I was upgraded to first-class by the airline and witnessed someone being humiliated. The woman in front of me had been dealing with flight complications all day, none of which were her fault. The airline, as partial compensation, had plied her with plenty of alcohol. She was more than a little talkative. Okay, she was pretty loud and much of her loud conversation was directed to me. I didn’t like the interruption and wanted her to change her behavior, but I understood her situation and tried to be patient.
A woman from behind me, however, came up to the woman in front of me and read her the riot act. She lectured her up one side and down the other about proper behavior and how her rudeness wasn’t appreciated. The woman in front of me became uncomfortably quiet from then on. She was humiliated. To make matters worse, as we were getting off the plane, a guy came up to her and continued the humiliation. Her behavior was out-of-line, but knowing her circumstances, I cut her some slack.
My brother and I were having dinner at a nice restaurant. Two guys at a nearby table were talking politics…loudly, and perhaps fortified by liquor. My brother, Tom, is a master at working with people. He walked over to their table, told them how much he agreed with what they were saying, and asked if they could lower the volume just a little bit. He did it with grace and aplomb, befitting a diplomat. The two guys lowered their volume and everything was fine.
Do You Want to Correct or Humiliate?
In both stories, the goal of a quieter experience was achieved. In one case, everyone felt good and they had a positive experience interacting with their fellow humans. In the other case, however, everyone was angry and humiliated. And it was so unnecessary. None of us are perfect. All of us can use reminders every now and then about our behavior or our attitude. The behaviors needed to be corrected, but the humiliation was unnecessary and contributes to undermining human relationships. Don’t like someone else’s behavior? Work on the issues, but don’t criticize character or personality. A little compassion goes a long way.
What’s your goal? Do you want to change someone’s behavior? Or, do you want to humiliate and embarrass that person? If that’s what you want, what do you hope to achieve and how would you feel if the tables were turned?
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