Every day we see various leaders in our country being berated, bullied, threatened, and sometimes physically assaulted. School board members, superintendents, physicians, academics, researchers, experts, and other volunteers are now regularly becoming victims to angry people not driven by different science or facts, but simply because they do not agree with a position that is different than their own. These incidents remind many of us of childhood, when certain poor-sport kids would quit prematurely or intentionally disrupt a game simply because they were not winning. We teach our kids to be better than this, so shouldn’t we be better, too?
Watch what you ask for — you might just get it
To all the people actively causing disruption, what exactly is the end game? While it is clear they are not in favor of certain rules and expectations of society, what they actually want is not entirely clear. Pounding fists on tables, shouting and screaming, and making scary threats are not forms of problem solving or conflict resolution, but instead traits of a disruptor. Delving deeper, if the goal is disruption and scaring off otherwise talented and equipped people, what then is left? Does replacing respected experts with angry lay people really sound like a better way to go? And when over the course of American history has that model led to better results?
There is a very real threat in America today that legions of doctors, nurses, health care personnel, teachers, school administrators, and volunteers are on the verge of a collective walkout. Can you blame them? Why would these people want to continue to work and assist people while dealing with potentially dangerous conditions? Do any of us really think replacing dedicated, responsible people with angry bullies who lack respect for others will make for a better community, and keep our kids safer?
This anger is scaring off others, too
The anger and outrage we are currently witnessing is not limited to local school boards, as we have witnessed countless coaches and sport officials leave youth and interscholastic sports for similar reasons. What used to be innocuous jeers and boos from the crowd has now morphed into coaches and officials being intimidated, bullied (online and in-person), threatened, and physically assaulted. Many coaches and officials either work for low pay or help kids voluntarily, but can any of us blame them for quitting when they now regularly face these kinds of ugly attacks? And what happens next when we no longer have responsible, dedicated adults to coach our kids and officiate fair play? Do we think our kids will then somehow have a better experience by having less responsible leadership??
Voice your opinions with dignity and respect
Yes, you can voice your displeasure with people you do not agree with, but you can do so in ways that focus on your message and not your anger and disgust. But before going too far with that idea, it is vitally important to stop and think about the type of people who may soon fill the seats of our trusted experts and volunteers serving us today. Will we be better with future school boards lacking individuals with educational training and experience? Will our kids grow mentally and physically when being led by adults ill-equipped to properly coach and guide kids participating in sports? Will our kids be safer in school when decisions are made not by professionals studying disease and illness, but instead by people who are angry and have simply “had enough?”
Before things get too out of hand, there are things we can all do to help improve relationships and restore credible experts by giving them latitude and support to help lead and make important decisions, including:
- Do your homework. Do you really know the entire situation? This is especially true with emotionally-charged events where logic goes out the window and is replaced by anger. Remember, random Facebook messages and conversations overheard at the water cooler are not equivalent to individuals working in specific industries and with verifiable expert credentials.
- Listen and clarify. Often in life our emotions can get in the way and prevent us from understanding the true essence of a message. When you are unclear of something, rather than becoming angry try to instead ask polite follow-up questions for greater clarity.
- Be respectful at all times. It’s real simple – do the same thing you tell your kids to do when in the company of adults.
- Remember the power of social media. While it is easy to vent anger through social media, these messages often come across differently than what was intended, and in some cases can escalate situations into bigger disputes and physical aggression.
- Show appreciation. Thank the people who are sincerely trying to make things better in society, even if you don’t always agree with them.
- Consider the alternative. It is important to really think about what life will be like should we see a mass exit in healthcare, education, athletics, and society at-large. Life is tough enough using the best people and information, can you imagine how bad things will get if we start winging it with the loudest people in the room?
While it may be easy to place all the blame on COVID for the various disagreements and altercations that we see each day, that may be too simplistic of a reason. Sadly, the deterioration of healthy human interactions began before COVID, as witnessed by regular, ongoing online anger and bullying. Youth and interscholastic sports have been challenged to find responsible adults to coach and officiate, and now these same issues are being experienced in schools and hospitals nationwide. While disagreement and conflict are natural human experiences, we need to revisit healthier interactions from the past when we voiced our concerns respectfully, and allowed space for experts to provide guidance with issues less familiar to us.