I have a principle that I incorporate into a lot of the group work I do. It’s called ‘managing your airtime’. It’s a request for people to become aware of how they show up in the group setting. If they are someone who talks a lot, I invite them to perhaps hold back slightly and let other people take more space in the conversation. If they’re someone who finds it difficult to speak up in a group, I invite them to perhaps push themselves to speak up a tiny bit more; to participate as fully as they can.
It’s an interesting concept for me to ponder on as I’m someone who tends to either speak up too much or not enough.
If I’m with people I feel truly comfortable with – my sister, super close friends, my husband – I can speak a lot. Chloe, my sister and Gregg, my husband can attest to this. With them I can talk and it’s really hard to become conscious of this in the moment in order for them to have space to show up.
It’s also true when I’ve got a role to play in a meeting or feel I have authority at work because of the role I’m in. Again, I have to be mindful to not take over and monopolise the conversation so that other people have the space to express themselves.
But I struggle to show up when it involves me becoming vulnerable with others (a topic I wrote about in my post yesterday). To feel safe, I shrink back and take more of a listening role, allowing other people to fill the space. But I’m trying to change this – keeping the principle of airtime in my mind is helpful to remember how I want to show up in conversations.
Airtime is also a concept that is serving me when I think about what needs to change in me internally. You see, I have a number of internal sub-personalities that show up a lot in my life with a critical voice (bear with me, hopefully you won’t find this concept too weird!). Here are some of the key players:
- My inner mean girl who disparages me and is critical of my physical appearance.
- A shy, scared part of me that is constantly trying to make me feel safe by becoming what I think other people need me to be in any given situation.
- The discounter who tells me I’m not able to feel any negative emotion (angry, sad, discouraged) because other people have it worse than me.
- ‘Not enough’ who, when I’m in a situation where I need to have expertise (when I’m coaching or in serious work meetings), makes me feel that I’m lacking when I don’t have all the answers or when I don’t feel like I’m the finished article.
I also have a number of internal sub-personalities that show up with a more nurturing voice.
- The witness who I heard on my way to work the other day and reminded me to be kind to myself (you can read about it here).
- My core which makes me feel powerful, strong and capable of anything when I tap into it.
- The protector who shows up when I’m on my knees with overwhelm and tells me to cancel everything and do what is needed to take care of my mental health
- My badass side which speaks up with attitude and pushes for what I want.
So what do these have to do with airtime?
Well, in my coaching session yesterday, I realised that the critical voices currently take a lot more airtime than the more nurturing ones. They tend to rule the roost when it comes to my internal dialogue. This isn’t always the case; more and more I find myself able to hear from the more nurturing voices, but this isn’t always the case I know I could do with hearing more from these gentle, kind internal voices.
I’m aware that I want these voices to have a more balanced airtime ratio.
I recognise that the critical voices serve a purpose of keeping me safe – they think ahead to see any risks that I need to prepare for, they make me aware of what I think I need to do to get people to accept me. But I don’t need to hear from them as much as I did in the past because I’m changing as a person.
I no longer feel the need to be constantly safe, I long more to be free. I don’t want people to like me because I comply to what I think their ideal ‘me’ is, I want to give people the opportunity to like me because of an authentic connection we’ve made (or to choose not to like me because we haven’t clicked – that’s ok).
I’ll still need to hear from the critical voices in order to think ahead and be prepared for what might be coming – tough questions I might get asked in a meeting, thinking about how others will best receive information I”m presenting to them. So I’m not trying to silence and repress them, I just want to find more of a balance.
And so in the coaching session, I stilled myself, gathered all these voices together and asked all them collectively to become aware of their airtime. To perhaps hold back or speak up. And I’m going try to stay mindful of their airtime in the coming weeks so that I can find greater balance in my life.