Him: "What's your opinion about him, Leah?"
Me: "I don't know."
Him: "What's your opinion about what he's saying to you, Leah?"
Him: "What's your opinion about how he's being, Leah? You either like it or you don't. Does it bother you the way he's treating you? Are you ok with him saying that? Do you like it or don't you?"
Me: "I don't like it."
Him: "Really? Because from where I'm standing, it looks like you don't give a f**k."
Me: [starts to cry]
Him: "Give him your opinion. Give it to him! What can he possibly give you if you don't give him your opinion?"
Me: "I don't have the words. I don't know! I don't know!"
Him: "Yes, you do!"
Me: (To my partner) "You're manipulative."
Him: "That's IT. Really give it to him."
Me: You're F**KING MANIPULATIVE
This is the sort of conversation that went on in the cold basement room of the acting studio where I trained. The painted black walls and floor and the lights that were too bright made the whole experience frighteningly uncomfortable.
The training was tough. The most emotionally challenging work I've ever done, actually. I left that studio each day sick to my stomach and in tatters. But liberated.
The training was repetitive. Literally. Every day we'd stand on stage with our partner and repeat phrases back and forth to one another.
We were being trained to tell the truth. Trained to have an opinion. Trained to own our voice. Trained not to hold back and be courageous in our expression. Trained to say what we really meant.
And we were scared shitless.
Scared of the rejection we might face. Scared of the anger we might cause in our partner or that we might find within ourselves. Scared that it might lead to a moment of uncomfortable intimacy. Scared of being seen too clearly. Scared of seeking understanding and receiving none. Scared of looking weak or desperate. Scared of where speaking the truth might lead us.
The zero you keep seeing on your blog posts
If your blog posts are being met with the gentle clickety-click of crickets.
If your social media posts are getting zero likes, comments or shares.
If no one's signing up for your services or buying your products.
It's not because you didn't do enough promotion on social media. And it's not because you don't have a big enough audience. And it's not because you don't know the right people.
All those things have an impact, sure. Sometimes a pretty big impact.
But the real reason is this:
You're just like me, standing in that acting studio, scared shitless to speak your truth because you're afraid what might happen as a result.
Afraid people "out there" won't like it.
Afraid of the troll who's gonna leave a nasty comment (hint: moderate your comments or be liberal with the delete key - your website is your home.)
Afraid your opinion is wrong or not valid.
Afraid people will misunderstand you.
Afraid your followers will disappear (they will, and that's totally ok).
But here's something you need to know:
When you give the person in front of you nothing, they'll give you nothing back. When you don't give your readers a reason to care, they won't. Because if you're not giving yourself to them, they can't give themselves to you.
Speak your truth
If you're looking for engagement, you have to engage. Engage with what you really care about, the message you really want to share and the truth you really want to speak. And then you have to have the courage to speak it, full force, into the world.
Sometimes you think you're doing it, but most often you're not. Maybe you're nearly there. Maybe you even wrote something really honest. But then, reading it back, you felt the sweat in your armpits and your groin. The sweat that says "I'm not sure about this."
So you delete a word here or there. You tone it down. Put a thin blanket over the bits that might be a bit "too much."
And then the sweat goes away and you click publish.
And no one leaves a comment.
Because you just took away everything there was to comment on.
It's not about shouting louder, using the word f**k or being mean
Owning your opinion and speaking your truth doesn't have to be loud or aggressive. That's not what this is about. This isn't about who can shout the loudest with the most provocative language. And it's definitely not about attacking others or bringing them down.
I'm talking about knowing who you are, what you believe in and what you stand for and then owning it, all the way to the finish line. No matter what the consequences.
Because if you don't care enough, you can guarantee your audience won't either.
Love and courage,