I grew up with three siblings. If you grew up with siblings, as I did, you are familiar with the age-old enterprise of tattling. My younger sister, Susan, now Chova Sara, was the tattletale. She was the one that thought it important to report to my parents, usually our mom, whatever misadventures we were enacting. When I was six to her four, she ran to our mom to say I wasn’t letting her play with my Barbies. This was true, but only because she cut their hair and drew on them with crayons. Nonetheless, I had to release more dolls to her based on “fairness.” This made no sense to me, but she got what she wanted, and it spurred her on for years.
When I was fifteen she couldn’t get downstairs fast enough when she rifled through my drawers and found my almost full pack of Eve cigarettes. I was no smoker, but I did purchase a 75 cent pack to try and smoke at high school socials. I, a frizzy haired, acne prone teen with a penchant for musicals, wanted to seem cool. I imagined cigarettes was the entry point. I coughed more than I inhaled, thus ending a two-week foray into the impossible road to being a cool, cigarette-smoking kid. But I kept the pack just in case I could offer an Eve to one of the true cool kids.
Our mom, a former smoker, who coughed if she even thought there was smoke around her, was furious. I was grounded. My explanation had holes. Not only did I own a forbidden pack of cigarettes, but I was going to share an unhealthy habit with someone else. While our mom lambasted me, I got a glimpse of Susan’s righteous smirk. I imagine that same smirk on each of the mouths of all the tattlers online. We have morphed into a culture of telling on others.
When did we learn that telling on others was a better strategy than speaking in a respectful manner to said perpetrator? We gain so much from having thoughtful dialog. We may disagree, and in many instances, we may not come to a resolution, but there is a chance to connect rather than divide if we speak to one another rather than tell on each other.
I believe when we feel we lack personal power we resort to public ranting or gossiping. We dump our righteous opinions on the masses where we hope to receive positive reinforcement for negativity. However, real confidence comes from being courageous enough to speak up without shaming someone else. In this way there’s a possibility you both might learn and grow. Perhaps we can build our self-worth not by being righteous, which only strokes our egos, but by privately harnessing our emotional responses and caring for ourselves as we process those emotions. By looking inward instead of pointing fingers, we thoughtfully take steps towards positive change.
- Muster the courage to speak with someone with whom you disagree. Let them know you want to understand their thoughts and actions. Be open and think about what they tell you. Monitor your emotional response. And share your perspective, not to convince, but because you both matter.
- Stop! If you are about to rant with someone(s) who is/are not your friends, take a beat, write in a journal, but withhold from adding to the public negativity forum.
- Hold your own hand as if you’re holding hands with yourself. Notice what that feels like. Do you feel your own warmth? Allow you to be there for yourself with this small gesture.