My Obsession with the "Timer"
"The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can." - Neil Gaiman
Who talks and who listens are learned behaviors based on family and culture, race and patriarchy, positions and titles, status and non, gender and age, extroverts and introverts, the list goes on.
The talkers are the decision makers in our world, they have a lot of power. To equalize that power, to invite others, we need to change systems.
Enter the TIMER.
It’s become my obsession.
If you’ve been in group with me you’ve used a timer.
If you’ve sat at the dinner table with me.
If you’ve spent any time with me, you’ve heard my rant.
It democratizes time.
It gives equal space to every voice in the room.
It is a gift from the universe.
Imagine a world where everyone is seen, heard, and acknowledged.
Imagine the idea’s brought forth by oppressed voices.
Using a timer is a change in our social agreements. It’s leveling the playing field. It’s calling out power-over, and delving into power-with.
Changing social and cultural structures is not easy. Even when systems are oppressive we can cling to them. Habits die hard. Particularly the habits that are based on patriarchy. We swim in the water.
A timer works it’s magic. People who never share begin to talk. People who are verbose listen more. We learn things from everyone in the group instead of a couple people. We hear, witness, and acknowledge each other. We don’t have to agree. We simply make space for all voices in the room to be heard equally. Timers are the bomb!
And there is a learning curve. I have participants who are uber grateful for the timer, and I’ve had people be super uncomfortable with a new process. It’s all welcome. Discomfort is a doorway to growth.
A timer is not the only strategy to create equity of voice and certainly not a perfect one. But it does level the playing field. It does work to equalize voices. It’s a place we can start.
And as my eyes continue to be opened around all the domination systems I uphold, the timer is one small wave in the ocean. But it is one.
Give it a try:
At the dinner table with family and friends
At your next team meeting
At your next board meeting
Anywhere two or more people circle up
See how it feels to split time evenly. To allow all voices to rise. Notice what changes when everyone is heard. Notice how it changes you.
Notice if it’s uncomfortable, or comfortable.
Change is a given. Engaging in it a choice.
Take a risk. Turn on a timer. Drive people crazy. Create a new norm.
Let equity in.