Tag Archives: Violence and Abuse

One of the Greatest Mental Freedoms…

7 Aug

Do we REALLY not care what other people think?

In this internet age of text messaging, tweets, Facebook, and other social media, we are supposedly more connected to each other than at any other time in history.  Break-ups, romances, births, changes in status, and other life events are routinely shared with the internet public – often without a thought about the persistence and permanence of what was historically intimate information.

One would think that people today are independent, resilient, teflon-coated, and definitely confident in their own worth and well-being – at least that is the impression based on the volume of personal information shared in cyberspace – often with complete strangers! Yet, is this really the case?  Can generations of western children raised with the adage of “what will the neighbors think?” and “make us proud” overcome such indoctrination by chronicling their life on Facebook?

I believe that most people support and participate in social media because it helps us to feel connected with others – and hopefully enhance our existence on earth.  Yet, the cyber bullying and online fights seem to contradict the “approval ratings” and can even harm one’s well-being.

Our goal should be to gain our OWN acceptance and become the best ME that one can be.  One of the greatest mental freedoms is to not care about what other people think!  You know best for you – and you are the only one who can be the best YOU!

Thank you for reading and have a great week!

Carol

Are Women the Worst (Workplace) Bullies?

3 May

Last week, Forbes published an interesting article titled: Why Women are the Worst Kind of Bullies:

What do YOU think?  My first reaction was:

Charlie Brown’s Lucy (or worse)… in the workplace

If you grew up in North America, you are probably familiar with the cartoon character “Lucy” from the Charlie Brown series.  Lucy would run roughshod over her “frenemies” and friends,  coddle up to her crush Shroeder, and generally disregard the feelings of anyone in her path (especially Charlie Brown, who she would ridicule and torment with endless promises to hold the football!)  Lucy was so ignorant of her own hostility that she even appoints herself the go-to problem solver with her “The Doctor is In” lemonade stand. (No matter, Lucy was still a bully.)

The topic of bullies is front and center these days thanks to the philanthropic efforts of Lady Gaga and Oprah at Harvard, the recent release of the documentary “Bully“, and a rise of suicides linked to cyber-bullying.  But bullying is not confined to schools – in fact, workplace bullying traditionally has been categorized and addressed as sexual harassment, if at all.  Adult bullying can take many forms such as narcissistic bosses (see my post: Walking on Eggshells – Source of Back Pain?), harassment, group think (pressure to conform to the wishes of the group), and biases against minorities/gender/age, etc.  The article in Forbes cites a much more insidious, everyday situation of workplace bullying where women don’t just usurp other women, but can even create hazards and obstacles for others.

It’s not a “Catfight”…

As a female, mechanical engineer by training, and an IT consultant and international speaker by experience, my career has not been traditional.  While it is common knowledge that men are intimidated by strong, confident women when it comes to relationships (I am seldom asked out by professional, single men), it is less frequent in the workplace.  When it is, I have found that in a male-dominated, professional workplace there is a direct and honest response – either the team embraces professional women or they do not.  Seldom when men are involved do I have to “guess” whether I can fit in and be productive.  At this point in my career, I have a name and a solid reputation in my industry, so I find that men will typically accept (and sometimes even celebrate) me on a team and see the positive contribution (there are exceptions of course!)

Stereotypically, it has not been the same situation with women who are on par or above my level – and that has been a source of confusion and at times, “shock and awe”.  In some professional (and more often in personal) situations, same aged women, on the surface, have welcomed me with open arms offering their friendship and help, then reached behind to stab me in the back, and in the process they never stopped smiling.  Sometimes it’s no wonder that men do not understand – I do not understand and I’m a woman!

It is a strange thing… granted, men and women everywhere will step on and use others to get ahead (is it human nature or nurture?) – but the behavior is different.  Men will more often attack head on, directly and consistently; there is no question about their intentions or offensive behavior.  Predictable, consistent, stab you in the chest.  I can accept that and take action to avoid the pain.

What is more difficult to deal with is the in-your-face-nice girl accompanied by the reach-behind-your-back to stab you behavior that women (again stereotypically) use on other women.  While we women are confounded to make sense of female-on-female treatment by our own gender, men often trivialize the behavior as a “Catfight” (thereby marginalizing it as hormones raging out of control.)  There is far more to the behavior than meets the eye, and it is an area undergoing frequent research (with few answers!)

When I look ahead to my daughter in the workplace, I realize that technology advances have not changed the human interactions (in fact they create less face to face communication).  Our workplace and human relations are really not much different today than 30 years ago.  Given my experiences, I posted several articles which may be of interest:

And I found several other interesting posts from others:

And of course, the recent maelstrom of frenzied activity stemming from the UK Mail post:

The question: “Why are females mean to other females?” is today either avoided or hotly debated, but the fact remains that the situation won’t simply go away by marginalizing it as “Catty behavior” or ignoring it all together.

As women, we have enough to deal with in life being parents, co-workers, survivors of the economy, caregivers, neighbors, significant others, and just plain noble citizens without having to watch out for other women gunning to get us!

In the words of Rodney King (the focus of the LA Riots 20 years ago) – Can’t we just get along?

Finding a good team of like-minded people!

I am fortunate to now be a part of a wonderful team at QSM, Inc. with confident, powerful, assertive women who are not intimidated or jealous of other professional women.  Our multi-disciplinary, gender balanced team is forward thinking and definitely supportive of each other.  I am blessed to say I’m on the same team with several high-powered, direct, accomplished, and supportive women – it is a dream come true!

The Way Forward…

I believe that women need to learn to start supporting other women, and we need to stop stereotyping men as the culprits to the bullying phenomenon.

It reminds me of the situation regarding minority cultures who point to other cultures and races as the source of their problems (that they cannot solve), when the answers realistically lie with working within their own community to create solutions.

This brings to mind the saying popularized by the Pogo cartoon:   “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

As popular self-help gurus point out, when you point a finger at another, there are four fingers pointing straight back at you!  As women and mothers, I believe that we need to start a movement (even a movement of one!) that nurtures, boosts, and supports other women – at home, work, and everywhere.   Such a movement of women (and supportive men) would take our country and our workplaces into a brighter future!

Today, take the first step to say a kind word to another – you just never know what that might lead to (especially if that person met a bully only moments before!)

Have a great week,

Carol

Better off dead… Never

3 Apr

The news got personal today when I read about a local business leader‘s suicide at age 59, because he was someone I knew.  While I would not say Bill was more than an acquaintance (he probably would not have remembered meeting me), he was someone who sent me mass emails, sponsored community events I volunteered for, and hosted networking socials I attended.  I feel sad and surprised by his early demise.

We cannot judge another’s life…

In reading the news story, I did not realize how unkind the local press had been to Bill of late, despite his efforts to better our community through a variety of profit and not-for profit endeavors.  One such project that brought him particular disdain (according to the story) offered hope to the homeless with an innovative newspaper project. In reading this, I wondered to what extent the publicity contributed to his death. Moreover, I pondered the cruelty that our society (and as a part of it, we) bestows on our own members.  We so often read the papers without a second thought about the effects on those involved.  We seldom consider that the people in the news are people who hurt, bleed, and feel just the same as you and I.

We distance ourselves from those we read about (victims, criminals, politicians, and others in the news) by differentiation. We say “we are nothing like them, therefore it won’t/can’t/will never happen to us!”  Consider our callousness towards politicians or millionaires or foreigners – it is easy to read about their missteps and walk away, because we are nothing like them.

Our popular press sensationalizes every story to exhaustion – so much so that the truth is secondary to the number of papers that sell.  TMZ (a scandal-seeking daily show) ridicules celebrities – and to our discredit, we comfortably scoff with them.

We seldom stop to consider others…

If we stopped to think, even for a minute, that the people in the news are just like you and I – imperfect human beings trying to live a good life based on principles (which may not be the same as yours or mine) – we would stop the madness and the presses.  We might even be kinder as a nation on those who step out of the fold to lead us.

I don’t know about you, but I see (and often feel) an increased world “intolerance” today, and this bothers me.  (As an aside, one of the most amusing post-it notepads I ever saw featured an old woman saying “there is nothing I hate more than intolerance.”)  We seem to feign acceptance of all races and creeds of people – as long as they are JUST LIKE US.

Kindness and acceptance of others could certainly make a difference to our neighbors and strangers who do good, and who more often than not are criticized for their efforts. We get so busy at being busy that we neglect to  notice (and celebrate) those who are altruistic, who give without expectations, who give of their time or money, and who appear strong in the public eye.  Like Bill, there are those among us who feel alone and maybe even despondent.

Circular reference – it’s all Related to a theme…

In a related theme, I have posted how bullying causes pain on several occasions – and lately about the documentary “Bully” making the rounds in theaters nationwide. (See Sticks and Stones are Secondary.)

Lady Gaga, Oprah, Harvard University, and a cast of celebrities and leaders have also stepped up their support to end bullying and make schools more accepting.  A new campaign called “It Gets Better” has the support of our President and motivates students to keep going in the face of adversity. Why not look at how our own seemingly innocent behaviors and attitudes affects those around us?

Supporting each other goes so much further than tearing each other down… pass it on!

Better off dead… NEVER!

I do not know what Bill’s life was like outside of the public arena.  He obviously had a struggle with demons that convinced him that he was better off dead than alive. He probably did not realize how many  people respected him (like me) and valued his contributions.  Somehow, the negatives overwhelmed the positives, and now it is too late to tip the scales to the plus side.

While we cannot save Bill, how about others?  Why not share a kind word of support instead of a critical barb today?  You never know, you might bring a ray of sunshine that makes the difference to someone you may not even know!

Thank you for reading… I appreciate you!

Carol

Sticks and Stones are Secondary

30 Mar

Did you grow up in the era of  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

Childhood memories can be brutal – especially if you were ever accosted by a bully.  It didn’t happen more than a couple of times to me, but I remember yelling these words hoping the bullies chasing me would somehow get tripped up by some magical force that the words conjured up! They never threw punches, but the unkind words they flung could be far more damaging.

“Ugly duckling!”  “You look like a boy!”  “Pigeon toes!”  Words thrown in haste that decades later, for most of us, can still sting.

Names and words can be powerful weapons that can inflict pain, rejection or verbal “spanking” of others.  I believe that words can turn into W.O.M. – weapons of mass destruction, and cause widespread damage to whole societies.  (Hitler used words to effectively control a nation and alienate the world.)

I recall the story of a bully whose father caught him taunting the neighborhood kids. As punishment, he made his son put nails into a fence for each name he had yelled.  The fence was covered with nails by the time he was finished, and the father talked to his son about the damage he was causing.  The son recognized the bad behavior and promised to stop bullying.  When a day that passed without name calling, the father allowed the son to remove some nails from the fence, until it was finally clear of nails.  The lingering message came on the last day when the father showed the son the holes that remained in the fence.  The son then realized the lingering damage of careless words.

Today, many parents refrain from corporal punishment (physical spanking), but fail to recognize the harm they inflict by the verbal spankings they unleash with their words.  (It is oft quoted that children hear the word “no” around 67,000 times by the time they reach the age of two, and the word “yes” far less!)

What is worse – physical or verbal abuse? 

If you believe the opening line of this post (sticks and stones…), you may not agree that words and tone can cause damage.  But I would bet that unless you have the most confidence and the most wonderful parents in the world, you probably still cringe when you recall harsh words of grownups from your past.  Why do we convict those who use physical abuse as their weapon and not those who use words to the same effect?

This week, a new documentary called “Bully” opened in select theatres across the country.  The filmmakers chronicled the life of a teenage victim, in the hopes of raising awareness and curtailing bullying in schools. I agree that it is time we take action to stop school yard bullies so that all children can concentrate on learning (a good strategic move for our nation!)

Next steps…

Maybe the next step after that will be to face the less obvious, but sometimes worse, cyber bullying and verbal abuse.  But, first, we as adults, need to stop and recognize the power of words to cause harm.  Guilt, shame, rejection, and embarrassment… these are but a few of the emotions we can stir up with pointy words.  We would never poke someone’s eye out with a stick, but we don’t think twice about stabbing them with words.

(Sidenote:  sometimes parents even use these tactics on their grown children to coerce or manipulate them into submission.  I’ve seen plenty of examples of this from friends whose parents don’t realize they are no longer children.)   

Perhaps the first step towards healing our societies is to reword the childhood adage… to maybe “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will ever hurt me.”

Just food for thought…

Carol

Surviving in 2012 – Practice the P word…

29 Jan

How many times do you hear people lament at the end of a day with “I really need a drink (or a break or a massage or ______ …fill in the blank)” ?

Our days are increasingly filled with hours of stop and go traffic, rush-rush-rush, hurry up and wait, dropped cellphone calls, disconnects and misconnects, voice mails, emails, texts, and interruptions – hardly what our founding fathers (and mothers) would have imagined.

Is there a key to putting aside the hustle-and-bustle so that we can enjoy moments of zen (happiness and peace) during the day?

I believe the answer lies in the “P” word – Patience – a word celebrated and recommended by formal religions, self-help gurus, and philosophers throughout the centuries.  You might find it puzzling to know that past generations would be impatient (after all, life was so much slower in years gone by), but since the beginning of time, Patience has eluded us.

Life today is increasingly complex and runs at nanosecond speed, and impatience prevails.  Its results are not pretty as it manifests  into such negative outcomes as:

  • road rage (impatience with other drivers),
  • disgruntled employees (impatience with bosses),
  • robberies (impatience with one’s finances),
  • divorce (impatience with a partner),
  • fights (impatience with another or a situation),
  • restraining orders (impatient outbursts),
  • among others.

Impatience can be an autonomous reaction (without pause or thought) to a trigger or situation.

Patience on the other hand is a deliberate response to the same situation.  Patience calms the mind, quiets the soul, soothes frayed nerves, and allows us to focus on what we can control – such as our response.

Patience can be difficult (especially in stressful situations) – but can become natural through conscious practice.  Patience is similar to remaining calm in the midst of a storm, and in today’s “stormy” world – we have more than enough opportunities to practice!

What do you think?  Do you agree that the P word – patience – is an important survival tip?

Does a Victim Substantiate a Bully?

19 Nov

The whole issue of bullying still resonates with me since the tragedies of a few weeks ago… and the posting I made around that same time.

Statements by someone I once loved still haunt me.  After a verbal tirade, the person said

“A victim substantiates a bully.  You know there wouldn’t be bullies in the world without willing victims.”

I was stunned to hear that an educated person would say this, and I wish I had asked him the rationale behind his statements.  One of the Four Agreements (that I have previously referenced in various posts) is Agreement #3: Never Assume.  This means that when someone says something we do not understand/accept/make sense of, we should ask for clarification before we assume we know what it means.

Today I better understand my role in that co-dependent relationship and realize that my inability to stand up to the other person was part of why the relationship soured.  However, even now I wonder whether the statements were the words of an irrational person or whether society holds the same views.

Do you agree with the statement that a victim substantiates a bully?

Certainly, there would be less abuse in the world if those who are victimized could stand up for themselves strongly and steadfastly immediately.  Do you think it would make a difference if the victims could distance themselves from the situation, and become empowered enough to report bullies or disable them through strong words and actions?

I remember being told “I wish you’d stand up for yourself instead of withdrawing from the disagreement”, and on the occasions when I did stand up for myself and yelled louder than him, I quickly learned that so doing encouraged escalation that didn’t stop until I relented.  In such situations, I wondered why I’d even bothered because it was easier (and quicker) to ending things by not engaging in battle.

I wonder how many victims of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse have experienced a similar situation.  In retrospect, I do not know if I was actually a “victim” (it does not matter because the relationship ended years ago) — but I do know that the experience of being dismissed summarily was intimidating to say the least.

I have empathy and respect for anyone who finds him/herself a victim of abuse, and frankly, it is NOT your fault.  Victims happen – they are not born – and become so at the hands of people who for whatever reason feel justified to overpower another.

stop bullyingI found a great article online today called How NOT to Raise a Bully: The Early Roots of Empathy where the author states that early parental guidance to teach empathy to children can prevent bullying behavior in later life.  I tend to agree.  It is said that we live what we learn – or is it we learn what we live?  Either way, if a child is brought up in a home devoid of respect for others, it is likely that they will continue to disrespect others.  Parents who do not teach their children to be empathetic  are (in my humble opinion) negligent parents.  And those who are bullies themselves teach their children that such behavior is okay.

What do you think?  Do you think that bullies would exist if there weren’t potential victims?  What has been YOUR experience with this topic?

Have a happy, productive week!

Carol

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