Offers vs. Actions

In my relatively short time working in the theatre industry and crafting stories in collaborative settings, I’ve come to notice a common bad habit.

We assume that being open to criticism and willing to discuss issues with others is enough, but we don’t address the obstacles people face in seeking that help.

If an individual is concerned about something happening in the creative process, there has to be a clear avenue of support for them. It’s not enough for a leader in a group to be open minded or receptive to people’s specific problems. Of course a willingness to help is necessary, but there’s often an unspoken fear of speaking up, especially when it comes to hierarchies. Speaking up, in the minds of many, may result in a loss of respectability. Because unfortunately it too often dampens reputations.

We have to get more specific about what help looks like and what is actually on the table. Folks need to know there’s a level of safety in speaking their minds. Often this requires major vulnerability from those in charge. “I know this (company/system) has failed people in the past. But I am actively trying to be better and I am learning. I want you to know you can come to me and I will listen without judgment. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to me, here are other resources you can approach. Here is a step-by-step summary of what that approach might look like for you.”

Folks in leadership positions tend to hear about someone having a problem when it’s too late, and then they say “Well I was always open to having a conversation. They could have just spoken up.”

We know it’s a possibility to speak up. But we are hesitant to do so because we fear the repercussions or the lack of real action.

Get specific about the actions you will take in real time rather than speak of the (invisible) “openness” of your mind. We can’t see into your brain. As artists, people who are being vulnerable for a living, we need to know what will actually support us.

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