It takes courage to speak up and like wise it takes humility to allow others to speak up. We have the social media that we can post without needing the approval of the editor.
I remember before the coming of Facebook writing several letters to The Sun for publication without any joy. At one point the editor wrote back to me acknowledging my letters and “apologising “ that they did not have enough space for all letters. I got the message and stopped writing more letters to that paper. I was silenced !
Now we have the Facebook and other social media that we can post “freely” but it is no longer free as we have several“ self acclaimed social media watchdogs” who silence anyone who hold a view different from theirs.
Some of us silence others unknowingly, whereas others are on a payroll to silence any dissenting voice.
Dialogue is needed and without it we extinguish ideas. We cover up our wrong doings as everyone will be scared to criticise us. The quality of our decision making deteriorates and we end up making costly mistakes. We lose the 360 degree view. No one has eyes to the sides or the back but, we have our team to be our eyes. So if we silence them then, we will not get the vital insights.
I love the work of Professor Megan Reitz who has done a lot of work on how we silence others and ourselves.
Beware of these three traps that silence others!
1. Remember how scary you are !
The mere fact that you put your title or people know your profession can silence other people. Those with titles forget how scary they may be. Those that are directors, employers might not know how scary they are to their employees.
People may not be able to speak in the meetings only to speak up after the meeting when it will be too late. I have also had people who come into my inbox to comment on my articles. Their reason is that they cannot do so publicly because of certain people whose presence send fear into our community.
We tend to forget that even trying to correct my grammar or spellings can silence me.
Way forward is for us to be aware that we may be scary so we must have the humility of inviting others to speak and admit that we do not have monopoly of knowledge. We do not know everything but together we will know everything.
2. We keep our small lists
If you are to be honest before you read this article you had thoughts already. Some have not bothered to read this article because of their little lists. Well done for reading this article thus far.
I see a lot of people who want us to come to their walls and hardly come to ours because we do not fit in their little lists of important people. I like Strive Masiyiwa, Mike Tashaya , Alex Magaisa , Cynthia Bizure Sithole , Gift Mawire , Efie Dangarembwa to just mention a few for acknowledging your comments on their walls.
Many people do that but for the sake of keeping this article readable I will not mention all of them. Then, there are those who silence others by not acknowledging their contributions. These little lists can be based on skin colour, academic qualifications, gender, tribe, the list goes on…
I will share my experience on this one. I have been to some walls on social media and tried to contribute my thoughts only to be silenced by someone saying that I was not qualified to comment. I came back to my wall and was again told that I was not qualified to write on certain topics. If I was the “silenced type“ I would have stopped. But not me. That attempt to silence me is my fuel to keep me going so the more they try to silence me, the more I speak up!
Way forward is that we need to be aware of those little list we have in our hearts. We all have them so we need to be aware of them and then try to manage them so that they do not kill dialogue by silencing others. You may only listen to Professors but also have time for a commoner.
Remember that we all have 3 type of associates
First group is that of the people that look up to us. This group learn from us.
Second group is that of the people that are at the same level with us. These are our friends. We have fun with this group.
Third group is that of the people that are above us. These people inspire us and we can learn a lot from them.
It is very important to spend time with all these groups . This allows us to serve, have fun and learn as well. Do not shun any group. Be inclusive.
3 The loud personalities: We may speak too much in meetings without giving others a chance.
A lot of people end up giving up because of one person who is domineering. Extroverts are too loud which is good but must be aware that, they may silence others by their loud mouth. It is up to the leader or chairman or themselves to be aware of their personality and try to manage it so as to allow dialogue.
We see these people even here on social media coming to insult people. Their aim is to digress the discussion into the exchange of insults hence the elephant in the room will be spared. Important issues are then sidelined as people are now exchanging insults.
It is up to the administrator of the group or page to be aware of these people and their tactics so that they are not allowed to kill the necessary dialogue.
Over to you. Kindly share your experiences on how we silence others and what we can do to allow dialogue and allow other people to speak up.
About the author:
Dr Brighton Chireka is GP partner and Clinical lead for child health and maternity services at Manor Clinic Folkestone.
He is an author and blogfer at ‘Nothing About Me Without Me’.
Dr Chireka is one of African physician voices raising health awareness through social media.
He can be found via –