So here’s another moment of full transparency. Don’t worry, we both are about to feel a little uncomfortable.
I hate hearing about my inconsistent actions or behaviors. None of us do.
I provide opportunities for people in my life to point them out. I just hate it when they do. I have a ten-minute tantrum, express apologies, and then ask for suggestions. This is my pattern.
I would also hate it if anyone in my life felt like they couldn’t tell me I was being inconsistent. Above all else, I want people to feel like they can trust me with their thoughts and emotions.
Trust. That is at the center of this. Consistency is essential in building trust in any capacity, on any level, in every relationship.
Adversely, inconsistency breaks trust.
People have neurological responses to our inconsistency. Early research suggests that different regions of the brain respond to the type of inconsistency perceived.
I would imagine that over time, repeated negative neurological responses to my actions or behaviors would change a person’s interactions with me. I don’t want that.
So, I make it a point to ask, and if necessary, correct. But, if I am being real, that is not the only reason.
Legacy: The Disruption of Black Life
Black American lives are disrupted by White Americans and agencies so often we assume it is warranted. Maybe we don’t assume it is. But we certainly behave as though it is a basic fact of life. This insidious assumption accentuates a deeper myth: Black Americans are untrustworthy.
I can imagine a white reader scanning the above and immediately dismissing themselves from making such an assumption or harboring such a myth. That’s problem number one.
The distrust of Black Americans is so pervasive we justify the mistreatment of talented Black professionals by dismissing them. The organization, institution, or agency, is steadfast. The Black professional seeking to improve workplace culture, like changing prejudicial practices, is the problem and is no longer a “good fit”.
More and more when a person says “good fit” I hear “house nigga”. And not the kind to lead the rebellion…
I have seen it happen too many times. It’s America’s pattern.
Remember earlier when I said we have neurological responses to inconsistency? Part of that research study concluded that different regions of the brain respond to the perceived inconsistency differently.
If I think you are late because of some external factor beyond your control, I will be filled with more worry than frustration. If I think you’re late because you don’t respect my time, I have different reactions.
When we are confronted with someone’s inconsistency, when we are confronted with our own, we choose whether to assume the best or worst of that person. We choose whether it is worth our time or energy to understand it.
White America assumes the worst of Black America. Always.
White Americans waste law enforcement resources because of this.
White Americans feel more qualified than Black colleagues because of this.
White Americans feel entitled to undermine Black parents in front of their children because of this.
White America riots because of this.
Black Americans deal with aggression at work.
Black Americans deal with aggression at Starbucks.
Black Americans deal with aggression picking up their kids from school. At the doctor’s office. While driving. While walking.
Black America marches because of this.
Action: Master Consistency
So much needs to change. Marches have had an impact. But what now? I, like many other Black Americans, still have to go to work tomorrow. A march will not keep me from wanting to slap the condescension out of my colleague’s mouth. A rally will not keep me from cursing out the woman telling me her thoughts on my parenting.
I’ve decided mastering consistency can improve my corner of the world. It is an effective tool to use when sh** goes sideways.
I have been the scapegoat in toxic work environments because of my willingness to accept fault. I thought I was acting out of humility. I reflect on my younger professional self and realize I was very much conditioned to assume I did do something wrong.
The same happens when I am driving the speed limit. I pass a cop and I tense as if I am doing something other than living while Black.
I am not proclaiming I am without fault. I am proclaiming that I will no longer accept fault when it is not mine to carry.
The act of tracking my communications gave me leverage. I started tracking them to measure my consistency. I became aware of larger organizational problems the more consistent I became.
Pointing out an inconsistency on the organizational level has always led to uncomfortable conversations. I am not always in the mood for it. White colleagues have thought this must mean there is nothing wrong with their behavior, and that, I can not stand for. So I usually end up being the one person willing to go there with the powers that be.
And it is exhausting. Every. Single. Time.
But if a person or an organization is never alerted to their inconsistency, how can we ever expect them to improve?
The best advice I can give any Black professional struggling to understand why they are having such a difficult time at work, in their relationship, or with their children, is to check your consistency. Become a master of consistently reflecting your values, mission, and philosophy. Make sure you are on point. I am willing to bet that more will be revealed once you begin that journey. Then you can speak from a place of fact, not emotion. You will find the words to express your experience in a way that can not be torn down, though white fragility will try.
Consistency gives you the confidence to be who your Creator made. Lean in.