Let’s begin with the obvious. It is possible to treat someone in a belittling manner. Let’s acknowledge that we can speak with a tone, and words, of ridicule.
And let’s acknowledge this: there is nothing positive about these practices. Nothing. It does not build anyone up, it does not bring out the best in people, it does not enhance productivity, it does not nurture community.
And since it is possible to belittle, to ridicule, then we all know someone who is an expert at such practices. In fact, you – yes, you, the one reading this blog post – might be practicing the slimy art of belittling and ridicule yourself.
Those are my thoughts prompted by a short, simple, to the point tweet from Tom Peters. Here is his tweet:
Consultant called in for exec retreat. Enters, goes to white board, writes “DON’T BELITTLE;” turns and walks out. (YES!!!)
Now, I do not know why this slimy art seems to be on the rise (but I think it is). I might point to our toxic attack environment seen especially in talk radio, and overall lack of civility. I do know that some people who are very good at belittling and ridicule are making a lot of money practicing their craft.
In a Slate.com article It’s Not the Job Market: The three real reasons why Americans are more anxious than ever before by Taylor Clark, we find a reminder that we are increasingly more isolated than ever before:
America’s increasing loss of community, what we might call the “Bowling Alone” effect. Human contact and kinship help alleviate anxiety (our evolutionary ancestors, of course, were always safer in numbers), yet as we leave family behind to migrate all over the country, often settling in insular suburbs where our closest pal is our plasma-screen TV, we miss out on this all-important element of in-person connection.
Maybe this isolation makes us more willing to just treat people badly.
But, I think this really does need to be addressed, attacked, stopped. Or, as the management consultant quoted by Peters put it, “DON’T’ BELITTLE!,” maybe we all need to just start walking out of the room, start walking away from the people who do it, until they stop.
Remember this simple and powerful reminder from Kouzes and Pozner:
Honored and not diminished. That’s how we all want to feel.
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner: Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others.