Muted Upon Entry
While teaching on Zoom a few weeks ago, I was in the middle of saying something when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I glanced over to the square with one of the participants, and she informed me that I was on mute and that none of the other students could hear what I was saying. I quickly unmuted myself. In the moment, I felt silly. For those of you who have been using video platforms, you can probably relate!
Zoom and other online platforms enable the host of the meeting to mute participants when they enter the call. Oftentimes, this feature is helpful. As a teacher, it helps me manage students and minimize distractions so that they can hear my voice without distraction from their peers. However, after this minor incident, when I found myself muted, I started to think about the other side of things. I wondered how many of my students could have felt silenced because I muted them.
Being muted as a participant can be frustrating and debilitating. You can be seen but not heard. Understandably, this can cause feelings of anger and helplessness. While it can be more apparent online when someone is muted, I started to consider how this occurs too often offline. Sometimes we may feel like our voice does not have an impact. Or, people are simply just hearing, but not really listening. Personally, when I feel unheard in my opinions, beliefs, or ideas, it can feel like a waste of time to speak.
As leaders in multiple capacities, we have the responsibility to pay attention to who is silencing or silenced. We listen to those who may be “muted” weather they are speaking or not. In making decisions, it is important to utilize our own voice while gathering the thoughts and opinions of others.
So what can leaders do to empower others or to demonstrate a willingness to listen?
The simple idea of “stepping up” and “stepping back” has helped me. It encourages us to consider when we should take action and speak up about our ideas, but it also encourages us to consider when we should allow space for others. Finding a balance between speaking and actively listening is key.
One way I have implemented this as a teacher is by asking my students how they feel about certain assignments or school rules. In a situation where they may feel powerless, this gives them a chance to voice their opinions. Listening to what my students have to say can ultimately help me make better decisions that are beneficial for the whole group.
Let’s make sure we clarify that there is nothing better about tendencies to stepping forward or step back. It is all about balance! But it is essential to consider which role you usually take as a leader. Ask yourself the following questions. Write it down and share it with an accountabilibuddy!
- What is one way you want to step up this week? How will you use your voice to advocate for yourself and others?
- What is one way you will step back this week? How will you make sure others are heard?
*Meet the Author*
Meghan has been with Leadership Inspirations for four years. She holds a B.A. in Integrated Educational Studies from Chapman University and a M.Ed. in Secondary Education from Regis University
Favorite Quote: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wild
Fun Facts: 1) My dream job would be an SNL cast member, 2) I love to plan parties 3) I sing in my car like I’m performing a sold-out show.