It’s harder, but a lot more effective
With cancel culture being a hot topic these days, there has been an increase in attention to the issue of calling people out on their abusive and/or oppressive behavior.
Calling someone out is generally defined as publicly recognizing and then naming the person and their detrimental behavior. The purpose of calling someone out is to bring attention to the behavior, in a way that others can see, with the end goal of creating greater accountability and stopping the behavior from occurring again.
But does it work?
Throwing anger at anger results in a net negative almost every time. In addition to anger, public humiliation also comes into play, which can cause a person to step back and withdraw versus facing an issue head-on and wanting to learn more.
It is time to ask the difficult question of whether calling out actually works. And if not, is calling in the better way forward.
Taking the Higher Ground: Calling In
The process of calling someone in typically involves less anger and more contemplation. It involves engaging with the offending individual and not going on the offensive. By taking this approach, the offending party is far more likely to stop, listen and really hear what is being said.
A successful approach used by Chris Voss, the master negotiator, is called ‘labelling’. Labelling gives a label to someone’s emotions; it is a verbal acknowledgment of the other side's feelings or position. Labelling works because it makes a person feel heard and understood, and a person who feels understood is more likely to listen to others. Labelling uses terminology such as “It seems like ….” or “It looks like ….”
An example of using labelling to deescalate a potentially abusive situation would be: “It seems like you feel this is an unfair situation.”
Here is an interesting question for us all: Is our ultimate goal to stop oppressive behavior from recurring, or to shift the oppressive individual’s perspective such that they no longer want to display such oppressive behavior?
If we don’t put in the effort to try and shed light on a person’s problematic behavior, we end up with someone who is sorry for getting caught versus someone who is sorry for their behavior. As many would agree, this is not progress at all.
Feeding Our Inner Adrenalin Junkie
Loud, public call-outs can certainly feel rewarding in the moment, in a primal kind of way. Adrenalin is pumping and our ‘fight or flight’ response is in full gear.
But as most adults know, knee-jerk reactions may feel good at the moment, but rarely do once the dust has settled. Sabotaging a potentially rewarding interaction just because something feels good in the heat of the moment simply does not make sense. Calling In Achieves our End Goal
Learning, understanding, and acknowledging differences is what will affect positive change in the world. And if we all agree that our end goal is to broaden perspectives, which will result in less oppressive behavior, then calling in is the more difficult — yet better — solution.