Who wants to chat about POLITICS today?! **crickets**
Okay, okay. I know you’re all probably mentally and emotionally exhausted from the tumultuous few weeks (who are we kidding… MONTHS) we’ve had here in American politics, but I promise this letter is not intended to add to the fatigue.
Instead, it’s meant to illuminate a very real, timely question that I know some of you might be grappling with: When and where and how is the best way to communicate your personal opinions if you run a creative business?
I posted this image on my Instagram last week, and two comments in particular inspired this week’s letter:
I especially like this from @alexisannecreative: “…how to find the balance between speaking up and not wanting to offend anyone.”
That’s really the question here.
Maybe I’m just primed for it, but it seems like everywhere we turn, people are sharing their personal opinions in professional spheres. You can see it in the political thread running through a number of the Golden Globe speeches, or in athletes using their public platforms to protest, or in big companies issuing public statements clearly taking sides on political issues.
Again, maybe it’s just that I’m getting older and more politically informed myself, but it seems that the default response used to be neutrality, with certain individuals taking a stand when pressed by the media or special circumstances. But now, especially with the growing effect of social media on our culture, the default seems to be in actually taking sides. In fact, customers have come to demand it of big companies, holding them accountable to “mission statements” and “core pillars” that once were relegated to annual reports and email signatures.
In other words, if you’re a brand that claims to stand for inclusion, customers are saying, “Prove it.”
But that’s big business, right? What about small business? What about those of us who have created companies based on our own personal values?
The lines between professional and personal have continued to blur as more people become “brands” in their own right.
As a small business or a solopreneur, it’s hard to know where the jurisdiction lies for political and personal opinions.
For some it may feel completely taboo, like terrifying territory.
There was definitely a time when I felt that way, especially in the beginning of my business. While I relished the opportunity to infuse my brand with my own life and personality, I intentionally steered clear of topics that might polarize my tiny, growing audience. Things like politics, religion, my struggles with anxiety, my relationship… dipping my toe into these territories felt like I might instantly be called “out of bounds” and be docked 100 points by some invisible business authority.
I can say that I was afraid of offending someone, but let’s get really honest here — I was afraid of hurting the potential of my business.
I didn’t want the angry commenters, the unfollows, the unsubscribes that were sure to follow drawing a line in the sand.
However, little by little, as I started to find clarity in my values, I also started to find confidence in my voice. I experienced the freedom that comes with authentic sharing — showing up in the wholeness and complexity of my true self, without fear of what other people might think of me. I started sharing my opinions on topics like mental health and politics and causes I cared about.
I DID get the commenters, the unfollows, the unsubscribes (everything I had feared), but something really amazing and unexpected came from that.
My truth acted as a magnet, drawing me closer to those that shared my values and driving away those that did not. This left me with a community of incredibly open, uplifting, and REAL people who were more interested in the grit than they were in the gloss.
(Let it be known this also does not always mean a community of people who all AGREE with me; it simply means people who care about and value the things that I care about and value, even if we disagree on the best way to uphold those values.)
This is why I’ve always built the foundation of the Made Vibrant brand on authenticity, because the more you share your truth (however uncomfortable or scary or polarizing), the more you actually strengthen your brand foundation.
As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Part of attracting an audience that resonates with your brand is about drawing a line in the sand about what you believe. Every time you share something that feels intimate or vulnerable or even controversial, that is another opportunity to forge a deeper bond with the RIGHT people.
I offer that example up to you not as a means of saying “You HAVE to talk politics in order to be authentic.” Not at all. What I mean is “Authenticity is in aligning what you do with who you are.” So if your core self feels compelled to share your voice in that way, do not be afraid of “sifting out” people along the way. After all, one of the best parts of forging your own business path is carving out a space where you’re allowed to be unapologetically you.
This is the same litmus test I offer up for anyone wanting to share anything actually, not just political views. I had a friend once ask me my thoughts about swearing in her content. She swears in real life — it’s just how she likes to communicate — but she was worried about offending people and not being “professional.” I asked her this question:
“If you arrived at the end of writing a long blog post to your audience and didn’t swear, would you feel like you were holding yourself back? Like you weren’t being yourself? And, if so, would that bother you?”
Without missing a beat, she said YES. Well, that was a clear sign to me that being authentic to her meant communicating the way she likes to communicate so that she could feel like herself within the business she was creating.
(For contrast, I’m not offended by swearing at all and I certainly have been known to drop a few choice phrases for emphasis, but I don’t feel stifled or restrained by not swearing. It doesn’t feel central to who I am or how I communicate. So my answer to that litmus test would be no… hence why you don’t see me dropping f-bombs left and right!)
So that would be my first question to anyone grappling with whether to share political views through their business:
Do you feel your true self being restrained in a way by NOT sharing? And… are you holding back because you’re afraid of alienating people or because politics just aren’t that important to you?
Either option are totally your prerogative and getting clarity might help you better own whichever position you choose.
If you DO decide that sharing your political opinions feels important, and you’re wondering how to do so while still being respectful and not controversial for the sake of being controversial, here’s my approach:
Don’t make it all about what you’re against; instead make it about what you STAND FOR.
I can talk about standing up for love over fear, without bashing those who are afraid.
I can share about standing up for tolerance without mocking those that are blind to their biases.
I can spread empowerment without condemning those that stay silent.
Because the truth is, those values are all important to me whether in the context of politics or whether in the context of everyday life.
I don’t always get it right, but I’m intentional about the words I use and the values I demonstrate, not just the ones I claim I care about.
If I do decide to refer to a particular event or cause, my approach is to lead with information. I do my research, and I try to remember that at both ends of any issue there are always people, not generalized populations as we sometimes forget. Ultimately I only share something when I’ve decided it’s against my own values NOT to share.
The truth is, it’s hard to stand up for what you believe in when it comes to anything in life, not just politics. Why? Because taking a stand is an act of vulnerability. You’re risking rejection and alienation, and we humans fear both at our deepest core.
But, there comes a time when you have to decide what is more important to you: the freedom that comes with sharing your voice and your values, or the security that comes with keeping your opinions private?
I’m in no place to judge anyone for decisions that affect their businesses or their lives, so I say the choice is up to you!
Again, I’ve always aimed to bend my business around my life, not to shape my life around my business. Having this clear hierarchy makes decisions like this pretty clear. If I’m feeling compelled to share a piece of myself and to take a clear stand on something I believe in, I’ll accept whatever business consequences follow because a vibrant life for me is one where I’m able to share my full truth.
I hope those of you who have been wondering how to navigate these questions have found value in the way I approach the topic.
Share your truth in whatever way feels right to you!