“What happens if you speak up?”
An acquaintance recently had reason to ask me this question. I understood it as a rhetorical question, and I filed it away as soon as I heard it. We moved on with a conversation about other things, with other questions that needed answers of some kind.
But then something a little strange happened. You know how sometimes a song gets stuck in your head, and you have no idea why? Or maybe you realize it’s because the song is connected with an emotion or a memory that requires your attention? That started to happen with this question, now in first person.
What happens if I speak up?
As I was settling in for sleep, gently clearing my mind and relaxing into bed, this question came into my head. For a few minutes I was wide awake again, trying to think of times I spoke up, and to remember what happened. I fell asleep before I could come up with anything significant.
What happens if I speak up?
The next day, reading a book about a completely different topic, I couldn’t focus on the words any more. I put the book aside and attended to the question. It no longer felt rhetorical, and after a little reflection I realized why.
Somewhere in that original conversation , my acquaintance and I had made a tacit agreement about how we were going to work together. Upon reflection, I knew the agreement would not work for me. In no way was I going to get what I needed from our working relationship unless I made perfectly clear what my expectations were. Unless I spoke up.
Every time I meet a new client, I have a little spiel I give about how I want and need them to speak up if something about their session needs to change. I try to remind everyone that this is their massage session, and they have the right and the responsibility to ask for what they want. (I have the corresponding right and responsibility to work within my scope of practice and ethical guidelines.) Sometimes, people do ask for changes during the session, and I change what ever I can without going outside my training. Sometimes I read or hear later that they wanted something to change and had a not-so-great experience because they didn’t get what they want.
And now, with my acquaintance, I was about to have my own not-so-great experience — unless I could manage to speak up. So I did. I’m here to tell you, it was not easy. It almost felt easier to just let it go and accept what was. The moment between me speaking up and my acquaintance responding contained all the possibilities of a difficult time. Anything could have happened.
But, what actually happens?
Well, in this case at least, I got to feel and be understood and respected. My experience changed for the better and more effective work is being done. And I try to make that happen for every client when they speak up too. If I know about it, I can change it. Usually for the better.