If there’s one word I am heartily sick of hearing it’s Brexit. Even the sound of it sets my fillings rattling. I don’t stand in either camp as I have this unhelpful knack of being able to see things from both sides but as this is not a political commentary, I’m not engaging in that debate. Plenty of people, much smarter than I, have done the demolition work on the result. As a believer of accept and move on, my eye is on the pile of poo people have been slinging across the divide over the past week and it’s beginning to stink.
I’m not going to describe myself as a specialist but I have spent over thirty years observing and studying behaviour in order to help individuals, couples and organisations resolve conflict. Behaviourists can offer all sorts of theories as to why we do what we do and mediators can use proven methods to encourage compromise and reach win-win solutions. As a trainer I’ve used tried and tested methods to help resolve customer disputes, friction between colleagues and all-out war within families.
We think we can hurl rocks of vicious and abusive language at people who don’t share our views and cry, ‘you’re too sensitive’ or trot out the ‘sticks and stones’ adage to prove that it’s their problem. No. It’s ours.
Words hurt. They can cut so deeply and become entrenched in the mind’s pathways that some people can tip over into depression and worse. We’ve seen the effect that overt bigotry has had on individuals and groups who are going about their everyday business. We’ve watched with open mouths the insults spewed out by both sides of the political divide, burning with acrimony and blame. Screaming ‘it’s democracy, get over it on comment sections of serious politic debate cuts no ice in the end. It gets boring.
When we start to accuse professors and people who have spent their life’s work studying economics, politics and social behaviour of being incompetent and resorting to four letter words to express rage, powerlessness and frustration we need to heed the words of Robbie Burns. In paraphrase he said, ‘the greatest gift we have is to see ourselves as others see us,’ and the picture isn’t always pretty. *
No matter how deep and raw emotions might be, we are civilised enough to express our viewpoints in a calm, rational and above all caring manner. We don’t have to agree with another’s perspective on a situation but we do have a choice as to how we debate, argue, disagree. Understanding behaviour as everything we do and everything we say and accepting that it has an impact on those on the receiving end, even if they put up a protest, is the start of healthy communication and moving things forward.
What right to I have to insult, criticise, blame or spew hatred at another? If I come across somebody who is negative and in a state of permanent rage I talk to them. Calmly, softly, kindly. It’s surprising how quickly the emotion dies down and they are willing to tell you their story. Then it’s down to you and me to listen and try to understand.
*To A Louse – Robbie Burns.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!