There is a reason why people don’t step up to say anything. Their silence is not the same as submission but more to the point, their silence is only fear that keeps their secrets from ever being told.
This can be something as simple as a problem in the workplace. This can be as simple as two friends miscommunication or as easy as a misunderstanding that went too far.
There are other examples as well that are a bit more troublesome, like jokes that go overboard, and yet, it’s only a joke to one person but to another, the joke is simply not funny.
There is a question that begins most harassment classes:
“When does it become harassment?”
This is a great question to think about.
Is harassment always intentional?
What keeps people from coming forward?
The lesson to learn about sensitivity is intention does not always match interpretation. Boundaries are different between each individual.
Boundaries are based upon background and upbringing in which, the fact remains, we all have different viewpoints.
This is why topics like politics can be volatile. This is why religious discussions are sensitive in the workplace. This is also why jokes are funny to some but not to others.
Deeper than this is the background of some that have undergone an untold pain. Harder to understand is the person that has experienced a true violation. But yet, regardless of the intrusion, many people hold their personal invasions and keep them a secret.
The answer is fear. The answer is because talking about this is painful. There is the fear of shame or public humiliation. There is the fear that maybe no one believes them. Maybe someone will be mad. Or maybe the feelings of blame turn inward. There is the fear of acceptance or the lack thereof. There is also the concern about the other side: What will happen to them?
It’s hard to step out and say something.
There are secrets people keep and hold them tightly because, hell, who knows what would happen if the secrets ever came out?
This is why people fail to come forward. They are afraid of retaliation and rejection from others. There are intimidation factors that exist beneath the abuse of misuse of power.
There is a pain that roots deep within the soul. This pain comes from a memory. This pain comes from a past transgression.
This is why the jokes aren’t always funny to other people. This is why the intention does not match the interpretation.
This is also why in the case of cultural competence, there needs to be a deeper level of understanding.
Cultural competence is the ability to comfortably interact regardless of background. In today’s time and when civil liberty is at the forefront of conversation; the racial tension is at an understandable and all-time high and the topics range from racist to non-racist and anti-racist, the questions is when is it harassment?
When is it prejudice?
When is it racist?
I agree when people say the world has become too sensitive. I agree when people say there is always someone out there offended by something.
This is probably true.
However, there are those out there that have been intruded upon in ways that no one else could imagine. Consider the assaults. Think about the scars people have. Consider things like child abuse. Consider words like “Rape” or “Molestation.”
Words have meaning that often root deeper than their basic definition, which is why interpretation can be different then even our best intentions.
It is not easy to step up and come forward. It is not a simple thing by any means. Then again, living with deep secrets is difficult too. Some would say living with secrets can almost be impossible. So the question is which would you rather?
There are problems within the workplace that come up often. And there are secrets in the workplace and in the boardroom. Sometimes, people are pigs but this is not always the case.
No one among us can claim perfection. There are cases where even the best people with great intentions have infringed upon boundaries. Does this mean they are terrible? Does this mean they can never improve? No, this just means they need to come to a different level of understanding. This means they need to improve their cultural competence. But if no one speaks up, some people might never learn.
Don’t be afraid to come forward.