Have you ever been in conflict with a superior?
Did you feel like you could speak up and be heard?
Imagine being in a situation where you are being bullied and belittled and there’s nothing you can do.
How would you get your voice to be heard?
You probably would do very poor work in this situation. Not because you weren’t capable – but because you wanted to get back at your boss in whatever way you could.
Maybe you would speak to some others of influence in your organisation. But what if still no change happened?
And then, what if you had to give a speech about this superior at a work function? A thankyou speech. Would you sing fake praises? Would you be obviously brief – following the rule of “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all”?
Or, would you use this opportunity to tell the honest truth? To publicly shame them in front of their colleagues and superiors?
Last week I witnessed this. On the Year 12s’ last day of school, representatives from each class presented their teacher with a gift. Many gifts were thoughtfully chosen and the students expressed real appreciation for their teacher’s hard work and support.
For several teachers there was only the obligatory thank you.
And then, one group of students publicly shamed their teacher for his bad behaviour. He was not there on the day, yet his students still wanted to explain their choice of gifts.
The students involved included the female school captain and only one other student I know personally – a young woman who has always been polite, hardworking, and a pleasure to have in the classroom.
Their gifts included – a key-ring they took 30 seconds to choose “because that’s about how much time and attention you give to us”, a key-ring with the words “girls can’t do what?” because “gender equality is a thing in the 21st century”, a toy megaphone so “you can yell at your class next year like you yelled at us – all the time”, and a hat with pretend bits of meat hanging off it because he had called the sporty boys in the class “meatheads”.
I was shocked. This was a formal school assembly with all students, staff, principal, and some parents in attendance.
My first reaction was – this is wrong! It doesn’t matter what someone else does to you – public shaming is not OK.
I don’t know if these students had expressed their misgivings previously. I would assume they had done so at least to their parents, and perhaps to their year co-ordinator.
Obviously they didn’t feel heard. And nothing had changed.
And then it made me think - when do we listen to the voice of youth?
What changes will happen even now that they’ve spoken out so brazenly? (I’ll keep you posted on this one!!)
I don’t believe public shaming is the answer. Learning to identify and express emotions is a crucial skill to teach. Instead of “you’re a bitch and I hate you”, good communication involves “I” statements and asking for your needs to be met. “I feel hurt and angry because I’m not being heard. I need attention, recognition, respect etc.”
But one party communicating well isn’t enough. The other party involved must be able to really listen. To have empathy and compassion for the others feelings – even if they don’t agree with their perspective.
These students had something important to say. However, the method they used gave no resolution. The other party was not even present. There was no empathy for his suffering (for he must be quite miserable to act in the ways they described).
How you communicate with your teen is incredibly important. Yes, they will be emotionally irrational sometimes – they’re teenagers! Yes, you might lose your temper and yell sometimes.
And yet the intent to truly listen and hear their perspectives will open the way to a much more enjoyable relationship.
Teenagers will always resist control. So negotiating rules with them will gain you more respect. As will following through with any agreed upon consequences.
The Anxious to Awesome program does not include mediation sessions with you and your teen.
Youth I work with tell me they are more comfortable sharing with me when they know that what they share is confidential.
However, the Anxious to Awesome program does teach them empathy. I work with them to help them see things from others perspectives. I teach them to use “I” statements and take responsibility for their own feelings rather than simply attack.
And it also supports you so your relationship with your daughter can flourish into the future.
I would love to hear your comments about this.