Embarrassment – children and politicans seldom suffer from it, yet it’s part of the social rule book most of us live by. What happens if we change the rules? That’s the question Christine Rossen asks in her interesting opinion piece, saying:
Many people see the decline of embarrassment as a good thing. “Why shouldn’t I be able to do X?” People often say this after having done something outrageous or transgressive. But this misunderstands the distinction between embarrassment – a mild but necessary correction of inappropriate behavior – and shame, which is a stronger emotional response usually involving feelings of guilt about more serious breaches of conduct….
At the very least, embarrassment serves as a reminder that no matter our circumstances, we are more alike than not. Pier Forni, who founded The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins University thirteen years ago, recently told Obit magazine, “We are more and more concerned with our own pursuit of personal goals. As we engage in a mad rush for the attainment of our personal goals, we don’t seem to have the time or see the point of slowing down for the purpose of being kind to others.” Nor have we yet found the right balance between connecting with others and Too Much Information. So the next time you feel like sharing the details of your upcoming bunion surgery with your coworkers, resist. You will not only avoid potential personal embarrassment, but you might just make one small step toward improving civility for us all.
And maybe if we saw politicians being a little more honest in their reactions (for example to hearing the people speak, such as with the mining march in Auckland) we’d start to respect them just a little bit more as well.