You Cannot Shame Someone Into Changing.
Shame says, “I am bad.” Guilt says, “I did something bad.” If I think I am bad, then that’s just who I am, how do you expect me to change? How can I be accountable for something I am?
“For people to look at their harmful actions and to become genuinely accountable they must have a platform of self-worth to stand on. Only from that vantage point of higher ground can people who commit harm gain perspective. Only from there can they apologise.” Dr Hariette Lerner
This quote stood out as I was reading something on shame and how you cannot use shame to change behaviour.
Brene Brown suggests that often when we use shame it’s because “it feels good to make people suffer when we are in fear, anger or judgement.”
Does that ring true for you? Just in your mind, have you shamed someone before? Can you remember what state you were in? Was it fear, anger or judgement? Did shaming the other person actually get you the result you were looking for?
Often, when we are shamed, our response might be to coil back and get defensive.
We all have this view of ourselves that when someone tries to diminish, we see red and everything goes downhill from there.
It’s, therefore, important to separate the person from the act. Because shame says, “I am bad.” And if that’s who I am, then how do you expect me to change? Guilt on the other hand says, “I did something bad.”
If it’s something I did and not who I am, then redemption is possible.
I can do a different thing.
Apologising and taking accountability for the bad thing I did becomes easier because it is not attached to who I think I am. And yes, we all think we are good and amazing people. And for the most part we are but because we are not perfect, messing up comes with the territory.
So, how can you apply guilt over shame today?
How can you separate what you do from who you are? (Operating from the foundation that you are a relatively good person who messes up sometimes?)
How can you use the same energy to manage your relationships better? Both personal and professional. How can you better handle that conflict at work when you look at your colleague or subordinate and think, “This is a good person who did a bad thing?” Or at home, “This is a good child who did a bad thing?”
How can you apply it to yourself?
Yup, we are our biggest critics and easily our biggest shamers.
How can you look at your failings and mistakes and instead of owning them, you say to yourself, “I’m a good person who did a bad thing.” Or “I’m a good person, who failed to do what was required.” Or, “I’m a good person who is imperfect and flawed.”
Does it make you feel more calm, and objective to come up with solutions that will solve the issue?
Does it also make apologising not feel like a tooth extraction without anaesthesia?
Does this quote, the one I opened with, now make more sense to you:
For people to look at their harmful actions and to become genuinely accountable they must have a platform of self-worth to stand on. Only from that vantage point of higher ground can people who commit harm gain perspective. Only from there can they apologise. Dr Hariette Lerner
p.s. I am committing to writing daily for the next 30 days. To build up my writing muscle. So, bear with me. I think the writing will get better with every day.
p.p.s. feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts.
p.p.p.s. you are not what you do. we are all good people who do bad things at times because we are imperfect.