Layer 8: Other values and beliefs: Including your positions on social issues
While reading the following and the previous example, please be aware you may agree or disagree with the positions presented here by their authors, and that is fine. The point in this book, as mentioned before, is not to advocate any position but rather to motivate you to be fully aware of your own positions, whichever they may be – including still being on the fence and wanting to learn more – on issues that matter to you.
In addition, as illustration of what this exercise can lead to, you’ll notice how the following UCL reflection goes beyond exploring the writer’s authentic self. It is another beautiful example of the author holding herself accountable to others based on her life-experience and to the service of her clients. It shows her effectively harnessing the energy between being authentic and accountable.
A contributor’s example of Layer 8:
I have a long list of social and political issues that I care about, many of which I actively monitor and advocate for. I will focus on three issues relevant to current events: 1) abortion rights, 2) LGBTQ rights and 3) racism.
I have been pro-choice since high school, though the nuances of what that means have changed over the years. During my first year in college, I opposed a minor’s ability to have an abortion without parental consent and voted for then-pro-life Republican candidate George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. By the time I graduated from college, I had expanded my pro-choice position and shifted my political allegiance to the Democratic Party. I am a staunch advocate for a woman’s right to choose – at any age – what happens to her body.
I grew up in a wealthy Republican stronghold in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California. My Catholic mother was very vocal about being pro-life. Despite this, I formed a pro-choice stance in high school. California Republicans are notorious for their left-leaning views on social issues like abortion. Being born on the Generation X/Millennial cusp, I grew up watching MTV and shows like Models Inc. and Beverly Hills 90210. The liberal influence of Hollywood also extended to me geographically, so I was regularly exposed to people with far-left views. Aside from my mother’s pro-life stance, I do not remember talking to my parents about politics at all. I did, however, talk about politics with my two significantly older Republican brothers, hence my vote for President G.W. Bush – which incidentally caused my Democratic father much distress and led to lots of political discussions with him!
My evolution on LGBTQ rights follows a trajectory of passive support during my formative years to one of advocacy and activism starting in my early 20s. In high school and college, I viewed gay rights in the context of protection against hate crimes. After witnessing discrimination against my LGTBQ friends firsthand, I became a heterosexual ally fighting for LGBTQ equality and protection from discrimination in employment, housing, private or public services and public places, including restrooms.
On Oct. 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, was beaten, tortured and left to die because of his sexual orientation. This terrible hate crime against a young man who was not much older than me solidified my conscious support of the gay community. Still, this support did not move beyond the surface until I had direct experiences of hate.
In 2004, when I answered phones for the regional office of a federal elected official, I was bombarded for weeks with angry callers raging about the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Until the recent climate on race relations, I had never experienced even a fraction of the vitriol and hate that people were spewing at me.
It was terrifying, eye-opening and mobilizing.
“I don’t see color.” Like many, this is something I used to say as a young, white, female full of good intentions and in full denial that I could harbor racist or discriminatory views. The first time I came face to face with my privilege was in college during a discussion on affirmative action. From there, I sought opportunities to learn how I could become a white ally and fight institutionalized racism. I believe that systemic, structural and individual changes in political, economic and social life are required to dismantle and end racism. Being a white ally means that I am committed to speaking up and taking a stand when I see injustice, supporting leadership by people of color, and talking with other people, especially children and teens, about racism.
My life experiences have contributed to my ability to focus on common interests (preventing unwanted pregnancies) rather than positions (being pro-choice). This means that I am more likely to seek compromise or search for win-win solutions. In reading the above, I am reminded of the powerful role that inquiry, curiosity and humility play in strategic interpersonal relations.
An example of being accountable:
Because I have such strong and well-defined values, I must be very aware of how they come into play when I deal with clients who have opposing values. For example, when working with a South African client in the past, I struggled with the need for a male member of my team to lead our conversation. Initially, I felt that would be too great of a compromise for gender equality in the workplace. However, after much contemplation, I came to realize that in respecting my client’s culture in this regard, I was holding myself accountable to the commitment I made to them as consultant. Who spoke first was minor in comparison to the work that could be done.