Choosing Our Words for the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong today our passions are running high. The Umbrella Movement has captured our attention, whether by enraging us at the challenges to our way of life or by inspiring us to higher ideals of freedom and peace. Law and order, peace, prosperity and freedom: we want all that. And yet we disagree, fiercely at times, about how to achieve it. I see people who are calling for negotiations being themselves unwilling to give an inch in their position. I see people calling for a return to law and order condoning violence as a means.
Police and demonstrators face off in Hong Kong, October 15, 2014
I’ve been moved over the past few weeks to call forward our best thinking and communication skills for the sake of Hong Kong people’s future. On my Facebook page I said:
What is our role as coaches in Hong Kong during the demonstrations for democracy? I say it is:
- to keep ourselves healthy, positive and uplifted,
- to practice an attitude of openness with non-judgmental listening,
- to support others to express their views clearly and completely,
- to express our own views in ways that provoke new insights and elicit creative and courageous actions.
We have a huge opportunity now to broaden our thinking, open our hearts to who we disagree with, accept the existence and validity of other perspectives, and thereby increase our ability to be a healthy democratic society.
Today I want to add something else to this call. I want to ask us to choose our words carefully. As I wrote in 2009, our words are not innocent; they are very powerful. Our words affect our perception of the world; what we see, hear, feel and experience. We can use our words to create the world we want, or just as easily to encourage the scenarios we most fear.
It’s time to speak up in support of what we INTEND for our future. The more I bring my attention to what I want, the more it appears before me. It’s not real magic, just the trick of how attention works.
I’ll start with an easy one: I like blue. And I see it all over the place.
Now a harder one: Hong Kong has some of the smartest, most experienced, highest integrity leaders in the world.
The words you say or write or think are like seeds that sow your ideas. So when you start thinking about the colour blue, it appears before you in places you didn’t notice before. It’s the same with something like kindness. When you start looking for it, you will see it all over the place, and that feels good. Try it!
The major disruptions and passionate calls we are experiencing now have evoked all kinds of emotions, including anger and fear. Reacting from those emotions we may express frustration and cynicism, and we tend to exaggerate the negative. It’s natural and good to feel emotions as a result of such turmoil and passion. But when we express them thoughtlessly, we can easily make the situation worse.
What we desperately need now is more trust between the demonstrators and the government. We can support the process of building trust by being accurate with our words without deleting the positive aspects that are there. They may be quite hidden, and that is all the more reason to seek them out and highlight them now.
The trick is to be both true to your perspective, and positively constructive. Here are some questions to start exercising your positive thinking.
- Who are your favourite Hong Kong legislators? What do they do that makes you respect them?
- What is one positive thing that has already come about due to the demonstrations?
- What do you respect about the Hong Kong government?
- What do you respect about the Chinese government?
- What do you respect about the student protesters?
- What do you respect about the Occupy Central leaders?
- What do you respect about the Hong Kong police?
Take notice of how you feel as you are answering these questions. If it hurts, it simply means you are adjusting some deeply held beliefs, and you are broadening your worldview to let in a more satisfying world. Congratulate yourself, because what you’re doing is critical to our success. If this process is easy for you, make up some harder questions by considering where your thinking is most negative.
I’ve heard it said that Hong Kong will never be the same again after these demonstrations and I concur. Let’s make it better by stretching our abilities to see clearly and accept the complexity of life in a democratic society.
“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. Mahatma Gandhi