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How To Call Out Haters (Without Becoming One)

July 24, 2013

On the World Wide Web and in the Big Wide World, inappropriate behavior abounds. Recognizing it is one thing; responding to it without either slinking away or getting your hands dirty is another. How do you cultivate virtue and break the karmic cycle? How do you help someone see the error of their ways without seeing you as a problem? In other words, how do you call out haters without becoming one? Read on for a formula.

Own Your Stuff

Before you can raise the issue, you have to figure out what the issue is, and the only way to do that is by acknowledging that it is yours. Are you emotionally triggered? Has a moral or ethical principle been breached? Has a personal standard or boundary been violated? Either way, you’ve got to acknowledge that it is your trigger, your principle, your standard, your boundary. Figure out for yourself exactly what you are not satisfied with about the situation, and, just as importantly, what you would like to get out of it, or more specifically, what emotional needs you would like to have met. In order to communicate the issue clearly and effectively, you have to know what it is and how you’d like it to be resolved.

Defuse Your Triggers

If you are triggered emotionally, relax yourself, disconnect the emotion from what you are about to say, and find a non-intrusive way to discharge it, or at least compartmentalize it to deal with later. Then cover up your trigger points and tuck them safely away, doing whatever is necessary to make sure that you will not be re-triggered by the exchange you are about to have. If you become triggered (or re-triggered) at any point during the exchange, you risk being ineffective or even counterproductive, causing your effort to be wasted and losing any progress you might have made.

Give Acknowledgment

If at all possible, begin the communication with some kind of acknowledgment, or, even better, appreciation for something the person did or said. The catch is that it has to be sincere. What can you truly express appreciation for? If nothing comes to mind, then what can you at least truly understand and acknowledge about the person’s situation? Get clear on this within yourself, and then express it unreservedly and give it time to land. This will create the best chance of the person opening up to the rest of what you have to say.

Speak Your Truth

Only say what is true for you, and say it completely. Speak your truth, your whole truth, and nothing but your truth. Do not withhold anything that matters, and do not include anything that doesn’t. Your purpose is not to shame, blame, correct, or control, but to express what is true for you in a way that is difficult to ignore, dismiss, or delegitimize, and impossible to deny. Avoid speculation, interpretation, interpolation, extrapolation, assumption, and projection – in other words, don’t put words in anyone’s mouth or attribute intentions. Only address what was actually said or done.

Get To The Point

Avoid preamble, qualification, justification, and self-reference. Restricting yourself to only what actually needs to be said, and saying it as directly as possible, will both force you to be clear about what you want as well as minimize the opportunities for deflection.

Be Literal And Unambiguous

Say exactly what you mean, in as few words as possible, without resorting to metaphor or comparison. Avoid language that is divisive or emotionally laden, as well as words that are vague or situationally dependent.

Avoid Make-Wrong

Make-wrong includes shaming, blaming, criticizing, and insulting, whether express or implied. Don’t do these things directly or by insinuation. The litmus test for insults is “Is this something the person would say about themselves?” If not, it’s potentially insulting. Avoid name-calling and unfair comparisons (especially to Hitler or Nazis).

Avoid Emotional Displays

As much as possible, put any emotions you feel, if they are relevant, into words. Claim them for yourself, and don’t try to attribute them to others.

Leave Out Extraneous Details

Don’t bring up points that don’t matter, “just because they’re wrong”. Focus on what is most relevant to conveying your truth.

Hold A True Intention Of Creating Understanding

Your intention should be to create understanding, both within yourself and within whomever you are addressing. Your goal is to make it easy for them to broaden their perspective and expand their circle of compassion. You don’t need to put them in their place, establish dominance, or convince them of anything. Resentment blocks understanding, so don’t give it cause to take root, either within them or within yourself.

Speak From Compassion

Compassion is the most powerful emotion, and the most universal. It doesn’t require an exchange of value, and it doesn’t need justification. It is more powerful than guilt, shame, or fear. It is even more powerful than love, and more compelling than truth. It is the ultimate healing force, and it is what creates the will to understand. It also begets itself, and is the only thing that does. You cannot hope to inspire compassion unless you are channeling it yourself.

Don’t Command

Your aim is not to control, but to convey truth. Nobody wants to be told what to do or not do, and commands are certain to fail. This includes setting yourself up as an example to be emulated, or demanding reciprocation. You can ask for something, but if you are not truly okay with receiving no for an answer then it is not truly a request.

Be Congruent

If you are calling out insincerity, be sincere.  If you are calling out impoliteness, be polite.  If you are calling out name calling, don’t call names.  Whatever you are calling out, be meticulous about setting a better example.  Otherwise you will be mud wrestling with a pig (meaning you will get muddy, and the pig will like it).

Avoid Emotional Triggers

Do your best to recognize what the other person’s emotional triggers are, and avoid them if at all possible.  If you push any of their buttons, even unintentionally, you will trigger their psychological defenses and  almost guarantee that your message will not be received.

Reverse Roles

Put yourself in the other person’s situation and ask yourself how you expect them to react. Get clear about the response you are hoping for and ask yourself if it is realistic. If you don’t get the reaction you expect, you can adjust your delivery and try again, but you should focus more on maintaining your integrity and the clarity of your expression than on getting a particular reaction. Also keep in mind that the effects of what you have said may take time to manifest. If you alienate, offend, or make emotional displays, that is what will be remembered. If you express your truth with clarity, alignment, and integrity to the best of your ability, that is what will be remembered.

Address The Issue, Not The Reaction

When trying to call out unacceptable behavior there is a substantial likelihood that you will encounter deflection. Instead of addressing the deflection directly, or defending your initial approach, both of which can lead to infinite regress, simply restate the original issue in a new way that avoids the deflection. Be flexible in your approach, but don’t allow yourself to succumb to diversion.

Make It Automatic

If you find it challenging to follow these principles at first, that will change with practice as you reset your default mode of expression. It can help to practice in small ways or in situations where you have no personal attachment and thus are unlikely to be triggered emotionally. Participate in discussions where the outcome does not matter to you and just focus on identifying and defusing conflict. This will help these principles come to you more easily in situations where you are more personally involved or feel strongly about the outcome.

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