Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.
~ Old Native American Proverb
As an educational professional, I must say that I often think about the intense emotions we encounter on a daily basis. So often our patrons are very quick to complain and lay blame, but less open to take the time to understand situations or even teaching pedagogy. In fact, some times it is not just the patrons who are quick to react… the staff members can certainly be guilty of the same.
I find it so critical to look at any situation that may arise (particularly the heated ones) with a view of the larger picture. This can be very difficult to do when emotions are heated. For example, a mother may come into school raging at the teacher because she heard that her child had been laughed at in school the day prior. The teacher handled the incident and had no clue why on earth the parent was screaming. Only later on did the school learn that the mother’s husband had been picked up the night before on a DUI and was still sitting in jail. The conversation and the tone really was less about the incident at school and more about the mother needing an outlet to release her stress over her husband’s temporary incarceration. Understanding this larger picture still does not make the screaming acceptable, but at least it gives the teacher the ability to keep some emotional distance and realize that they did handle the situation effectively and other factors were at play.
I must confess, there have been times in my life where I too have misdirected my emotions. When my father was dying I was not as focused as I should have been at work – I was also not as objective. When a teacher made a mistake that ended up with a supervisor yelling at me, I was much less patient with the teacher than I would have been under normal circumstances. In that moment in my life I could not handle my supervisor yelling at me, so when I had to go back and speak with the teacher I was not pleased. Sometimes timing is everything…. if the incident hat occurred a year later I would have probably been much nicer to that staff member (months later I did apologize and explain that the timing was horrible).
I have learned to ask both parent and staff members about their personal lives when I get a response or behavior for them that I do not expect or am taken back by. The more intense their emotions, the more I wonder what is really the root of the anger/ sadness/ fear – it is usually NOT school related….. but sometimes the parents or staff members may need some help sorting the issues to really understand that is the case. If they are willing to understand that they may be mis-directing their anger or over reacting, it can often immediately assist with lessening the emotional intensity.
And, when that does not work – you can always follow the advice of Jack Handey:
Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes. ~ Jack Handey
Today, 235 days ’til 40, I seek to continually remind myself that heightened emotions are usually the manifestation of deeper issues. If I take time to understand this reality, I can respond in a more meaningful way and with the proper amount of empathy.