How to make true connections: Opinions and freedom of speech

It has been a while since I last wrote here. It has been a while since I connected to possible readers of these random articles.

In January, I was at the BOBCATSSS conference. Conferences are all about connecting to people. I love to get to know people. They inspire me, they show me new insights, new opinions.

Although, when I was leavin home early, really really early to get there I was wondering why I am doing this again. When I do not follow my usual daily routine, my belly goes weird and starts hurting. Travelling is some kind of stress, especially if it is for work and not for leisure.
And then when you arrive you do not know anybody. You need to start talking to strangers, otherwise you are just alone there. How weird is it to stand alone while everybody else has someone to talk to?
This is the very first feeling I get when I attend an event where I do not know anyone. But it fades away once I start talking to people and making connections. It is different from going out with people I have known for a few years because we are at a work event. At a work event you do not only represent yourself but also your company. I always wonder what people think of me. It is a bad habit, I should try to quit that.

At this conference, Paul Sturges, Emeritus Professor of Library studies, gave an inspiring keynote about intellectual freedom and freedom of speech.

I do no remember his exact words but it was something like:

You can stand on a stage and just talk about your opinion.
In Europe, we are allowed to speak our minds. 

This is a very important remark. We need to appreciate that we are free to speak about our opinions.
At the same time I was wondering: Is this really true? We are representatives of our workplaces, of our companies. When we go to conferences, we represent our institutions - companies, universities etc. I need to respect the interests of my boss. We are not only private people.

However, I have the feeling I connect most and best, when I do not think about aims of work or how a conversation can be good for my work. I connect most when people tell me about their personal interests, recommend books and talk about how they plan to improve the world.

We connect best when we are open about our thoughts, open about our plans. Because then, we have the possibility to meet people who have similar opinions. If we only act about what we are thinking, then we will never be able to connect to like-minded people.

At BOBCATSSS, we have met many like-minded people. People who have an opinion about their governments, opinions about ethical behaviour. Listening to opinions of others makes me feel rich. Some problems can only be resolved by lively discussions - especially ethical problems. Because right and wrong is not always that easy to distinguish.

Intellectual freedom is so important because we can only have true discussions if we feel save enough to speak out our opinions. If we are afraid to get into difficulties after being honest, we do not live in a democracy anymore.

Sometimes during my daily work, I notice that people do not want to talk about their true feelings and ideas. Maybe they are afraid that collegues in a higher position understand things wrong, get angry or think bad things that might  worsen their work relationship. But is the relationship not already bad because they are afraid to talk about their beliefs? We can only make a change for the better if we talk about our ideas to make a situation better.

While being open about my opinion I do not want to hurt anybody's feelings. So I do not make fun of people or I do not blame people. It is still possible that other people have different opinions. It is also possible that other poeple might be hurt by my opinion.

But everybody is responsible for their own feelings. I can choose to feel hurt by an opinion. But I can also choose not to be hurt. I can choose to accept that people are different from each other and have different opinions. Then I can start to tell others about my different opinion. And this is the beginning of interesting discussions.
If everybody had the same opinion, life was very boring. Still, we tend to turn to people who are similar to ourselves and have similar opinions. Maybe, life is just easier this way. And it makes us feel safe.

I would prefer that we get our feeling of safety from an open world. Where everybody is allowed to speak their minds. Instead of choosing a surrounding where we feel safe because everybody has the same opinion.

I enjoy both conferences and LYL local meetings because I feel safe. Everybody has exciting ideas and everybody is allowed to talk about them.

So lets talk about our ideas and opinions. What can happen except that we make true connections?

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