I have been requested to talk about individuals that are aware they are a source of pain to others but don’t seem to care about the consequences of their actions. The question I received was specifically about students, however, I believe it applies to everyone.
I would like us to agree on one thing first for the following to make sense. If you don’t agree with the next statement, stop reading, this may be a waste of your time. I would like us to agree that individuals seldom, ever, want to hurt people in purpose. There is no right or wrong, there is no faults, there are only unmet needs. This can be a very difficult idea, especially considering most of us have been brought up in the fear of punishments rather than the motivation to do good to others. For example, we typically avoid speeding not because we want to be safe, rather because we don’t want a speeding ticket.
When someone is confronted with the fact their action resulted in a negative outcome several things can happen: they fear punishment, they feel shame, they feel threatened, and may retrieve. The biological response is the desire to protect oneself: we fight, we flee, or we freeze. This can result in an additional negative impact on individuals and our environment. How many times have we done something that resulted in a negative outcome? How many times have we hurt people’s feelings in our lives, and we were unaware we did it? Does that make us cruel individuals? Of course not. We were not aware, or we were distracted, or we didn’t know that the person in front of us had been triggered. Nobody’s perfect. We can only learn from our history and try not to duplicate negative experiences. We’re all doing our best, everyday.
Secondly, how the event was pointed out to us had a lot to do with our follow up response. Shaming and blaming are counter productive, period. I believe that by shaming and blaming someone for their action, we’re creating the hurt we want to avoid in the first place.
My dance partner and I have dedicated a lot of our growth in understanding and applying non-violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg, and studying Brene Brown’s research about shame and compassion. This exploration resulted in the method we apply in our dance classes to create a safe environment for all. By appreciating that there is an unmet need, and by responding to it in a compassionate way, we can discover why a person reacts the way they do. We can have a dialogue, we can create a connection.
One thing I’d like to point out: men in our culture may especially react in a disconnecting fashion when being pointed out counter productive behavior. It’s not because men care less than women, it’s because they’re often raised to showcase strength and force, not vulnerability and kindness. This is an unfortunate cultural issue we’re dealing with. I highly encourage you to watch ” The mask we live in” or follow their Facebook page
of the same name to learn more about it.
Let’s be clear on one thing: this is not an easy-as-pie process. A lot of things get in the mix: education, personality, chemical balances, cultural and socioeconomic pressures, history, environment, etc.. That’s why I find it important to keep in mind unmet needs rather than cruelty. How we approach the situation in a compassionate and curious attitude can be a game changer in modeling what we are looking for. We can be the change we want to see by educating ourselves and modeling the behavior we are seeking in others. Keep Learning!
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