Tag Archives: sarcasm

Monday Morning Moment – Gently Confronting the Conflict Generated by Reductionism (You Want to Know this Word)

Photo Credit: Quote Master

Today, I want to talk about reductionism – how we reduce a whole person into one part – one facet that we take great pleasure in mocking or deriding. Thinking highly of ourselves in the process. Don’t miss this! Here we go.

Pierce Taylor Hibbs is a writer, teacher, and gentle theologian. I came across a piece he wrote this past week, and it has brought such clarity to a murky subject. The piece is “Reductionism: the Disease that Breeds Conflict”.

Don’t let that big word reductionism put you off. Hibbs will define it, but first, let me give you a scenario or two where we have seen this in action (and when we might have added to the fire of such a situation). We’re at a party of peers. We feel comfortable to just say what we think about any number of people, policies, or processes. No filters. What kinds of things pop up in those conversations? Mind you…they all are met with heads nodding (or shaking), laughter, and attitude. Mocking derision even.

Who are we in this conversation? The chief propagator of said comment. The amused and agreeing audience. The one uncomfortably close in character or worldview of the one being mocked. The one not necessarily close to the subject of putdown, but not comfortable with the putdown…or the people enjoying it.

Now…the definition of reductionism before we weigh in on our conversation topics. Hang in there. it’s so worth it. Pierce Taylor Hibbs on reductionism:

“Reductionism is the stepchild of our desire for mastery (complete control), which emerged from the ancient evil of autonomy Autonomy is the idea that you’re completely and utterly independent…You want full control. The thing is, you can’t have that. . . you know, because you’re not God. You’re limited by nature. That’s how you and I were made. But we’re so stubborn that we don’t accept limitation. We refuse to think we can’t master our own lives. So, within what John Frame calls the fantasy world of autonomy, we chase after mastery, and when we can’t get it (again, we never will get it), then we pretend to have it with . . . reductionism…If we can’t master our lives, then we can simplify them and make it seem as if we’re in full control. We can reduce the complexity of our own lives, the people in them, and the problems that surround us. We can take, in other words, an issue or person with a thousand dimensions and pretend that there’s only one dimension. That’s reductionism. Put differently by my friend and teacher, [Vern Poythress], reductionism happens when people “reduce the world to one dimension of the whole. . . . But reductionism is poverty-stricken, not only in its threadbare endpoint consisting of only one dimension, but also in its explanatory power.””

Reductionism, in short, is when people make something a lot simpler than it is. They do this for the sake of convenience, or egoism, or to build their own self-righteousness. There’s no shortage of motives, but I can’t think of any that are wholesome. And note what Poythress ended with: it lacks explanatory power. Read: it doesn’t actually explain much...In our frustration we reduce people, problems, and situations to manageable bits (ignoring swaths of information) in order to convince ourselves of our own mastery. You can start to predict why this is so destructive.”

Reductionism hurts people because it flattens them. It takes a human life (or a situation, political topic, etc.) and crushes it down to a single dimension, ignoring all of the others. That not only fails to align with reality (reality is always more complicated than we could ever dream); it insults people by making judgments based on that single dimension.”

OK…here we go on the topics “reduced”:

Vaxxers/non-vaxxers. Maskers/non-maskers. Cool/Not Cool. Liberals/Conservatives. Republicans/Democratics. Pro-lifers/Pro-Choice/Abortion. Boomers/Ageists. Patriot/Isolationist. Racists. Privileged. Stupid. Misogynist. Hurtful. Offensive. Homophobe. Sexist. Small-minded. Evangelicals. Enneagram or other reductionist labeling.

We can reduce a person into a box of one word or phrase. What is up with that? Nothing good. It’s handy for a laugh at a party or a sympathetic ear who “gets” people “like that”.

It is not reality. It may be entertaining, but it furthers the accepted divide between people. It degrades not only the subject of the derision but the audience, as well as the person speaking. Hibbs suggests a solution for those who want one:

“Reductionism is killing us because it’s killing our conversations. It’s killing open, receptive dialogue. It’s polarizing the nation, even the world. For our part, we have to start identifying and assaulting reductionism whenever it crops up in our conversations…But what are we supposed to do instead?…We need God and other people to understand not just the world, but even ourselves truly. We need two things: humility and a withholding of assumptions.” – Pierce Taylor Hibbs

He goes on in his piece, giving specifics of how humility and withholding assumptions work together to soften the elements of conflict, even to the possible healing of rifts. Hibbs is a Christian theologian and speaks eloquently of the life of Jesus in his people in the call to a ceasing of conflict. Not just avoiding conflict, but confronting reductionism. Whatever your faith, his counsel is sound in acknowledging the sting of our current biting and devouring social culture. And resisting the temptation of engaging in it…but not be just keeping silent and existing the conversation. Definitely worth our consideration.

Photo Credit; Janet Mock, Audi Quotes

Why Do We Have to Make Others Wrong to Be Right? – Lolly Daskal

Personality Tests: Why Are We Obsessed with Labeling Ourselves? – Sara Abdelbarry

[The above video is fascinating. Wow!]

Bullying: Scoffers, Mockers, Ridicule, and Scorn in the Bible and Today – Kelly Ann Christensen

Monday Morning Moment – Micro-actions and Micro-behaviors – a Conspiracy of Small

Photo Credit: Edmund Burke, Pinterest

Micro-actions aren’t not the myriad of tasks that appear on our daily to-do lists. I’m defining micro-actions as all those brief, intentional acts we do that help us “get to goal”, “avoid mission drift”, or communicate value to those around us. Micro-actions can show up on in our daily habits (like my making the bed every morning, or Dave daily bringing me coffee). More often than not, they are  spontaneous – fitting the situation or need of the moment.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mathew Sweezey

Micro-actions can include acknowledging the creativity/good sense of a teammate, writing thank you notes, taking a parking place farther from the building, making the difficult phone call (regarding a death or serious illness), stopping by the desks of coworkers just to say hi, sharing the praise for a project well-done, ordering a pizza for a young family.

Small, positive actions…that could have gone undone and unnoticed if undone…but the impact!! The impact can be substantial for a teammate, family member, or neighbor.

Take these wise words from Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris:

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.” – Danusha Laméris

What micro-actions do you incorporate in your day, regularly or occasionally? Please comment below. Also we would love to hear your stories of a “micro-action” someone did with you in mind.

Micro-behaviors go deeper than micro-actions. They are defined as  tiny, often unconscious gestures, facial expressions, postures, words and tone of voice which can influence how included (or not included) the people around us feel.  Micro-behaviors become habitual and unconscious. They expose how we think and reveal our current worldview…our preferences, our prejudices, our bias. Our micro-behaviors send messages to others without us even being aware. A look (or look away), a tone of voice, a move toward inclusion or exclusion.

When our micro-behaviors (or those we observe in others) are positive, they are a not-so-subliminal uplifting experience – communicating affirmation, belonging, care. It’s when they are negative that we need to check them (when we become aware) and decide is that really what we want to communicate. Is that really who we have become toward certain segments of people?

Our American culture has shifted away from civility and community and more toward sarcasm and tribalism. [See Alan Weiss‘ piece on Tribalism vs. Community] These changes show up in our micro-behaviors.

Author, educator Karen Swallow Prior, in her book Booked, writes about satire in a way that reflects our culture’s bent toward sarcasm:

“[Jonathan] Swift helped turn my contempt for the foolishness I saw in others into compassion. While contempt leads to the case of isolation, compassion leads to a freedom found only in community…It was so easy to see [foolishness] in others, much harder to recognize it in myself. “Satire is a sort of glass,” Swift said, “wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” Did I love satire only because in it I saw everyone else but me? Was I as blind to my own faults as Swift showed others to be? It seemed so.” – Karen Swallow Prior

Photo Credit: Facebook, William Curtis

Micro-actions and micro-behaviors…something to consider on a Monday. How can I take a few minutes here and there through the day to encourage or empower a colleague…or stranger, even? What am I communicating when keeping eye contact during a conversation and showing genuine interest in the other person? On the converse, what does my face fixed on my phone or computer screen, or my head down, shooting through the lobby toward my office, say to those we might have greeted but didn’t…discounting them by our behavior?

Thoughts?

How Can You Spot Really Good Leaders? They Practice These Simple 2-Minute Habits DailyMarcel Schwantes

Be a Pal, My Dudes – Erika Hall

#MicroActions on Twitter

#Microbehaviors on Twitter

Hack the Culture with Micro Changes – Marcella Bremer

Micro-actions, Fragmentation, and Influence – Peter Roy – Asian Efficiency Team

What Are Micro-behaviours and How Do They Impact Inclusive Cultures? The Little Things That Make a Big Difference – Caroline Arnold

Micro-Behaviours – What They Are and How They Impact Inclusion – Jan Hills

How Micro-Actions Can Help You Conquer Your Goals – Megan Nye

The Top 6 Micro-Actions for Entrepreneurs

Monday Morning Moment – Contempt is Cancer in the Workplace…and Any Other Place

Blog - Contempt - ArmstrongeconomicsPhoto Credit: Armstrong Economics

In a culture that clamors for political correction, how is it that contempt can be so freely expressed? Even rewarded, at times? This is an enigma for me. Contempt at home or in the workplace divides people, often against one another. Like cancer, it can spread if left unchecked…changing people and impacting product.

Having a certain measure of confidence is positive for all of us on a team. It’s freeing to be in relationships with people who have a strong sense of what they bring to the table as well as what others bring. Confidence and humility actually partner well together. When we have an honest understanding of our strengths, we also extend humility as we defer to the strengths of our colleagues.

The problem comes for all of us when confidence shifts into arrogance. Worse yet, when arrogance darkens into contempt. Arrogance is an attitude of thinking so highly of oneself that we tend to put down the thinking and efforts of others. Contempt is similar except the emotions are stronger and more mean-spirited.

Blog - Contempt 3 - slidesharePhoto Credit: SlideShare

What makes contempt so cancerous in our relationships is that it tends to spread, both internally and externally. When we allow ourselves the luxury of contempt, we grow in our justification of it. It may have started with an unappreciative boss or demanding client, but contempt, unchecked, will inject its poison indiscriminately.  We become comfortable with our disdainful opinions of others…at work, in our families, and pretty much toward anyone who crosses or annoys us.Blog - Contempt 2 - liveforchristresourcesPhoto Credit: LiveforChristResources

Chris Johnson, CEO, Simplifilm Inc. of Portland, Oregon, wrote a piece confronting contempt as a cancer in the workplace. He offers 5 steps to preventing contempt from shattering our work and our work relationships:

1. Don’t Vindicate Yourself. A customer had an experience they didn’t like. You don’t need to prove if you are right or wrong. That’s not relevant. What’s important is making a judgement: is this worth fixing?

2. Look At The Opportunity. Some people are surly, disrespectful, ungrateful and wrong. Some of them have big jobs. Some people like that have power. Learning to work with these people — without getting drawn in — is a skill that you should have.

3. Always Err on the side of empathy. What are the consequences of being nicer to someone than they deserved? What are the consequences of being meaner? Will too nice of a response to a human ever ruin a career?

4. Cultivate Improvement Bias. When something goes wrong at Simplifilm, there are two components: what do we do with our transaction, and what do we do with our system. For the transaction, we try and fix it with empathy. We believe that we caused it. Because if we caused it we can improve our system.

5. Rethink your filter. Most people say “block out everyone, make customers prove themselves to you.” Being available can be hard. Many filters are vanity in disguise. If you knew the people that answered their personal emails…Chris Johnson

Contempt like cancer can be smoldering without our awareness. I am generally a positive and empathetic person, but, if I’m honest with myself, there are those in the workplace who don’t experience much compassion from me. It’s an uncomfortable confession to have to make.

As we practice mindfulness in our relationships at work, we hopefully will remember to respond instead of react. We can rein in contempt by refusing to think ill of others, by staying engaged, and by acknowledging none of us get it right every time (exercising humility).

On the old TV sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frank, Ray’s father would often make observations that sizzled with sarcasm. One comment remains a part of our family’s lexicon: “People are idiots!” It’s so easy for any of us to look at actions or decisions made by others and shake our heads…until we remember that we all have it in us to do the same. Contempt can be diagnosed…and treated…

…with empathy, compassion, and humility. Not necessarily the coolest or trendiest work (or relationship) processes in our culture…but… What a difference they can make in the tone of our meetings, the depth of our relationships, and the measure of our own character.

So let’s get after it!

How Contempt Breeds Business Cancer (& 5 Ways to Kill It) by Chris Johnson

Contempt or Compassion by Brian Fletcher

Detecting Deception by David Berglund – SlideShare [Slide 76ff]

Confidence vs. Arrogance – and Knowing the Difference by Michele Cushatt

10 Ways to Tell if You’re Confident or Arrogant by Carmine Gallo

How Contempt Destroys Relationships by Susan Heitler