Discussing individualism and group identity in these contrasting cultures, Lanier tells this story. "In a conference where perhaps twenty languages were represented, the principle language was English. All the plenary sessions were conducted in English, as were most of the workshops. The leadership made up mostly of Europeans and Americans, were discussing whether or not to have translation from the podium or just to have simultaneous translations for the various language groups to save time. As various individuals voiced their opinions, it was obvious that simultaneous translation was the preference of the group.
Then a man from Bolivia spoke up and quietly explained the difficulty translators had with simultaneous translation. They were only able to hear half sentences because they did not have time to finish translating a sentence before the speaker was on to the next one. He also explained that alternating translation helped those who spoke English as a second language. The time gap after each sentence allowed the person time to assimilate better what was being said. This is true even if he or she does not understand the translation.
The head of the leadership heard the Bolivian, but then said, "Good point, but the majority seem to think it's not worth the loss of time on the podium to have the alternating translation.
What he failed to recognize was that the Bolivian man was representing the majority. The others were not speaking up because they had been represented and did not need, as individuals, to be heard. The people of the 'individualistic' cultures all spoke up for themselves, so they seemed to be the majority. The one vote from the hot-climate culture group must have equaled as many as twenty of the cold-climate votes."
I was fascinated and excited when I read that story because as I have worked to find my voice, meaning my own words for my experiences, I know that I am speaking for others -- those who already dead who were not able to speak for themselves and those who have not yet found their voice.
And like the Bolivian man in Lanier's story, my voice has at times been undervalued, as those in positions of leadership may try but are unable to hear what I am saying. In that event, we who know that we speak for others, may find that we need to exert extra energy to hold our place and to keep the conversation going long enough to be heard.
When God allows, we need to move confidently out of our quiet, reflective posts to speak up clearly, as the Bolivian man did so well. Like the leaders who come out of hot-climate cultures, introverts may also find themselves speaking for other introverts or perhaps those who have been overwhelmed by life.
In the photograph below, we see a stranger in conversation with my younger sister, as I look on. Introverts are watching, making notes of so much. For an introvert, speaking up requires that we move out of our most comfortable place and risk being understood or not.
Here is the New York city skyline as it appeared in about 1960. We are enroute to either the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. I don't recall the trip.
If you are an extrovert, are you listening to to those for whom voicing one's own desires comes hard? If you are an introvert, are you still trying to connect effectively, as God allows?