I understand not everyone is comfortable with being direct or with calling out bad behavior when it happens. As a woman, I get it. We’ve been socialized not to make “waves” and we lose social capitol even when we politely request (and especially when we firmly request) that someone consider our feelings and stop whatever stupid thing it is that they are doing. Yet I am beyond tired of folks who employ indirect methods for correcting behavior. You have a problem with how someone is acting? Then you need to TALK to THEM.
Not their parents. Not their friends. Not their boss. Not their coworkers. Not their pets. THEM.
By going to everyone but them, you’re employing shame as a means to correct behavior. You might tell yourself you’re just venting. But what you’re actually hoping in that passive aggressive little heart of yours is people who listen to you vent might take action against the person who has offended you. You’re hoping whoever you’re venting to will either correct the problem for you or join you in shaming the “offender.”
Shame doesn’t work because it’s negative energy. It may motivate people to change, but not in meaningful positive way that will last. All shame does is make the shamed person feel wronged and isolated. It decreases the chance that the shamed person will actually listen to the people who are trying to encourage them to change for the better.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be used it all. Shame often is the only effective weapon against people who refuse to listen or learn. I’m also not saying you shouldn’t get some back up or check in with someone else when you’re dealing with someone who is making you feel uncomfortable. But if you haven’t made any effort to fix the problem yourself in a discrete manner that inflicts minimal shame upon the “offender” then I think you forfeit your right to complain about it.
It’s okay to say, “It’s not my problem.” There’s no line in a social contract obligating you to correct anyone’s behavior. I don’t expect people you to try to negotiate with individuals who make you feel unsafe or public figures (such as politicians) who would be impossible to connect with one-on-one. When we’re talking about small infractions though, such as an abrupt email or failing to say hello to you in the hallway, I have very little respect for folks who choose to whine about it rather than say something to the “offender.”
That’s right, I’m talking to all you gossip mongers out there. If it’s really not your damn problem that someone wears mismatched clothes, then why the hell do you waste time jabbering about it? Clearly you do think it’s worth your precious brain power because you’re yapping about the person behind their back rather than making an effort to understand them. Again, you’re not obligated to help. But if you’re not going to help, don’t go out of your way to hurt people either.
Look, I’ve been guilty of going over someone’s head before talking to them, and I’ve “vented” about people’s behavior to others as well. Going forward, I’ve resolved to do my best to solve social issues with positive energy by engaging the “offender” and giving them a chance to correct an issue as privately as possible. Maybe it won’t fix the problem, but I can say I tried and then chose whether I want to try again or move on.
You got two choices folks: Either take some responsibility and fix it or save your energy and drop it.