Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships 12

For my write-up today on The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, by Temple Grandin and Sean Barron, I will discuss a story that Sean tells about an experience that he had.

Sean was in his twenties and was in the car with his Mom while they were running errands, and Sean mis-used the word "gregarious" (which means outgoing). Sean's mother told Sean that "gregarious" probably wasn't the word he intended to use, and then Sean started to beat himself up, calling himself dumb. Sean's Mom then replied that Sean calling himself dumb was itself dumb, and the situation continued to escalate.

As Sean reflects back on this experience, he concludes that there were ways that he could have prevented that situation from escalating. He could have diffused the situation with humor, or he could have simply admitted that he was wrong.

I can identify with Sean because I myself can get defensive about things like this. Like Sean before he learned coping skills, I can easily go from realizing that I made a mistake, to thinking that I am a mistake. For me, wrestling with defensiveness can be a daily battle. But, for our own sake and the sake of those around us, perhaps it's best at times not to let these things escalate into a major confrontation.

Of course, if I'm dealing with arrogant jerks who delight in putting me and the rest of the world down, then just letting things slide is much more difficult. In those situations, a proper response may be what Temple was talking about when she told a story about a plant manager who was screaming at her because the equipment was malfunctioning: she saw him as if he were a 2-year old having a tantrum, and she calmly explained to him that she did not cause the equipment to malfunction.

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