Earlier today, I spoke at NSA’s (National Speaker’s Association) Youth Leadership Conference. The attendees are 130 students ranging in age from ten year olds through sixteen year olds from around the world. The conference chair is a good friend of mine and fellow speaker, Sunjay Nath (www.sunjaynath.com). When he asked me to present, I was honored because my own children attend this conference each year. The attendees hear top speakers from around the world each day of the conference.
The group was wonderful to work with. Afterwards, I received an insightful e-mail from a parent of one of the attendees. He shared with me that my program was one of only two his son really talked a lot about afterwards. He said his son agreed with everything I said and only had one question. Here it was: "What if everyone you know thinks ‘asking’ is the right thing to do, but you are not sure everyone else will ‘ask first’?"
My response was the following:
"The question is not WHO will ‘ask first.’ The question is WILL YOU? Will YOU give your partner a choice by asking first? Will YOU support the survivors in your life? Will YOU intervene when friends have been drinking? You have all the power you need to make the right choice. What are YOU going to do?"
You can’t worry about what others are going to do. You must first look at your own decisions. Be a leader by example (not just by what you preach).
FOLLOW-UP: We heard back and were told this approach made all the difference. Interestingly enough, two of the counselors from that same conference had e-mailed me sharing how much "asking first" has dramatically changed their relationships for the better. Most people do want to make the right choice (whether they want to admit it to their peers or not).