NEW STUDY REVEALS THAT SHAMING IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE BEHAVIOR CHANGE STRATEGY
Commentary from Dr. Carolyn Phelps, PhD
Uh, yeah – no. There is no such study result. Which is really too bad if you think about it. Because we certainly act like there is study after study which supports that headline. The only thing that we seem to do quicker than shame others for their transgressions, is to judge them, typically with very little information. Sometimes, we even prefer to judge with very little information. It is way easier for us to separate ourselves from those who would do those things if we don’t have full information. And that allows us to carry on, believing that we won’t come under that same scrutiny. And so it is that the mother in the video points out that she has to reel herself in from explaining that she is the adoptive mother. I think she is brave to introduce herself as “mother” unqualified. And I am saddened that the state of us is such that this simple act makes her brave. She pointed out to us elegantly that most of us had this thought run through our head: “Mother? What does she mean by mother? Adoptive mother? Or mother who drank during pregnancy? I need to know so I can figure out how to judge you. Saint or sinner.” We humans do love our binary systems: yes/no, hot/cold, black/white. Let’s not be mucking up the judging process by introducing magenta or teal into the equation. In this one simple act: the withholding of one piece of information, she pointed out to us our prejudice and the people who suffer because of our prejudice. Which includes her son.
I had a different version of that thought run through my head. My thought went like this: “Mother. I vote adoptive. Yeah definitely adoptive – No one has the guts to admit to that on film. People would hate her. And they would need to let her know that.” Like his bio-mom doesn’t somewhere already do that to herself, on some level, somewhere. The shame festival does not get us to change our behavior. It forces us to hide and keep secrets – do all the things that prevent growth and change. If we want people to take responsibility for their actions, then we need to start leading with forgiveness rather than shame.
Thank you so much for the folks who shared their story and opened up our hearts so we could open up our minds.