Free to Speak: Are your words building or dividing?

Chery Gegelman Winning Well International SymposiumPeople that work with winning well leaders...
Last week, I leveraged some extreme examples from our time in the Middle East to emphasize 6 Ways to Transform a Divisive Culture  in the Winning Well International Symposium.
This week, I’m sharing more of our experiences and encouraging each of you to apply some of those learning’s to your lives and leadership.

Have you ever pondered the reasons or benefits of free speech?

  • In nations?
  • Or workplaces?

The purpose of being able to speak freely

Obviously speaking freely is not allowed in many nations or workplaces.

That choice:
  • Lowers leadership accountability and potential.
  • Impacts the way two people or thousands of people work together.
  • Determines how well resources are utilized and how quickly problems are solved.
  • Limits the overall health, effectiveness, and future of their workplace or nation.

Speech was controlled in the place we lived for four years, in many ways.  Below are a few examples:

  • Technology:  Several people brought cordless phones with them from their home countries.  When those phones could not be monitored, police officers drove directly to their homes and removed them.
  • Expression of Personal Thoughts/Opinions: One man was arrested because he took a picture of a government official’s parked car and posted it on Social Media – pointing out how inconsiderate it was. Others were arrested for speaking out against government policies.
  • Fundraising: I was advised to take a post off of social media because I was encouraging people to donate to support effort flood victims in Baton Rouge.   I was warned that others had been arrested for soliciting donations.  (Even though all of my links went to vetted agencies in the U.S. – I took the post down.)
  • Religion:  We were constantly aware that we risked our freedom and our lives if we shared our faith with others.

Now we’re in a country where freedom of speech is legal and protected.

But most of what we’re hearing and witnessing isn’t emphasizing how that uncommon freedom can be leveraged to build.

  • Instead it is being used by some to MANIPULATE OUTCOMES and by others to STOP CONVERSATIONS.

Manipulation:  Several “trusted” news sources continue to create and distribute false news.  

This is one tiny example:  Over the weekend there were several reports and strong opinions about Melania Trump not wearing a headscarf in Saudi Arabia.   A repeat of what happened when Michelle Obama did not wear one in Saudi a few years ago.  The truth is that women from other countries, even Muslim women, are not required to wear headscarves in that country.

False reports are quickly picked up by others and spread by many.  Deepening divides and distracting everyone from real issues AND any hopeful progress.

TIP:  Watch those headlines!  If they sound inflammatory they are.  It’s about ratings not truth.  Unfortunately division rates.  Even when an article sounds believable and is from a seemingly credible source it is still wise to check it.

Freedom doesn’t exist if you don’t use it. -Margaret Heffernan
 Conversation Stoppers:  A friend is hiding her political views “in the closet” because she is a member of one political party in a state that is filled with more people from the other political party.  She admits that she is afraid to share what she believes with her friends, not wanting to be alienated, judged and abandoned.
Do you have any friends that are “hiding in the closet” afraid to share what they believe because you are so vocal about what you believe?  Have you ever considered that:   
TIP:   Start with asking your friends to share WHY they believe what they believe.  The goal isn’t to win an argument. The goal is to listen to their story and seek to understand.  And then doors will begin to open to share your WHY.
Hear the Biography, not the ideology.  — Agape, via A Free Listening Project

Learning from DifferencesBusiness leaders: Who speaks freely with you?

A CEO recently released a close advisor that was with him for nearly a decade, because he finally recognized that he had been listening to a manipulator and a conversation stopper.  The sad part is that many people tried to tell the CEO what was happening, but they quickly learned that their attempts only put them at risk.  So they stopped trying.

Imagine how your leadership, team, organization and credibility would be impacted if you had allowed yourself to be sealed off by conversation stoppers and manipulators for nearly 10 years.  (That thought should make your stomach churn.)


  • Empower people at all levels to speak truth to power.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open.
  • Make sure that people at all levels have access to you.
  • Put processes in place to evaluate what you hear while protecting the messenger.

And never forget that every single person on your team knows something that you don’t.  If you aren’t encouraging them to share what they know, you are limiting your leadership potential and the future of your organization.

As a titled leader YOU decide if your team:

You will ALWAYS get what YOU create and what YOU allow.

Looking for a speaker or a facilitator for your next event?  

Chery helps people and organizations accomplish their mission by facilitating truth-seeking, listening, dialogue, collaboration and growth:

  1. People work through divisive issues
  2. Students and professionals develop critical life and leadership skills
  3. Followers of Jesus find Biblical responses to the news and division in our world

I’ve had the privilege of participating in Chery’s programs. I was awestruck by the unique ability she possesses to successfully facilitate in-depth discussions within groups of strangers from culturally and historically opposing viewpoints. Chery is a great facilitator, communicator, listener, instructor, counselor and mentor with a passion for truth and real problem solving!  Jaynia Samaroo

View More Testimonials Here

Chery Gegelman

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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