Having had one of those weeks where my to-do list seemed like a wealthy spinster’s shopping receipt (don’t I wish), I’m glad to be finally singing, “I made it! I made it!”
More than anything, this week has brought to my attention the extent to which mitigation has plagued our society. What do I mean by mitigation? I mean this: “I think that maybe it would be a bit better if we…” Think, maybe, a bit. All these words denote uncertainty. Yet many of us are preconditioned by the cultures from which we hail to use them even when we are sure so that we don’t step on another person’s toes.
We are told everyday to change this. We are told to speak out, to tell it like it is, to call a spade a spade. And we are warned that if we don’t shun mitigation, it will cripple our success, like the calcium that collects on an eagle’s beak and talons and prevents it from soaring.
While I would love to do this, to break out of my shell, I wonder if it isn’t better to remain in my cocoon. After all, my “culture” is actually more polite. Should I downgrade the importance of being polite? Are we not taught that no matter what, our dealings with humanity are more important than even our professional success?
Stepping out for many of us is difficult because being withdrawn or timid is all we’ve ever known. Many times, people don’t understand why I hesitate to do something, or why I give myself a pep talk before doing something that is not a big deal. Sometimes it’s even painful for me to watch, and I can imagine how irritating it must be for another observer when they know what I mean to say yet continue to sugarcoat it until I don’t put my point across.
After a considerable amount of soul-searching, I have decided that I will continue to work towards saying exactly what I mean, and that fearlessly. However, I’ll be careful with my tone. Tone is the difference between why in school we saw some prefects as mean and others as strict. Yes, there is a difference. Therefore, as much as I want to be polite, I don’t want to fade into the background. I want to be soft-spoken without being unimportant.
Although that seems like a small task for most people, it is a tall order for a good number of us this side of the Sahara. There is a thin line between confidence and bragging. There is a blurred line between respecting someone and concurring with them. Kethi Kilonzo is the perfect example. The fact that she stepped down for her mother was respectful. However, is our society demanding from us respect without reminding us to use logical reasoning to decide what is truly better for ourselves and for the same society which polices us? Personally, I think that many times we can respect someone without necessarily letting them have their way.
I started the journey towards minimising mitigation years ago after reading the book “Outliers”. It is hard. Sometimes, for me, it is downright impossible. I’m still at it though. Slowly but surely, I’ll find my way round these ropes. Mgaagaa na upwa hali wali mkavu.