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I read a lot about shame culture and embracing authenticity. Being as authentic as possible tends to come in handy in my line of work (which is mostly me, being myself.) So, when I was reading Brene Brown’s “Gifts of Imperfection” and came across a sentence that said, “being cruel is cheap and easy” a lightbulb went off for me.
I talk about being kind to other people--especially women being kind to other women--and I truly believe it’s important. What is equally important is understanding why we get to a place where we become mean. If we can understand that, we can be more conscious of our behavior and seek to change it. (And this isn’t just between women...it’s in general.)
When someone says something mean or cruel to us, some of us will go into shut down mode as a response. Others of us...eh-hem me and perhaps you too...want to go into fighter mode. I can be particularly good at coming up with snappy one-liners that are particularly mean and cutting. Not proud to admit it, but it can be true.
Why do we do it? It’s easy and it’s a quick fix that acts as a salve on our hurt feelings, especially when someone is mean and we sling it back at them. If they feel just as bad or worse than we do, then we’ve gotten a fast measure of satisfaction. In the long run, though, it doesn’t actually work. Generally this behavior leads to greater divisions, more anger, and a cycle that breeds bad feelings (and mean one-liners.)
This is the thing that always gets me about human nature. We like the easy ways--being mean, eating poorly, etc--but they are generally the worse option. My mother used to hammer this home to me a lot, and I have to say it has stuck with me over the years; she would say, “It can be harder to do the right thing.” She was right. It may be harder, but it’s always better.
So, the next time that someone zings you with a mean line, action, or something that just plain hurts your feelings, how can you change your reponse? Well, it takes a little forethought. If you know that you have the ability to go into fight mode, be honest with yourself. I have replaced my own tendency toward this behavior by ALWAYS putting time in between myself and the situation.
For instance, if I get an email from someone saying something nasty about a blog post I wrote, and my feelings are hurt, I don’t write them back right away. Instead I close the email and I put at least a night’s sleep between myself and that email. If a situation happens when I am face to face with a person, or over the phone, and I don’t have the luxury of modern technology, I might ask for what I need--time!
Crafted responses where you can take out emotion tend to go over much better. Our society is often so instant, we sometimes forget that we can take our time when we need it. Sure, reacting in anger is a quick and sometimes satisfactory way to soothe our own emotional turmoil, but rarely is it the best answer to any given problem, and on an intelligent level, we know this. It's important to keep in mind that while reacting in anger may cost you later, being kind is always FREE!
I want to hear from you--do you tend toward this style of response? How do you change it or do you often give in? What are some ways that you try to be kinder when people are unkind to you? Share in the comments section below! Agree with what I have to say? Re-pin the picture above to spread the word!