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  • Writer's pictureJennifer

Words of wisdom on getting uncomfortable

Permission to Speak workbook design by Kelly Galeano Arce and Anya Widyawait; words by LaDonna Witmer

Permission to Speak—as a workbook, is the brainchild of word lover LaDonna Witmer. I found her words of wisdom while churning this site over and over, in my heart and head. I thought I had so much to say of my experiences, yet was plagued with the why. Why should I open my mouth at such a time of divisiveness? How could I contribute in ways that both inspire and inform—that was brave and authentic? Would my speaking up help land my next opportunity and break me out of isolation? Or worse, what if I found my voice pushing me further away from any sense of community or work? There was a lot of fear and doubt to get over. So, I first fell down the LaDonna rabbit hole, and a few others, to finally come back out with a courageous sense of permission.

I spend time each day researching companies and organizations I want to work with or for. On a particular day, I was researching re—inc, the social enterprise founded by USWNT champs Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg, and Christen Press. re—inc is on a mission "of inspiring us all to boldly reimagine the status quo." They are definitely on my radar and deserving of a post of their own! In my wandering about on re—inc, I found their membership page and scrolled down to past experiences. Low and behold there was Permission to Speak, a workshop on finding your voice. I did what we all do when we find a treasure—an Easter egg on the internet. I googled LaDonna Witmer and permission to speak and then fell down, down, down the hole. My search for permission to speak resulted in over 400,000,000 hits. LaDonna's workbook and workshop are three pages in on the search—from a time she presented with the Gladstone Institute in 2020 (yup - in the middle of the global pandemic crisis year). iHeartRadio podcast, Permission to Speak, hosted by Samara Bay, is at the top. Ironically, the Permission to Speak podcast also started in 2020. I've listened to two episodes so far. First, the why of her endeavor where she introduces the words on confidence by Brittney Packnett Cunningham (I fell into that rabbit hole too), and the last episode, How to check your bias: accents with Dr. Katherine Kinzler—a very important listen for all communicators challenging the hierarchy of linguistics.

When finally landing on LaDonna's Permission to Speak workbook, I knew I had found the tool to tackle the silencing of my own voice. In it she shares;

"it takes bravery to own your voice. But with it comes a sense of freedom, a sense of rightness and purpose and pride. THIS, you can say to the world. This is who I am. This is what I've seen. And this is what I know to be true."

LaDonna describes her own rediscovery of her voice as the impetus for this transformative workbook. I'm purposely not sharing the details so you'll go on your own wandering journey. It's so worth your time. I will say, she references two of my favorite contemporary voices: Luvvie Ajayi Jones, the Queen of getting uncomfortable; and Casey Gerald, founder of MBAs Across America and author of There Will Be No Miracles Here. I came across Casey and the team at MBAXAmerica back in 2013 when I hopped on the wave of innovation-enterprises, makers, and the resurgence of local economies. I am now intrigued by his memoir and the voice he speaks when saying, "He who adapts can live tolerably." I don't believe a heartfelt life is one lived tolerably. I don't think Casey does either. And in Luvvie's influential TED Talk, Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable, she asks herself these three things first when finding her voice. One, do you mean it? Two, can you defend it? Three, did you say it with love? I think her practice of asking this of ourselves before we speak is a sound guidepost.

LaDonna is very generous in sharing her process, and ultimately Permission to Speak as a workbook and workshop. The workbook is available free and downloadable. She so graciously sent to me the workbook package pictured above—one of the few printed copies she had left in her possession, all the way from Portugal (via a courier friend)! Yup, that's what happens when you connect on LinkedIn with those you greatly admire. I'm grateful my quiet internal voice screamed out—go down the hole, and then, REACH OUT NOW. Especially, as we all know, whether we want to admit it or not, that 2020 was a historic year of rupture from both a deadly biological virus and our social viruses. It seems we are far from over the ramifications and truths of either. Finding my voice and opening my ears to listen as I unpack, reconcile, and move forward, is one of my new jobs.

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