With Right Comes Responsibility And This Relies On a Lost Skill

Posted on November 24, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

There is one message that I am getting from media recently – social media and so called mainstream media – and that is that there is something seriously awry with our communication right now.  People are protesting all over the world, becoming violent, allegations of workplace bullying and harassment are increasing (although formal complaints remain steady the informal complaints are growing) and it feels like there are a lot of angry people around.

Recently I read that anger is the shield of fear. Meaning that when we feel afraid of something, the way that we express that is often through anger. If you think about it, showing fear makes us feel even more vulnerable and fearful, and many of us learned in school and at work that to show vulnerability is weakness and weakness is unwelcome. Or uncool.

For me, these two concepts come together to say that when we witness a lot of anger it is perhaps more indicative that there is a lot of fear.

Our human response to fear is far different to the way we respond to anger. Isn’t it?

On the news this week I watched in horror as two groups of people, obviously passionate about their beliefs, sought to lash out at each other with kicks and punches and objects being thrown. Pushing at police officers and police horses who were attempting to keep the warring factions apart.

Now I’m not saying that a hug will fix things. What I am saying is that we might benefit from thinking of other, productive and less harmful ways to express our opinions.

It is true that western countries in particular espouse and protect the right of free speech. The right to hold and express an opinion.

What is also true is that when opinions are expressed, especially on line, they are often responded to with vicious and personal attacks. I read one blog recently where the writer is seriously considering only offering an opinion on “safe” topics such as favorite book or  family day out because some recent comments had received personal attacks as responses. What is happening people?

What happened to the skill of being able to express a different opinion in an agreeable way?

What happened to holding respect for another human being, even when you disagree with their view?

This is happening in schools and workplaces right now. Individuals who express an opinion receive responses that include personal attacks, derogatory and insulting comments and frequently abuse and allegations of a lack of intellect.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could return to the days of vigorous yet respectful debate and discussion?

It disappoints me when I hear someone “win” a difference of opinion by resorting to insult or aggression. Don’t get me wrong, I hold some strong opinions and am not afraid of voicing them – however I also believe in the adage that to learn one must listen. When I speak I only hear what I know, yet when I listen to someone else I may learn something new. A new perspective. It does not mean that I have to change my view or agree, yet it is an opportunity to learn.

I encourage each of you reading this to become conscious of a couple of things:

  • how you behave and what you say when speaking with someone who holds a different opinion
  • what you teach your team members or children in terms of how to handle different points of view
  • how you feel when you engage in dialogue (online or in person)  with certain people (a tip – there are some people online who I choose not to engage with because their first response at the sign of a difference is to insult others. i may attempt to gently highlight this to them and encourage them to discuss not distress)

In many cases being able to be conscious of these skills and behaviours comes from a combination of self awareness and insight (possibly gained from completing a good quality personality profiling tool) and coaching or training in the art of communication and resolving tensions.

 

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