Listening and Anger

Those Angry Birds get a bad rap, I suspect you’d be angry too if a Piggy stole your eggs!

Be less angry. Calm down. Take a chill pill. Don’t deal with this from a place of anger. People won’t like that.

There is so much anger out in the world right now. I am angry myself. I’m angry at the UK Government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 outbreak. I’m angry that I had a fall on Monday which has left me very battered and bruised. I’m angry because yet again I’m having to push for my son’s Autism to be considered.

Of course, I want to have calm and peaceful conversations and be constructive in partnership with people. When that works, it is amazing. My son’s Primary school and I have built up an incredible partnership which has given him the opportunity to thrive in ways many other schools just would not have facilitated. I will forever be grateful for that blessing. However, even in that relationship, there have been times when I have had to get angry.

I am neurodiverse myself, although having grown up in an era where girls were rarely considered for ASC diagnosis I doubt I’ll ever have one. One of the gifts of my brain working a little differently to most is that I see things. Combined with an Enneagram 1 personality, flaws and potential problems jump out at me. I’m often advised to calm down as I’m focusing on the worst case scenario, but then more often that not my assessment of a situation is pretty close to what works out in the end. Not always, of course, I’m not some sort of precognitive future teller. But I struggle to sit back and let things play out in front of me which could have been changed had I been listened to.

One of the struggles I have with my brain working a little differently is that I don’t always communicate what I see in a way others respond positively to. In my first job I earned myself the nickname ‘The Rottweiler’! I have done a lot of the work over the years to understand myself, how I tick, how I communicate best and what to try and avoid. I still find this excruciatingly difficult at times and constantly second guess myself. But I also know I have to keep trying.

So I generally wait until I am calm and clear headed before I press send on emails. I write and edit. I only engage in phonecalls when I feel I’m in a place to. I choose what I tackle very carefully and I spend most of my prayer time praying into letting things go that need not be my concern and are stealing my peace. I’m always conscious of stepping on toes, banging on about things people know already but are choosing different paths to mine, where I need to focus my energy. I’ve learned a lot and I continue to learn. I will always have to be careful with this.

However. Sometimes, however polite you are, however calmly you present things, however strictly you follow the procedures, it still isn’t enough to be heard. Ask your black neighbour, your gay friend, your trans colleague, your disabled family member. We all know it. It’s why we get so very angry. Sometimes, speaking out from a place of anger is the only way we get taken seriously.

If I hadn’t spoken up in anger, my son would not have his ASC diagnosis, nor his EHCP. Both processes took years, which in the life of a child is far too long. Both processes took multiple referrals, perseverance, complaints and a huge stack of evidence to finally be listened to. If I hadn’t spoken up in anger, a family member would have been discharged from hospital with an undiagnosed mental health condition to a filthy home without any support; that case conference of 15 professionals sharpish listened to what I had to say with a sharp and firm edge to my voice and a portfolio of well researched evidence and notes.

What happens to those people who very politely take the first thing they are told and walk away? Those children whose parents don’t know they have to refer again or appeal when they are told no, walking away, because that’s exactly what institutions hope you will do and why they say no in the first place. Those people who don’t have someone to advocate for them and return to an unsuitable placement back into their drink and drugs and early death. Those people who never get access to the systems in the first place because of the language they speak, the place they were born.

This is happening daily. Are you angry yet?

As a society, we know better. We have pathways for care, we have legislation such as the Equality Act 2010. Ignorance is not an excuse. Tokenism is not okay. For some in leadership across many institutions, these issues are never encountered in there personal circles, they have no direct experience or understanding, and that’s ok. I have little direct experience or understanding of the systemic abuse of people of colour, but I know it exists and I strive to give those in my circle who do the space to speak of it, so I can learn. What’s not ok is to not listen. To say we’ll get round to it and then not do. To know you have people with expertise in areas that could help a situation and not consult them.

So, occasionally, I don’t check the email I send. I let the rawness sing for itself. It’s uncomfortable. But if all the polite, comfortable, correct conversation gets you nowhere, then it’s time for the anger to push the door wide open. When the dust settles we’ll all have moved forward. Isn’t it just a shame we couldn’t have done that in peace? My prayer when I’m angry is that we always will next time.

Peace be with you.


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