It’s A Shame: Public Shaming and You

Today’s lesson, is one I am going to tackle in my #Internetiquette 101 course: Public Shaming. It happens when we disagree with the way the people around us are living their lives; and then we feel the need to broadcast their inability to ‘follow the rules’, in hopes of changing their behaviour. The offense can be anything from wearing bulky backpacks on the streetcar, butting in line or expressing unpopular opinions. But here’s the thing: No situation was ever made better by publicly shaming the offender. Attacks of any kind are met with offense. Cuz everybody knows offence is the best defence.

A perfect example: The Great Wall of China. The Chinese were being attacked, so what did they do? They built a giant wall to defend themselves. It’s difficult to knock down giant defensive walls, it’s way easier to negotiate change from a neutral and supportive place. No one wants to be attacked. All the grown ups I know are open to hearing a positive message, and willing to change offensive behaviours, especially if they had no idea they were offensive.

So, if a behaviour arises that we disagree with, what should we do? Don’t you worry my pretty, I just so happen to have a few tips.

1. Privacy – Pull the ‘offender’ aside. By making the effort to remove the public from the interaction, we assure our positive investment in the situation. The problem you have does not have to be assessed, judged or observed by anyone else, especially an angry mob.

2. Clarity – Be specific as to the offense. Ensure that you express why it hurts or offends you. Be case specific, do not use this opportunity to diatribe about your dislike for their -insert long and arduous list of unlikable qualities here-, spiraling into an out of control hate rant. That won’t help anyone.

3. Honesty – Use language with emotional connections. Express your sadness or discomfort. These will help the recipient understand how their actions have effected you.

4. Humility – Recognize that everyone has bad days. If the offender is acting out of character, acknowledge that. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them get back to their best selves. Remind them how much you like that version of them.

5. Acceptance – Not everyone who hurts you will respond with action or even accept they have done anything wrong. In this situation it is up to you to be the bigger person. Don’t bad mouth, gossip, vaguebook or slander, honestly, just be the bigger person and unfriend them.

Everyday our world gets smaller online. We meet more people. Things change – FAST! The best thing we can do is be a positive force within the often negative whirlwind. Celebrate those who are leading by example. Be brave enough to stand up for what is good. Know that when someone hurts you, you can still advocate for the change you want to see in the world. You are worthy. And we’re all trying our best…most of the time.

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