Breaking the Point

23 Jan 2020 by gebhard, No Comments »

I posted a question that asked how people would respond to someone at an event who had shown up about an hour late. The first three choices had a snippy remark and the last option was “I’m happy to see you”. The idea had been a simple reminder to be kind.

In the comments, I was very surprised and a little heartbroken.  Before this goes on, if you are person who said you deserved a verbal punishment, please jump to the bottom of this (a special note). I have a message for you.

What surprised me was the number of people who asked for context then followed up with the context in which they felt it was acceptable to publicly verbally reprimand a volunteer who had disappointed them.

Jamie in the Box

Before I talk in abstracts, let’s look at an example. Let’s say Jamie is in charge of bringing the change box to gate at an event. They are supposed to be there at 8:00AM, but instead they show up at 9:00AM.

On the left and right are two different ways to deal with Jamie. All I ask is your consideration regarding which is better.

Jamie! I’m so glad you’re here!
Can I pull you aside for a second? (off to the side)

It’s been crazy all morning, a few people had exact change so I took their money, it’s here in this envelope.
I hand wrote some receipts. I could really use your help getting this all fixed and getting people moving.

I’m here to help, if you need anything more

I’ll get you anything you need to get this moving.

I really appreciate you being here, let’s get things going.

Jamie! I need to speak with you now!

Where have you been? People have been standing around. I can’t believe you would do this. What kind of person are you!

Many are members are very upset. You said you would be here and you aren’t.

This is a real problem!

Now you need to get moving as quickly as you can to get people through the gate. I’m going to be here to make sure it’s done right.

And don’t think you are ever going to be in charge of gate again!

We are a volunteer organization. People are here because they want to be here. When they stop wanting to be here, they go away.

Even with that in mind, I’ve heard people say things like:
“We don’t need people like that” or “If there isn’t a consequence, they will keep doing it!” or “They had a job to do and they didn’t do it, so they deserve what they get!”

All of these things may be true. After the event maybe a personal talk with Jamie is in order, and the outcome may be that Jame shouldn’t run Gate again. 

That doesn’t change the current situation. Jamie knows Jamie was late. Jamie knows Jamie failed. Reminding Jamie doesn’t make Jamie better. 

Belittling, sarcasm, name-calling, expressing disgust, eye-rolling and many others are ways we communicate that someone else is not worthy of our respect, whether we mean to express this or not.

Shaming people is something we do to make ourselves feel superior to others.  Somewhere inside our words is also a statement wishing they would be or act differently without us actually having to talk to them in a mature way and take responsibility for our own feelings.

The same way teasing is so often rooted in hostility, shaming is powered by judgment and self-righteousness.

Shame, in whatever form it takes, is a way to attempt to control another person by using their deeply ingrained need for connection to threaten them with disconnection. It’s genius and nefarious.

Treating someone in such a way will build resentment, anger, depression, or anxiety in the receiver. This treatment will push people away.  No one wants to feel this way. Not only is this a horrible way to treat people, it also hurts us and costs our organization a valuable members and a much needed volunteers.

Finally, verbal reprimands do not correct bad behavior but instead create a worse problem. If it was bad when someone was late, then why is better when no one is willing to do the job at all?

Making things better?

The desire to shame is countered with empathy. People with jobs at events are NOT trying to ruin the event for other people. They shouldn’t be treated like it. Things have happened, maybe even mistakes made.

Try to understand the person, and treat them like a valued member of the society and a human worthy of respect even… especially when they have failed.  Sooner or later we all do.

What brings around is change, is honest, respectful and encouraging conversation.

“Jamie, How do you think Gate went today? How do you think it could be better? We really appreciate your help, next year I’d like to change up who does what job. What other things would you like to do to help?”

Does this conversation not correct all the problems, while treating Jamie with respect?

I hope we will all consider this situation in the future, because at the end of the day when all the stuff is packed up, the guests have left, and site is clean. What will be remembered is how we treated each other. 








A Special Note


If you believe that verbal abuse is the what happens when things go wrong. I would like to talk to you.

You are a valuable person. You are worthy of respect and be treated well. No one has the right to demine you in any way. I’m sorry this has happened, and I hope you can find someone you can trust to speak with to facilitate positive conversations about the issues. It’s not acceptable and a constructive solution needs to be found.

We need you, and I hope we’ll see you again.

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