Are we victims of how people think?

The short answer is yes, and on several levels. The more pressing question, are we a victim before the facts are revealed? If we follow the thinking of perception is more powerful than reality in shaping our future actions, I may finally have some definitive research which makes my point. A study recently completed by Princeton University psychologists Daniel Ames and Susan Fiske used a study group to evaluate how we believe damage should be assessed for harm done. In brief, they found the participants assigned a greater level of harm based upon whether participants believed the act committed was intentional or accidental which seems to follow the doctrine of fair play. But the findings would also lead us to believe wither we see the person(s) harmed as victims. Those viewed as victims were believed to deserve a much larger compensation for their discomfort.

We also apparently assign a sliding scale to our moral compass as we rationalize the act in accordance to the harm we perceive has occurred. Do we take empathy too far? Do we make people out to be victims where they aren’t even by an individual’s own admission.

If someone is rude to you is it a measure of their action or your sensitivity to the action? More so is it a measure of bystander sensitivity as they judge from the sidelines? What I consider rude might be casually tossed aside by another, given equal understanding of the context of the situation.

Without surprise the study also leads us to measure the event after we discover the degree of damage or injury suffered. The greater the perceived damage the greater the punishment we would like to see enacted as compensation for injury. Do we see through our biases with the same clarity if the bias is weak or strong on a particular action, or with a group, or race, gender, orientation, education, or creed?

We must concede our biases shape our opinions and how we feel about a particular circumstance, and personally I prefer to be spoken to with a tone that isn’t offensive. The question is what do I consider over the top on a scale of acceptable to outrageous?

My years in the military and my upbringing tempered me to still be able to function professionally regardless of the ferocity of my interaction or dislike of the other person. My father seemed to have a singular tone of voice when giving instructions for a task or correcting any perceived wrongdoing, and I believed for years he conspired with my military commanders to maintain the trend with which I had become accustomed. But knowing the words carried no malice, I listened and I was able to carry out instructions properly, even when I felt a deep seated resentment at “how” the message was delivered, I did not feel victimized.

The secondary point here is to create a self-examination of how we filter words and tones or the vengeful motivation poor speech might engender. Do we dislike how something was said to us to such a degree we purposely or accidently sabotage our work effort to teach others a lesson?

If punishment is assigned based upon damage done, does our mood at the time of the event cause us to perceive a greater slight than maybe existed? If we know others view words spoken to us in the heat of conflict were outrageous do we now feel victimization to a greater degree? Our ego can certainly be bruised because we do not appreciate words said and tone as felt but does it truly cause us harm? As we speak to others when we are tense or stressed do we speak with a tone or with words which are destined to create the atmosphere of victimization while others overhear. We are as we feel; furthermore we become what we are allowed to become as we act out
— Lee Fjelstad

Reference the Acronym L.E.A.P.S.; Verbal Deflectors, Habit of Mind – Mushin

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