Learning and Shame

by | Dec 2, 2020 | Change, Identity |

learning and shame

The learning approach and ‘policing’ are often very similar. Both seek change, but come at it from different angles. But both can also lead to shame.

Talking about how things can be improved can lead to shame, but also learning. This tends to be associated with the learning approach.

Talking about what is not being done correctly can lead to shame, but also learning. This tends to be associated with the policing approach.

Overall, I don’t think anyone sets out to shame another, they seek improvement and change. However, the ‘centre’ of each approach tends to be radically different.

When we are in policing mode, the rules take centre stage. Rules or policies exist and our job is ensuring they are followed regardless of the context. The person in the equation is not important other than as an actor in ensuring adherence.

When we are in learning mode, actions and results take centre stage. We seek to understand the relationship between actions and results. And we tend to seek to understand the ‘why’ so that we can apply the ideas to multiple contexts.

There is a time and place for both (even though I much prefer the learning approach).

However, in both ‘modes’ or ‘approaches’ the person or team involved can slip into centre stage. You know this has occurred when the language becomes about the person or team rather than the rules, results or processes. It happens when we talk about the goodness/badness, silliness/acceptability of the people.

Then shame takes over. And learning stops.

Change makers know this and their radars are on high alert for it. Change makers deeply understand the connection between identity and what we do. And therefore, they spend time reminding others of their goodness, of their value, of being human.

We all could use that reminder most days.

Photo by sydney Rae


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