Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Conflict

Price of Putdowns

I was so glad when my state’s elections were over last week. In all my years (and there have been plenty of them) I’ve never experienced an election where, with few exceptions, mud-slinging was the mode and name-calling was the norm.

My 83-year-old Uncle Wilbur'S take on it was, “I didn’t go vote for any of them. From listening to commercials, I found out they were all bad.”

I was impressed with an analogy a talk radio caller gave. Imagine that you are going to apply for a job. You’re sitting in the waiting room with the other applicants. Finally, it’s your turn to go in and meet the CEO. You begin negative talk – ad nauseum – about the other candidates you’ve just met. The interview time is over, and you haven’t told the prospective boss about your qualifications and what you can do for the company. Think you’d get the job?

I can’t help believing that these political candidates take this approach because they believe it works – which is a sad commentary on the type of behavior our society has come to tolerate and accept. Unfortunately, I see this pattern played out every day in the workplaces with whom I consult.

Look in the Mirror

Just before I become too sanctimonious about all of this, I have to examine my own habits. I invite you to do the same.

Are there ways in which we replicate these negative political tactics in our own lives? How often do we use put-downs to feed our own egos?

Shall we take this eight-item quiz to take a candid look in the mirror?

  1. Do you pass along gossip with the hidden agenda of making others look bad and yourself better by contrast?
  2. When you’re in a discussion about a conflict, do you try to “score points” to make the other person “lose” (shoulder more blame), while your actions are justified?
  3. How often do you engage in ego and turf battles?
  4. When was the last time you played to power game of withholding information or assistance when you secretly wanted to sabotage someone?
  5. Have you ever used negative innuendo to call into question someone’s character and fuel speculation and rumor?
  6. Do you use sarcasm to make others feel stupid?
  7. Do you use your voice tone and body language as secret weapons to devalue a person’s ideas or credibility?
  8. Do your feel threatened when someone else succeeds, somehow feeling that this makes you “less than?”

At the end of this election day, we had the results and, no doubt, some of the mudslinging was rewarded with votes. Pity.

It’s also a pity that in our lives, we sometimes feel reinforced for negative interpersonal methods – a momentary adrenalin rush, a burst of self righteousness, a fiendish feeling of satisfactions, or a “prize” won unjustly. But in the end, we lose. We lose relationships. Real, heart-felt success eludes us. We sacrifice the ability to look ourselves in the mirror with genuine self respect.

Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork, in the road, take it.”

Taking the high road – politically and personally - gets my vote.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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