The Courage to Speak Up

The word courage comes from the Old French corage, which means “heart, innermost feelings.” In Middle English, courage meant to express “what is on one’s mind or thoughts;” it’s associated with bravery. While we often think of courage as the willingness to place one’s self in harms way to save others or to stand up for a compelling cause, we rarely think of it as the willingness to risk social rejection, humiliation, or abandonment while pursuing greater connections and results in relationships. It takes courage to utter our thoughts and feelings to other people when we’re not certain how they’ll respond. Many times every day each of us have opportunities to do so. But do we?

Expressing what’s hidden often feels quite scary. How will the other person or people respond? Will they offer heartfelt appreciation of your courage, or will they laugh or criticize or even ignore? And if any of the latter are expressed, how will you react? Will you shrink or be stirred to anger? Will your face turn red with humiliation? Will you flee or freeze? Clearly there’s no guarantee that your heartfelt honesty will be met with love, appreciation, or respect. That’s what makes it vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to be open to attack. Gosh, it’s no wonder why so few people reveal their innermost experiences. Why on earth would they take these risks? Ultimately, because they have a vision of something more and realize that staying mum will not feed their souls, fulfill their dreams or, on the most pragmatic level, lead their projects to successful conclusions.

There are some people who practice being courageous in relationships. They make a habit of being authentic by sharing the little and big ways that they think, feel, and believe. They are willing to speak up about what they experience as obstructing greater closeness, connection, and/or success. They are committed to having intimacy in their relationships. Many people misunderstand intimacy. They think it’s synonymous with sexuality. It’s not. Think of intimacy phonetically as into-me-see. Letting people see into you takes courage. Without this courage, deeper intimacy cannot exist. This is not to say that people can’t have great relationships without intimacy. Many have proven they can. However, something is still lost without it or, at least, not found. What’s found is a deeper understanding and appreciation of what makes that person tick. It’s truly knowing and being known.

Sidney Jourard, an early researcher into the power of self-disclosure, linked this sharing to psychological health. Disclosing to (at least) one person is necessary for healthy personality. He also believed that “you cannot collaborate with another person toward some common end unless you know him. How can you know him, and he you, unless you have engaged in enough mutual disclosure of self?” We often find this true in our work with teams and organizations. Obviously there are more and less skillful ways to self-disclose courageously. Throughout the Rewire Leadership website are a multitude of different practices you can learn that will maximize the probability of creating great results through your courageous actions.

Daniel Ellenberg, Ph.D., LHEP™

Daniel Ellenberg, Ph.D., LHEP™

Daniel helps CEOs, VPs, managers, engineers, scientists, artists and others realize and develop their greatest assets—curiosity, purpose, authenticity, and resilience. As a change agent, he occupies different roles: executive and leadership coach, organizational trainer, group facilitator, consultant, and researcher. He focuses on helping people build inspiring, successful professional careers and personal lives. He has coached leaders in companies such as Yahoo, Netscape, Oracle, ESPN, Power Vision, Adobe, Restoration Hardware, Autodesk, and Genentech, as well as many smaller companies—including start-ups.

Daniel’s background in various approaches in psychology, contemplative practices, neuroscience, and philosophy makes him uniquely qualified to help leaders gain a deeper, more effective understanding both of themselves and those they serve. With his guidance, leaders learn to strategically strengthen relationships and build powerful bonds—creating an environment of trust and honesty. He achieves this by helping people resolve common misunderstandings and power struggles to create cohesive, well-functioning teams and organizations. People experience greater self-esteem, which positively influences all aspects of organizations—including the bottom line.

An expert in the field of awareness and relationship skills, Daniel has presented at major conferences, businesses, and universities. A published author, he contributed to the book The Communication Path and with his wife, Judith Bell, he co-authored a chapter in Mastering the Art of Success Volume 8 as well as the book Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership. He’s delivered his successful communications messages on radio and television. His deepest interests are in researching and teaching skills that allow people to thrive both professionally and personally—rather than simply survive.

Daniel is also president of Relationships That Work® and directs Strength with Heart® men’s groups and seminars. He researched how the traditional male role influences relationships, both professionally and personally. He applies this understanding in guiding leaders to be more conscious and impeccable.

Supporting leaders in acquiring new skills of resilience—stability, flexibility and the capacity to bounce back—informs Daniel’s entire body of work. With Judith, he co-created and delivered a specially designed resilience training program for NASA to help its workforce survive and thrive during a crisis in organizational confidence in the manned space program.

Daniel brings warmth, caring, and humor to his work. At the same time, he challenges people to think outside the box. He believes that people often learn best when they laugh the most.

Daniel holds a BA in psychology from Boston University and a PhD in counseling psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies. He has been a participant in the RL Angels & Traitors and Authentic Leadership 1 courses. He has acted as co-facilitator of The Human Element® course and is the co-creator/co-facilitator of the Resilience Dynamics® course. He has used Judith as a consultant and unpaid coach for since 1987.

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