself out there. The bonus here is if you’re willing to put in the extra effort, then you know it really means something to you.
2. When the other person is on the fence about an issue.
If you have a strong opinion about something, and you know the other person is waffling, you have a real chance to make an impact on their decision. The trick here is not to be too pushy. We’ve all been on the receiving end of unwanted advice. Try to always be supportive of the other person, not just trying to push an agenda.
3. When you know the other party will be respectful, even if they disagree.
Although controversial topics can bring out the absolute worst in people (e.g. name calling, insults, hurtful words), some people are just better at being able to focus on the issue and not make it personal. I almost always enjoy talking with these kinds of people, even if we will never agree. I get some unique perspective as to why they believe differently than I do, and although that may not change my stance, it’s powerful to empathize and learn the motivations of others.
4. When you know you’ll feel guilty if you stay silent.
I make many of my decisions by the “regret rule” – if I know I’ll regret it tomorrow, then I should do something about it today. Even if it puts you in a stressful situation today, you will live much longer with the regret that you could have done something about it (or at least called out others on their behavior).
5. When you’ve reached the point of “enough is enough.”
We all believe in lots of causes, but some causes rankle us more than others. I find that if I’m upset for several days and can’t stop thinking about an issue, then I’ve reached the point of “enough is enough.” Then it’s definitely worth my emotional time to argue for a cause, even with complete strangers. Standing up for that cause eases the tension and makes me feel I’m not being complicit by remaining silent.
What other tips would you suggest for times when it’s worth it to stand up and be heard?