27 responses

  1. Belle de Ville
    September 23, 2010

    Did you come up with that matrix? It's like something from BCG.
    Also, I thought that shame was dead in our society. Hopefully, it is still alive because it can serve a practical function of preventing negative behavior.

  2. Marcela
    September 23, 2010

    Great post. I am printing and saving it for reading it again. Thank you for writing it.

  3. Tabitha
    September 23, 2010

    You are so wonderfully wise Lisa, I am in the throes of trying to get a employer to pay me for 6 months work that I did last year, I have taken her to court twice and won but both times she has then gone on to change the name of the company so I have been unable to to gain any recompense, I don't know whether to let it go or keep up the good fight or indeed start ranting about the legal system.

    I agree with Belle, for so many shame is indeed dead.

  4. The Preppy Princess
    September 23, 2010

    Absolutely. Brilliant. All of it, from the matrix to the points made in the Guide. It could (and should once the lawyers bless it) go in a number of HR manuals. And I say this as someone who has had a not insignificant amount of special training in this field.

    When the Princess is global will you come be our Ethics and Style Pooh-bah?

  5. Anonymous
    September 23, 2010

    I was taught to be quiet and hold my tongue…but my mother always confronted a situation. As I have aged, I find expressing myself has given me more peace…as my mother probably discovered. Neighbors, superiors, husband seem to repond to a stated viewpoint more easily than silent resentment… so the embarrassment is short lived for me these days.

  6. Miss Janey
    September 23, 2010

    Excellent advice.

  7. DocP
    September 23, 2010

    Excellent! My only addition would be the suggestion that pleading confusion often goes a long way toward disarming any embarassment. As in, "I'm a bit confused. X seems to be the case, but if that were true, it would be totally unethical behavior. Would you explain?"

  8. Duchesse
    September 23, 2010

    Overall, agree. Re step 5, most of us cannot-nor do I think we should- excise feelings from raising an issue, but it is so WASP! There is a way to include feelings in the conversation without shaming or blaming; I recommend "Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most" by Stone, Patton and Heen.

    Also, I endorse Doc P's approach. I try to remind myself that what I consider "unethical" may not be so to the other person. Or, if the behaviour is widely considered so, calling it "unethical" in the opening words will likely call up every defense the person confronted can muster.

    A book on this subject that is transformative: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life",by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg.

  9. LPC
    September 23, 2010

    Belle – It is like something from the Boston Consulting Group, exactly. I made it up myself. Because the risks of getting this wrong scared me.

    Marcela – Thank you in return.

    Tabitha – Thank you. In your case, what can you do but decide how much the fight is worth to you. I am sorry you have had to deal with that kind of person.

    TPP – But of course, it would be my honor:). Thank you. I too thought, as I wrote, how much this converged with my management training. This was the part of corporate life that I liked, rising above pettiness and focusing on the real priorities.

  10. LPC
    September 23, 2010

    Anonymous – A stated viewpoint, exactly. And I think you are right, it feels strong and calming to everyone involved, in a way.

    Miss Janey – Thank you.

    DocP – I have trouble carrying off that kind of strategy because I know in my heart that I'm not confused, and when I know something in my heart it tends to find its way out. If you have the sang froid, I agree.

    Duchesse – Well, yes, it is so WASP.

    But I have to disagree with your comment about excising feelings. Or perhaps I was confusing. I'm not saying one has to excise feelings, only that one should put them aside. Feed them, keep them happy, tell them they have every right to exist and you will take care of them. I have found that I can run two threads. That I can focus on communicating a message based on a belief, and still be aware of my feelings separately. As long as I do the pre-flight check, of course.

    If someone wants to know how I feel, if it matters to them or to the situation under discussion, at that point I can communicate them as required. They may or may not be germane.

    It's true that overt anger isn't one of my big issues. Perhaps if I were more innately angry I'd see things differently. As it is, I'm far more prone to anxiety, sneakiness, and blurting, as flaws.

  11. RoseAG
    September 23, 2010

    Hummm. I sort of get what you're talking about, but being a bit simple-minded I still have confusion.

    As a member of a class of citizens with resources/choices I'm inclined to blast out at step 6 – sorry, we've changed our minds, won't be needing this anymore, etc….

    For example, the accountant we interviewed who was going to set up multiple coporations and put our children on the payroll with all the attendant write-offs.

    Very wrong, and not a bit tempting as we know we have the type of resources that would cause such a maneuver to be noticed by authorities.

    But that doesn't do much for societal injustice of the type suggested by the colonial elephant. So we didn't mention this to the business associate who had recommended the accountant in the first place. Nor did we inquire whether he'd sucumbed to this misguided scheme.

    I'd say there is ample topic here for you to expand into another post, maybe one with more concrete examples?

  12. Susan Tiner
    September 23, 2010

    This is fascinating. I like what DocP said and second RoseAG's request for some examples.

    How does one judge ethical severity in the first place. Your guide sounds right if the behavior was private — what occurred happened privately between two individuals and affected only those individuals — and the deed was something between a pure mistake up to maybe about half way to the right. It seems to me that from the half way point to 100% sin it's something fairly serious. The privacy concern may or may not apply in this case even if the deed occurred privately between two individuals but I think it certainly doesn't apply if the behavior may harm the public, e.g., a mortgage broker deliberately selling inferior products to increase fees.

  13. Anonymous
    September 23, 2010

    I am so glad you wrote about this – something that is very difficult for me and now I have this handy step-by-step guide! I really appreciate the clarity and succintness. Thank you, I have the feeling this will save me much heartache in the future.

  14. fourth
    September 23, 2010

    LPC. Thank you for this thoughtful and brilliant inquiry into a situation which confronts most people.

    Parents generally try to teach children obedience. Ironically, the discipline of compliance does not serve adults well. Rather, the strong-willed child seems better equipped for an assertive adulthood, and therefore perhaps would correct another's ethical breach without much ado.

    As a strong-willed child myself, my responses to situations are sometimes strong. So, your guide will be my saving grace. I echo your other reader who invited you to be our Grand Poo Bah of Etiquette and Style. Thanks LPC.
    The Fourth Canary.

  15. hostess of the humble bungalow
    September 23, 2010

    We've all been in dodgy situations and sometimes we bumble things, say it badly, but I think if we are honest and truly care, we can dig ourselves out of the mire…
    your insight here is very valuable..

    I have recently been exposed to a co-worker who has absolutely no social skills and no filters and blurts anything that comes to his mind…it has become very unpleasant for all the faculty members…I have diagnosed him as suffering from Aspergers syndrome…while they are raking him over the coals I am using my training to make the best of a difficult situation…empathy, compassion and dignity. A win win…
    I ask…how would you handle this?

  16. La Belette Rouge
    September 23, 2010

    My graduate thesis focused a lot on shame( and clothing) and I can tell you that shame is an affect which means it is a body experience and not a feeling. Affects are automatic. Shame exists in our biology. I could go on and on but this is a blog and not a book.
    I LOVE your matrix and thoughtful negotiation through difficult terrain.

  17. Ash
    September 23, 2010

    i love that diagram! lol

    ~ash's mum

  18. Charlotte
    September 24, 2010

    Oh dear. I require the right amount of gin to get to heroic resistance but not so much that we wade into certain embarrassment territory. There is also a requisite amount of breathing into a paper bag. So, yes, still very deep in the trenches of privileged anxiety and shame on this end.

    I cannot tell you how much I love that you made a matrix, though.

    September 24, 2010

    I agree with Rose; I really cannot understand what the issue is because you are so painstakingly polite. :) I am suffering terribly with my son's wife, who has alienated everyone in our family. Son doesn't see it. I love your presentation.

  20. DJ
    September 24, 2010

    "While mild shame has probably improved my taste in clothing, its more bitter cousin has left other, longer, traces."

    This is so, very true.

  21. Sydney Shop Girl
    September 24, 2010

    Your wisdom is much appreciated, LPC.

    I will run through your checklist the next time I get myself into a frenzy about how 'other people are making MY life so difficult'.

    SSG xxx

  22. Buckeroomama
    September 25, 2010

    I've always loved your matrices. :)

    Being able to call someone out for a perceived wrong takes not just courage, but tact. To find the balance between #1 and #3 would be ideal.

  23. pve design
    September 25, 2010

    My dear husband just completed our taxes and I always feel akin to being the elephant in the room as he inspects every nook and cranny.
    The days of earning a simple stipend seems so easy but after reading your post, maybe then again, not. All the "excised feelings" being squelched or drowned by mediocrity and big mass marketers and motherhood. Indeed, in the end it is about finding a place to call one's home and living a life of some sort of normalcy in the midst of "crooks and thieves" as my father-in-law likes to spout off about.

  24. LPC
    September 25, 2010

    RoseAG – You sound as though you have great confidence in your own authority. That is a great thing. I believe one of the problems that can come from growing up in privilege is when one doesn't get that sense of confidence, assuming everything comes from the family and not one's abilities. The other thing is that in the situation I was discussing, the bad behavior had already occurred, so had to be dealt with. You are right. This is material for many, many posts.

    Susan – You are right. I was thinking about a situation that is between 2 people, not one where whistle-blowing is required for a great scope of behavior.

    Anon – You are very welcome. Why this is so difficult for some of us and so much easier for others is very interesting to me.

    fourth – Thank you so much. I am sure this has much to do with upbringing. I too was strong-willed, so my default would have been to either blurt or do nothing. I have tried in adulthood to come to a considered middle ground.

    Hostess – I think it would all depend on whether the person brings more value than trouble to the organization. If he brings value, you all need to collaborate on finding a system of agreed behavior that supports everyone there. Thank you.

  25. LPC
    September 25, 2010

    La Belette – Fascinating. I would love to read more of what you know about shame. Thank you. Matrices 'R Us:).

    Ash – Thank you so much.

    Charlotte – Ah. You are correct. I should have overlaid a gin curve onto the matrix.

    Splenderosa – I believe those who don't suffer from shame in this way really think we who do are nuts:). It's a very refreshing perspective.

    DJ – I can now imagine a map, of the traces.

    SSG – Oh if any frenzy is reduced at all my matrix was not a silly effort:).

    Buckeroo – :). Exactly. Courage and tact. Which are tough to come by simultaneously.

    pve – It is about finding a home, in both the philosophical and physical worlds.

  26. Pam
    September 25, 2010

    I loved this, Lisa; both your post and the comments thus far. Your analysis fits in with many psychological theories I know, yet is also entirely your own, and that delights me. (Honestly – I love this stuff!)

    I've spent a lot of years working to rid myself of shame, though perhaps Belette's work might convince me that such a thing is not possible – maybe I've been working on transcending rather than expunging? Either way, I'd love to know more about her research.

    I also echo Duchesse's recommendation of Marshall Rosenberg's work. I've been trained in his approach to nonviolent communication by someone who was trained by him in person, and I found his approach straightforward (but not necessarily easy) and transformational.

    I can honestly use Doc P's advice in practice, as I often am genuinely confused. Not in the sense of thinking I'm wrong, but in the sense of feeling puzzled when two and two look like they're adding up to five. I find it more helpful to ask the other person to show me what I've misunderstood, because it's always possible that (however well I've checked my facts) there's something I've missed. I find that if I'm willing to be wrong, it can open the way for the other person to be willing to be wrong. Of course, this is only doable if my confusion is genuine… and sometimes my route into that is via fascination. If I can't get myself to the point of genuine confusion I often choose not to confront, because if I'm not at least willing to be shown where I've misunderstood the situation, I'm unlikely to make much progress with that person.

    Gah, now I've gushed on at length and appear to have forgotten that a simple thank you will suffice. I hope you'll forgive my enthusiasm and take the thank you as read.

    I also fervently hope that this model, and this advice, will make it into your book….

  27. Francine Gardner
    September 29, 2010

    Very well said. being married into high a high WASP family, I had a talk from my mother in law how to properly express my feelings, pleasure and displeasure…being a highly emotional person, this was unknown territory, but I have to say that these really class in handling any situation with grace.
    I was going to my physician for a refill prescription when i saw his building being picketed by rather non attractive people with signs such as "rapist" The driveway was blocked, police cars were arriving. i have to say i was very nervous but wanted to give the physician benefit of the doubt. i was insulted as I crossed the picket line. I met with my physician, spoke directly with him and was satisfied with his answers an felt really bad that his reputation was being destroyed overnight…
    read in the papers a few weeks later, that the whole incident was a complete blackmail fraud. I felt I owed him the benefit of the doubt, had to face an embarrassing moment but dealt with it rather than avoid it.It seemed that was the right thing to do. I have to thank my mother in law and her advice over the years on how to respect people and deal with unpleasant situation in a cool upfront manner

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