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Written by: Michèle Luit
How many of us have witnessed strangers, friends, family and colleagues being bullied? Why have we chosen to play the role of silent observer?
How many of us drive by public and separate elementary schools daily? How many of us notice the “virtue” of the month on their signage? I drove by one just the other day where the word for January is “humility”. Isn’t it beautiful that our children are being taught not only to understand such virtues but to demonstrate them in their day-to-day relationships with others? I wonder if such a practice could be expanded to the workplace…would this be considered way over the top? Likely.
When others are being mistreated, our initial intention is to look away. However, Barbara Coloroso, in her most recent book, “the bully, the bullied, and the not-so-innocent bystander”, encourages the reader to understand how to invest in teaching the skills associated with intervention.
Let me share with you a personal experience. I was recently on holiday in Kelowna and had the opportunity to stay at a great condo with an in-ground pool. I was there with my son and my four-year old grandson. Every afternoon, the pool was crowded with adults and children – people who knew each other, may have travelled together or complete strangers. It was wonderful to see children playing with each other in the pool – forming newfound friendships that may not last more than the day.
From my lounge chair, I watched three girls playing together – approximate ages 9 – 11 – calling each other by name and creating new games while running in and out of the pool. There was another girl, alone, who was invited to join in. Well, maybe not. When it came to sharing snacks, she was left sitting alone on the side of the pool and when the original three returned, a decision had been taken that she was no longer included. She started to cry.
One of the three, who took notice of the tears, STEPPED UP and told her two buddies that this girl should be invited back into the circle. She remained adamant that if they wouldn’t invite her, she would play with the other girl and they could carry on without her. This incentive brought the four of them back into play.
See how quickly a change in dynamics can happen? See how important it is to STEP UP? That one girl felt the pain of another – that, ladies and gentlemen, is a virtue called “empathy”. Even if “empathy” has not yet been identified as a virtue of the month, someone or some experience had taught her that quality. According to Brené Brown, “empathy is the skill of bringing compassion to life”.
My hope is the next time you are placed in the role of observer, you will choose to step up! Two easy questions to ask – can I help or help me understand what is happening right now. Showing both parties you care may be enough to alter what happens next.
1. Coloroso, Barbara, the bully, the bullied, and the not-so-innocent bystander, 2015, Harper Collins Publisher Ltd.
Michele Luit has worked in the areas of public consultation; the oil and gas industry; corporate business; and organizational, workplace and community development. She has a passion for performance management, leadership development and building the inclusive workplace.
Michele willl be speaking at the CPHR Alberta 2017 Conference this April 26 & 27 in Edmonton. For more information on the conference and to register, click here.