Every Voice Deserves to be Heard - Penn-Mar

Every Voice Deserves to be Heard

Posted on March 16, 2022

By Gregory T. Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Human Services | Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Foundation
Greg Miller

Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services

While watching President Biden’s recent State of the Union message a few weeks ago, I was reminded of how guests at this event let their opinions be known.

For the most part, the reactions to the President’s speech in real time were divided along party lines (no surprise there), with enthusiastic applause for statements the audience agreed with and stone faced inertia from those who disagreed.

When deciding when to clap – or not – some people are moved by deep convictions, others by party affiliation and still others, like many of us, by entrenched beliefs formed by their own experiences.

To that last point, we all see the world a bit differently. And that is exactly why it is so important to be open to a diversity of opinions before making important decisions or judgements.

It is essential to have the courage of one’s convictions and to make the effort to consider other perspectives. This often leads to a far better, and sometimes unexpected, outcome for everyone concerned.

Communicator, author and pastor, Andy Stanley, says it best: Be a student, not a critic.

We have two ears and one mouth. Before assuming our opinion is the last word on a subject, we need to listen intently and respectfully to what others have to add before reacting.

That learning process may not change our opinion or beliefs. But at least it gives us a better understanding of where others are coming from based on their unique life experiences. Respectful exchanges create meaningful dialog.

At Penn-Mar, our Leadership Team is tasked with considering the very best ideas to ensure that we successfully support people to live courageously in pursuit of their best life.

Once in a great while my opinions make it to the finish line intact. However, nine times out of 10, they are shaped and refined along the way by challenging conversations and differing perspectives.

When we dig into our own biases, we shut down rather than open up lines of communication. And in the end, nobody wins. 

Andy Stanley is speaking to all of us in decision-making roles when he says: “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.”

Getting down to the nuts-and-bolts of team member interactions with the people with intellectual disabilities we support, we need to acknowledge that their opinions are drawn from more limited experiences.

Our role is not to try to change their opinions but rather, to make sure we provide them with an increasing number of opportunities to help them make good choices about their life.

How successfully we innovate and provide services at Penn-Mar relies a great deal on our positive intent of trust and respect for everyone we work with and everyone we support.

We will never put any of our folks in the position of compromising their values or integrity. Rather, we are striving to create an environment that encourages healthy conversation around diverse opinions and perspectives.

It’s easy to get emotional about things we feel strongly about but that can sometimes blind us to other facts or truths we need to consider.

Always be willing to lean in, listen and understand. It’s an art we all can, and need to, cultivate because we are not naturally inclined to behave that way.

It takes humility to understand and accept that every person has incredible value and a voice that deserves to be heard.

Imagine the healing power that respect could have on our troubled world and our everyday lives!

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