For social change leaders, it’s easy for us to spot the villain on the outside, but what do we do when the villain is inside of us?
If you use education and training in your work, here’s the villain I’m talking about–
The villain is the voice inside that causes us to impose our ideas through manipulation and control, often without realizing it.
Some examples that come to mind:
- A collaborator brings a new project to me and I tell them I don’t think it will work.
- I spout endless advice to a colleague who shares an emotional challenge.
- Blaming learners when they don’t use the solutions that I think are right.
You might be thinking, “Ok, that might be misguided, but villainous? That’s harsh.”
But if my goal is to build a more fair, just, and equitable world, my actions are measured by my impact, not my intent.
If I say something that hurts someone else, the fact that I didn’t intend to doesn’t make it any less hurtful.
Nor does it excuse my responsibility from seeking repair if I want to continue the relationship.
When my actions demonstrate that I value my own knowledge and experience while I dismiss that of learners, it causes harm in two ways:
- It dehumanizes the learner, assuming their role is a passive recipient instead of an agent of change.
- The intention is to make things better, but ultimately, nothing changes.
In that way, it does the work of the villain while saving the real villains a lot of time and energy.
And I’m not calling out one bad leader.
I’m talking about a voice that lives inside of all of us to some extent.
The good news is that there is one great way to overcome the villain.
Every Villain Needs a Hero
If the villain inside us tells us to explain, the voice calling for change encourages us to ask.
For me, that might mean:
- Taking time to ask questions about a new project or initiative that a collaborator brings before sharing my own feelings.
- When a colleague shares a challenge, simply take time to listen and reflect back what I hear.
- Make time to ask learners about opportunities and challenges they face before launching a solution.
The more I develop this practice, the more transformation becomes possible.
Because it helps me recognize that I’m not the only person responsible for creating change.
The way to overcome the villain is to see the hero in the other person.
That way, education is not means of control, but a collaborative process of transformation.
So what about you–
How does the villain come up for you in your work for social change?
What practices do you use when it does?
Let us know in the comments below.