Kin Lane

Learning to Shut Up, Listen, and Create Space for Other Diverse Voices

As a six foot three white male I can be loud. I have a strong belief in keeping my mouth shut and listening to what is going on around me that goes way back to when I was a young adult, but once you get me talking, it can be pretty hard for me to shut up. Even with the work I have done, and the many moments of listening over the years, giving other diverse voices the space to talk remains one of my biggest areas I need to work on myself. In my current job I have some amazingly smart and wonderful people around me who are really good at interrupting me and letting me know that I was talking over someone, and that I should be yielding the floor–pushing on me to do some hard work on myself to learn not just be quiet and listen, but truly give space to others who aren’t as loud as I am.

When I was 19 (1991), I was hitchhiking to San Francisco from Oregon, heading down the coastal highway 101. Around Garberville I was picked by a 50+ year old gentleman who said he could get me past Laytonville, so I jumped in. He was drinking tea from a big 1/2 gallon mason jar which he eagerly shared as we talked about everything under the sun during a couple hour journey (I a COVID-19 world this seems insane). As he turned off on a dirt road from the highway he told me to have a good rest of my journey, and that he very much enjoyed the conversation and thought I was a very smart fellow, but I need to learn to shut my mouth and listen. As I opened the door to climb he had added that the Peyote tea would help me contemplate what voice I wanted to have in the world. I shut the door, and walked down the highway a couple miles before finding a small comfortable spot in the woods off the side of the road to sit for about 24 hour “seriously contemplating” the voice I would have in this world.

Ever since that day I’ve worked very hard to step outside myself and think deeply about how I share my thoughts with the world around me. Almost 30 years later I am still working on this, learning to keep my mouth closed, ears and mind wide open. While working in my role as Chief Evangelist and API Evangelist, I find myself getting worked up about various ideas, and I hold some pretty strong convictions when it comes to what is going on. This passion often overflows as me talking over people, and drowning out other diverse voices. I think that many white men dismiss this as “being on the spectrum”, or something others have to rise to the occasion and just deal with, but in reality this is my responsibility to harness, tone down, and remember that my voice isn’t always the most relevant voice—-despite my over inflated sense of self, and privileged position I operate from. It is in these moments that I am doing the most work on myself right now. Not just learning to be quiet and listen, but soften and tone down my energy so that it doesn’t steamroll over anyone else.

While dialing in my voice I find a wide range of challenges, including the numerous other men in similar states of being that exist across the tech space. It can be difficult to tone it down and give others a voice when you are surrounded by other men who are dominating the conversation too. This is one area I will have to do a lot of thinking on before I find and develop the right tools to address my approach. Another challenge I have is that I am deaf. I have 100% loss in my left ear and only about 30% left in my right ear. Contributing to me not always catching signals in this digital communication world we find ourselves operating in. This is another area I am going to have to do some hard work to find and develop the right coping mechanisms. Despite these challenges, I feel like I can make some significant progress when it comes to shutting up and listening, but also tuning in to the subtle signals that are occurring across the conversations I am participating in. I’m hoping this work will help me be more effective in my online and off-line work relationships, while also helping to elevate other voices than my own when it comes to technology.

I need to come up with some sort of fidget object that I can hold in my hand during Zoom meetings that reminds me of this work. Having a physical reminder in my hand while I’m engaging with groups of individuals helps ground my actions, pushing me to be more thoughtful in when and how I use my voice. I am looking to balance my online persona via API Evangelist, which is purposeful ego-centric technological voice meant to speak to people who work in technology, with a softer, eager to listen, and supportive personality that reflects who Kin Lane wants to be. In the next wave of my career I want to make it less about me and what I am saying, and more about what other diverse voices are saying. In 2020 I am not entirely sure how to do that, while still also reaching the audience I have today. It will take a lot of work to change the tone of the conversation I am in, but I am up for the work, and I think I will come out the other side a much better person. I am proud of the work I’ve managed to do on myself over the last decade, and I look forward to seeing what I can produce moving forward, being mindful that not only do I need to shut up and listen, but I also need to give space to other diverse voices-—this is how I am going to help influence the change I would like to see in this world.