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- “If we all just sat down one on one with more people of more diversity and had conversations about the stuff they’ve been through in their life and where they’re coming from, and we had the guts to have that conversation more, we would slow down the speed in which we judge others.”
- Understanding our judgmental thoughts and internal bias is one of the most powerful ways that we can move towards a more equal and just society. Learn how you can start that work today!
- “The first gain of personal change is awareness. Being aware of our judgments of ourselves and of others.”
- Leading in times of change can be challenging. Follow these 3 lessons to learn how to show up for your community with full vibrancy to spread goodness and positive change in the world.
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[The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Brendon Show. Please note that this episode, like all TBS episodes, features Brendon speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited. Filmed in one take, The Brendon Show has become one of the most viewed unscripted, direct-to-camera self-help series in the history of YouTube. It has also been the #1 Podcast in all of iTunes and is regularly in the top podcasts in Self-Help and Health categories around the globe. Subscribe to the free motivational podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.)
1. Root Out Your Judgmental Thoughts
Ideas for personal change, number one: Root out the judgmental thoughts that you have. Root them out. What does that mean? It means identify the judgments that you have about yourself and others. Get in there, get aware right now. Some of you all, when you talk about judgments, you know you judge yourself too harshly. Some of you are awful to yourselves, and I say that with love, but you’re awful to yourself. You talk down to yourself, you mess up, and it shuts you down for three days because what you say to yourself.
Our judgments shape the quality of our lives. Our being unaware of them doesn’t work.
If you’ve judged your sibling in a certain way and you haven’t explored that, that comes into that relationship with your sibling and it can cause years or decades of strife. Whoever judged one of your siblings and that led to years of problems? Something they did, they did something when they were young, you grab that, you judge them, you identified them with your judgment, and that label, that identification with that label, shaped your family’s relationship for years. That’s important stuff to be aware of.
So notice I said two things: judgment of self and judgment of others.
Personal change—remember, the first gain of personal change is awareness.
Awareness. Being aware of our judgments of ourselves and of others—how does that show up? It is the thing that you say that defines or explains. A judgement is something that defines or explains—“Oh well, that sibling, she’s the one who—” and then you define and give her a label. “Oh you know that person on the team, every time they do this, they do it because of these reasons—” and you explain the reasons. Those are judgments. Definitions and explanations are judgments. How do you define yourself?
Those judgments there aren’t there for those who are in a significant relationship. You have a partner, lover, spouse, wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, other… What judgments have you made against them that aren’t fair? I keep bringing up problems. It’s hard to improve our lives unless we get super aware of the judgments we’ve made about other people. If we want to change society too, we’d better get really aware of these judgments about other people.
I came on here, some of you immediately judged my background; is it good or bad? You judge my intention; is it good or bad? You know, you judge a haircut; bad. But you know you’ve got to figure out at some point that we unconsciously say, “I like a shirt I don’t like a shirt. He’s funny, he’s not. He’s this, he’s that.” It’s so automatic. But the better you get at slowing down that automaticity, the more conscious you become because of stimulus, response. A lot of people don’t understand that most response is judgment. Stimulus and judgment are more accurate because response is second, judgment is first. So it’s really stimulus, then judgment. That’s the process. Information comes in, we interpret, and then we take our interpretations and we filter it now through our identity.
Many of you have seen me teach about the thought ladder, or the ladder of interpretation. Information comes in, we interpret it as good or bad, we interpret it through our identity, “What does it mean to me?”, we set an intention, then we do or do not take initiative. Then what happens is that initiative loops back to the top of ladder, information comes in. This is the ladder of interpretation, or the thought ladder if you’ve ever been taught that. Information comes in. Interpretation, which is judgment. Identity, what does it mean to me and judging the relevancy of that through me. Intention is, “Okay what do I want to do with said information?” Initiative is doing this behavior in response to all of those levels that happened. Now if that sounds complicated, here’s why that is hopeful. It means that there’s a lot of wrongs in which to pause, contemplate, think, and imbue consciousness versus an immediate response.
So I’m asking you to examine your own mind, your own bias, your own interpretation ladder, your own judgments against yourself and with other people. The better we get as a society of not immediately judging people and examining our ladder of interpretation and where it came from, the faster we will root out racism.
Without that process, we don’t have hope. We need people to look at their judgments, where they come from, and how automatic those things come from with people unconsciously. The more we slow down that ladder of interpretation, imbue consciousness into it, the more likely it is we won’t knee-jerk judge anybody based on the color of their skin, their background, their demographic, or their life experience. We will remember the truth that we all walk difficult paths, that the human story is always a story of struggle and a story of progress. Some have it easier than others, but at the same rate everyone has struggle and everybody hopes for progress.
And once we realize that, we can slow down a little bit, listen, observe, seek out an understanding of the information other people have, seek out how they’re interpreting things, seek out how identity plays a role, seek out their intention, seek out their initiative. It’s powerful.
It’s powerful. Getting away from knee-jerk reactions against ourselves—I mean some of you all, you get so mad about yourself based on how many emails you responded, to how many socials—“Oh I didn’t post on my Instagram today. I’m a loser.” I’m like, “Whoa dude The piece of information that you didn’t put up something on social media leads to your identity being a loser?” Let’s revisit that ladder of inference here. Wait, not popular enough information? Interpretation, not good. Identity, loser. Whoa.
If I could give a gift I would remind you of the complete magical quality of your existence. I would remind you how special and unique and valued and important that you are. I would remind you to recognize your blessings and I would remind you that you are stronger, more capable, and more valuable than you probably give yourselves credit for. Can I get an amen on a Friday? At least one during this whole dang thing?
I mean, if every one of us and this is what—I always tell you when I bring my own personal values in versus just what we know from research, but here’s my own personal value.
If we all just sat down one on one with more people of more diversity and had conversations about the stuff they’ve been through in their life and where they’re coming from and we had the guts to have that conversation more, we would slow down the speed in which we judge others.
Because everybody here, if I sat down at your dinner table after I bought all that food and I brought that good attitude and we had a real conversation, somewhere through eating that food or a parade, maybe there’s some wine—if there was some wine I’d be talking the whole time. Oh my gosh, get me on alcohol. Don’t give me caffeine or alcohol— the kid never shuts up. I’ll tell you what. But if we sat down and we broke some bread, or for the keto people we had some steak, listen if we had some steak or some bread or you don’t like that, if we had some broccoli and a juice,? okay? He has broccoli and juice. I promise you I’m going to learn about your hardship. I’m going to discover that you had pain. I’m going to understand that you’ve been unfairly treated somewhere in your life. I’m going to understand that you have family history, cultural history. And if we can each do that for one another, we slow down that judgment.
And you’ve heard me teach this before, right? Remember two or three months ago that hashtag I started—#judgelessfeelbetter. Now I was teaching that in a personal development context for ourselves. Like, let’s judge ourselves less—we’ll feel better. But I mean that culturally now. Let’s slow it down, let’s slow down the judgments.
That’s number one: Root out the judgement, understand it, and slow it down. I’m not telling you the outcome of that, I’m not telling you to judge anything right or wrong, I’m just saying slow it down. Be conscious, be aware.
2. Study History
Number two: You got to study history. I know this is the most boring part about what I’m going to talk about for people. But, listen, if you know anything about me, there are three things I read every single week. For 20 years—I’ve never missed—every single week. I read personal development, I read leadership or business, and I read history. Every week, there are always three books on the mantle, there are always three books somewhere around those types of topics. I’ve read a book a week on those topics every week for—this is my 23rd year.
More than anything, I’m a student of history. I know we have some history dorks here. I just think if we don’t understand history, we’re doomed to repeat it and I think it’s important that when things happen and we don’t understand them, we always go, “Oh, there’s history there.”
When I saw a lot of white influencers, friends, peers, who said they didn’t understand why people were so mad, instead of me judging them, I just thought, I hope they study more history. I didn’t say they didn’t study any history, I just thought I hope they’ll study a little more history. Because everything that we see has historical context and once we understand that, it doesn’t mean we can predict the future, it just means we understand context, feelings, what’s worked before, what hasn’t worked before.
It’s just like, hey, listen, this huge conversation and false dichotomy that happened online of, are protests good or bad? Which was a misinterpretation of people not understanding because they were associating or judging the style, the values in which protests happen. I think we can all agree looting and breaking into and hurting someone’s storefront that had nothing to do with a certain problem maybe is not a productive activity, especially if it’s your store front. If we can step into the golden rule a little bit, which I always encourage people, step into the golden rule here, step into the golden rule, step into the golden rule.
But the only reason I bring that up is because we know from historical analysis of movements that something like violence against others or looting tends not to move the conversation forward in which policies get passed faster that creates the regulation, the structure, and the leadership for change. I’m not here to tell anyone how they should feel or act, I’m here to say as a human I hope no one is violent against me. I’m here to say as a person who’s owned a store, I hope no one breaks into my business and hurts it. I say as a hopeful leader in humanity in some way, I hope we treat each other with kindness. Obviously that has not been the case.
And if you didn’t catch what I’m saying here, this isn’t a conversation of just this, we have people from around the world who are not in this exact movement that we are experiencing, where I’m talking about in the United States. We have lots of countries around the world going, “What is going on in America?!” They can’t conceptualize what’s happening and I get that because remember the historical context. If we haven’t studied the history, it’s hard to understand. It’s hard to know what worked and what didn’t work.
I’ve urged all of my friends from every background, if you didn’t read the lead up of the history from 1960 to 1965 with the Civil Rights Voting Act in ’64, the legislation in ’65, if you haven’t read that, it’s hard to understand how we’re going to get systematic change right now. It’s an important time in history that has some clues. It doesn’t have all the answers and it doesn’t say we got it right. They’re just clues.
History is full of clues about what might work and what might not work.
And so, for those of you, this is a great time to study some history. And I know that’s not the most exciting part of today’s dialogue, but if you’re really confused or you have been shocked or surprised on any angle of what is happening in America right now, history will inform you way more than social media posts.
Why is history important? Because historical analysis always gives context and multiple viewpoints, if it’s good writing. So I think it’s important. Social media, to try and understand something from a social media post is super hard. History is much more broad, deep, and multifaceted which I think is important.
3. Use Your Voice (Avoid Generalizations, Assumptions, Accusations, and Condescension)
All right, number three. This is really hard, this is really hard. The first part, outcome: use your voice. Use your voice, share your feelings, your ideas. That’s outcome. Now let’s talk to the earlier training of movements. Outcome must also have values. So here would be what I would suggest from literally 100 years of communication theory on conflict management. It is undeniable, it is not my opinion, it is not black, it is not white, it is not from any country; it is global research on conflict management negotiation and policy change.
When you speak, when you seek to share your feelings or your ideas, if you can do that without generalizing, without accusing, without speaking for others, without assumptions, and without condescension, you are scientifically more likely to get to a speedier resolution that you are both happy with than if you do not.
This is the same research in marriages, it is the same research in hostage negotiation, it is the same research in policy change, it is the same research in Congressional debate. It comes down to communicating well when we hold a position. It just does, and it’s even better when we can allow our position to be formed based on values, but the outcome and the how to have a little bit of flexibility, if you will. So, what’d I say? Let’s talk through a few of these.
Generalizations. I just had a conversation with my coaches yesterday, our certified high performance coaches, I love you all, I see some of you on here. What’s up CHPC?! These are the people that I certify in high performance coaching, hi you all! If you missed it, I talked about this for a little while and I think this is important.
Generalizations poison progressive debate.
When you say all black people are this, all police officers are this, all women are this, all this demographic is this—it’s so wrong that it immediately opens you up to a losing position. It immediately closes off conversation. And let me just give you a metaphor ’cause I don’t think this lands sometimes when I talk about it, ’cause again, I also know that some people think I’m talking about myself here in this debate. I’m not, I am talking about research in communication that’s over hundreds of years or dozens of fields of study, so please don’t think I’m taking anything personally here because this is not about me. I hope that you felt that the entire way throughout here. I’m trying to make this about your life, your family, your leadership, how you’re showing up, and I’m trying really hard to do that.
Generalizations: I don’t think I do a good job at talking about this, ’cause I try to do it sometimes, like when I say all white people and black people, it’s contextual right now; all police officers, that’s contextual right now. But let me give you a completely different type of metaphor to show and illustrate how bad generalization is in thinking.
Imagine if you were talking to a friend and you said “All cars, all cars are built this way.” Immediately that is an ignorant argument because all you gotta do is stand on the corner for a minute, watch a Tesla go by, watch a Honda Prius go by, watch a Ford F-150 go by and watch a Mercedes fancy van go by. And immediately you’re like, “You know what? They’re not!”
I had a friend yesterday who said “Brendon, I haven’t been a leader in this community here, I’ve never had this accusation or I’ve never had that, or I’ve never been pulled over, I’ve never had this”, and all week I’ve been talking with community leaders of diverse standpoints and what’s come up is that the real frustration and the fight we’re having so much right now is against generalizations.
Generalizations—that’s a big part of the fight we’re having right now and I know how easy it is to react against that. We’re having debate in our country right now that it’s so polarizing. I had a friend last night, huge community leader who runs a non-profit that does over $40 million of real social impact in the world. He’s black; his wife is white. And he said “You would think with what you’re seeing in America right now that it’s forgotten about, “entirely, interracial marriage. “You would think the conversation in America right now forgot that there’s other countries, forgot that there’s other ethnicities, forgot other demographics.” And he made the argument so well ’cause he said, “No, it’s really important right now, the focus must be Black Lives Matter.” So I just want to let you know that was communicated and that is clear and I personally believe that.
If you haven’t seen that great meme online of the house on fire meme which is that conversation between All Lives Matter versus Black Lives Matter. The reason that, if you haven’t seen it, it’s beautiful because it’s saying, we’re not saying all these other things don’t matter. We’re not generalizing that out; we’re saying this is a specific problem and we’re talking about this specific problem right now. We’re not talking about these other specific problems, this is what we’re highlighting right now.
Just please remember, when we were talking about COVID-19, you would’ve thought that no other diseases in the world existed. How many follow what I’m talking about? Because the focus right then, friends, the focus right then is on COVID-19. They’re not saying AIDS research isn’t important, they’re not saying that cancer research isn’t important, they’re not saying that these other things, these other health maladies around the world are not important. They’re just saying, hey, COVID’s a real problem right now. That is how we might think about the generalizations that have been made right now in which we want to generalize everything.
But sometimes there’s a specific thing we should talk about. Right now, the specific context is Black Lives Matter. It doesn’t mean that all lives don’t matter. It means we work on a specific issue and a lot of people haven’t understood that. It doesn’t make any other issue wrong, it doesn’t exclude—it’s called the exclusion fallacy if you’ve ever studied debate.
The exclusion fallacy, it’s where we pretend someone else’s position isn’t correct because it doesn’t include everything else.
It’d be easy to say, “Brendon, it is so wrong what you did today in your little livecast there, Brendon. It’s wrong what you did because you didn’t even talk about the horrors of cancer. You did a whole livecast for two hours and you never talked about people dying of cancer.” Well, you’re right, I didn’t talk about it but that would be the exclusion fallacy; to make my arguments wrong because I also didn’t cover every other topic under the sun.
And I bring this up to you because another hook that you’re going to get in your activism or your leadership where people say, “Well, what about all these other things?” And your job is to help people not try to take a problem and generalize everything, but be specific in what you’re talking about.
Specificity is what makes a debate become productive.
Agreeing on specifically what we are talking about. If we don’t agree on specifically what we are talking about, then we start throwing in biases and arguments from every other language, every other conversation, every other issue. No one can address every issue in every conversation. Can I get an amen on a Friday? You can’t, you can’t. I had another black leader who I was talking with yesterday who said that she had been hammered because she did an hour-long broadcast, kind of like this, and again, she’s a person of color and she did not bring up economic disparity. So she was using examples and she didn’t bring up, what she was attacked for is she was doing a historical conversation, she did not bring up the Poor People’s Campaign that Martin Luther King was seeking to initiate after the Civil Rights legislation.
So if you haven’t studied Martin Luther King’s last two years of life, he had a major value pivot from just equality and he really decided his life’s work was to take on poverty. My friend who was having a conversation about that time, she was attacked viciously for not bringing up poverty in her conversation. So, was she wrong?
Now, you could say yes or no, right? But the issue there is you need to understand as leaders, and this is really important, I hope you hear me here, and this goes to all diverse leaders here: you must always be prepared that when you make an argument, people who attack you for what you have excluded, you must realize this. ‘Cause once you realize it you don’t get angry and defensive and you can acknowledge it instead. And when you acknowledge what was left out and why it was left out, you can now de-escalate that accusation.
It’s why it’s so hard to speak up for any of us, black, white, any other demographic, is really difficult is because we know and that’s what my fear is, is everyone knows no matter what they say it’s not enough and the reason we are hearing what we are saying is not enough is because we didn’t include a comprehensive analysis and discussion of every issue under the sun. But once you know that’s going to come, you can breathe. I know how it feels. Trust me, I really know how it feels. So you do what you can.
For those who’ve ever attended our live events, I try to have diversity on our stages when I’m not the person training, but I don’t always have a woman, I don’t always have a person of color, I don’t always have a non-American speaker. It just doesn’t happen because I’m training to a specific curriculum and I have to explain that to the audiences. And it’s difficult and you’re not going to get it right every time. But what you need to know is you will be accused every time. And that’s what happened to my black friend yesterday of being attacked because she didn’t, in other people’s opinion, appropriately or comprehensively discuss poverty enough and economic injustice.
But she had one hour and she was going down this lane and so, here is what’s important for you all to know: that when you use your voice, please listen to me very closely on this one, this will help you so much; when you go to use your voice, know what lane you’re going to play, what the specific thing you’re going to discuss is and now here’s the magic move. You frame the conversation at the very beginning of your post or the very beginning of your video and you let people know you aren’t going to be able to take on everything. That, “In today’s conversation, I’m going to take on this little piece. It means I probably won’t get to discuss this, this, this and this, and I’m going to stay here.”
When you do that, you defuse that inherent part of people that wants to blame that you didn’t cover everything. Raise your hand if you follow what I’m talking about here. Because you saw me do that here, at the very beginning of our discussion, I said, “Listen, I can really only talk about this and my experience. I wish I could have this person on or that person on but I chose to do this because that’s where our contract was. I’m not here to take a political stance, I’m not going to talk about this type of politics, I’m not going to go here ’cause that’s just not what I’m here for so I’m going to stay in this lane, here’s what we’re going to cover today.”
Oh my gosh, you have to remember to do that! Leaders, you got to do that in your conversations with teams, you got to do that with your family, because if you just bumble into an issue and you don’t set the frame around what part of the issue you’re going to take on, you’re going to get pummeled in debate. So, setting the frame helps avoid the impulse to generalize. And I know this will really help you in your communication and in negotiation this is everything. When you go to negotiate a deal, the first part of that conversation has to be about what you’re not going to negotiate. Everyone follow?
Some of you know I had to do divorce mediation and this was a pivotal three years of my life and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do because I was, what would I be, I’d be 20, 21, and 22 years old. And I was doing court-referred divorce mediation. So here I am, a 20 year-old kid, I’m not even in a relationship, no one wants to date me. I’m completely failing in dating but I’ve got to mediate a divorce. You know what I was taught to do in that situation? At the very beginning of the mediation you have to tell the couple in conflict what you’re not going to discuss today. And if you miss that part of mediation, you’re done! That is going to go super nasty sideways. And some of you’ve been there before. So in other words, you have to talk about specifically what will be included and excluded in your argument.
Great lawyers all know this. If you’re talking to a jury, you’d better get that out real fast. It’s called framing the debate. What’s included, what’s excluded, because if you don’t do that they will attack you for both: what you excluded and what you chose to include. Super smart, you’ve got to be aware. Is this helpful, you all? This is like, oh my gosh, if you’re going to talk to the kids about what’s going on, be like, “Okay, hey kids, today let’s talk what we think about when a police officer overuses their power and attacks somebody.” But let’s not talk about presidential politics, let’s not talk about this topic, let’s just try to aim here and have a productive discussion here and maybe over here and then tomorrow over here.
It is about that, listen, specificity will change your life. ‘Cause see, what you do is you generalize. So if ask you, “Why aren’t you healthier?”, it’s easy to generalize. “Well, I’m lazy, I’m lacking self-discipline, I am a fan of Netflix, I am, and I am, I am.” Oh my goodness! You know what always falls after “I am?” A generalization. And those can be dangerous in our identity. So what are we after? Specificity.
If you say, “Why aren’t you healthy? Let’s talk specifically about your diet right now.” Guess what, we have a productive conversation for 10 minutes. Then I say, “Okay, let’s specifically talk about your sleep.” We talk about your sleep, oh, that’s productive. “Let’s specifically talk about your workout.” Oh, but if I go to you and I say, “Let’s talk about your health”, we won’t have a productive hour. How many follow? So when you make things specific you make them productive; write it down.
When you make things specific you make them productive.
You also protect yourself from that conversation of why didn’t she or he do all this other stuff? Okay, so use your voice to share your feelings, your ideas without generalizations.
Number two: without assumptions about other people’s backgrounds. Be careful about assuming. I had a great conversation with somebody who attacked me online and I was open to what they said and I shared some information about my background in that area and they called me defensive and I said I’m sorry if it felt defensive, I was trying to explain that I have experience in this area and here’s what it was. But it doesn’t mean I know everything and I’m open to learning. And they had assumed that I didn’t know anything about this topic we are facing, equality, right now without having any understanding of what I’ve taught, trained, worked with non-profit leaders for 20 years of my life. I haven’t done enough and I don’t know enough and I’m not done, but I’m also not ignorant to the situation at hand.
I’m also widely networked and informed in the actual leaders of this movement, so, yeah, I’m a white guy and I’m a scrawny white guy, and I’m annoying as hell and I deserve all of the vitriol towards myself. But in this area, I’m actually pretty informed for a dumb white guy. And so, I let them know, I explained that with grace and aplomb but still open. But this person made the wrong first move which was assuming something about me without asking.
We had a prominent media personality, a person of color, yesterday who said all of her friends are asking how they should deal with this and she was making this joke, she said “I’m replying back to them”, she goes, “Just because I’m black, I don’t know how to create social justice reform.” And she was funny about it ’cause she’s like, what, because that person is this? It’s the same thing as—just because a person is of color doesn’t mean they read everything about anything in the Civil Rights movement. Just because a person is a police officer doesn’t mean that they’re quick to violence.
When we make assumptions, we get in trouble. We get in trouble. If you’re going to assume something about somebody, assume that they’ve struggled a lot, that they’ve had pain and hurt in their life, and they want a better life. That’s a safe one.
Anything outside those bounds is not what you lead with. I’m not here to say that we can’t assume certain things, structurally, historically. Nope, we can. But at an individual level, here’s my suggestion to you: even if those of you don’t agree with me, “no, we can assume these things about people, Brendon, that’s okay.” I want you to hear what I’m saying.
Don’t lead with that argument if you want a productive conversation that leads to shared outcomes. You can make the assumption but if you lead with the argument of the assumption, it doesn’t open the door for conversation. And if you want to sway someone’s opinion or someone’s actions on something, you have to sway the door open at the beginning of the conversation. Not closed.
You want to make a change in someone’s thinking, you got to make sure that your thinking is open first. Super hard. That’s super hard.
Okay, next big idea: accusations. Accusations. Be wary of accusing people of any specific intention or malice. Accusing people of intention or malice. That’s where you say to someone who you don’t know and you did not observe or you don’t have history with, accusing them of something is a slippery slope. It shuts the door of conversation, but it also, it’s very dangerous.
By the way, all accusations are built on assumptions. Always know that: all accusations are built on a set of assumptions.
All arguments all built on a set of assumptions. Not all assumptions are good, not all assumptions are bad, but they’re all dangerous. All assumptions are dangerous because there’s always a lot of holes in them and do you want to go out to sea with a ship with a lot of holes in it? Well, then don’t ship your argument with a lot of assumptions in it.
Oh, that was like one of those quotables that goes on a fridge somewhere, you know what I’m saying? I don’t even know what I just said there but I heard the ship thing and there were holes in the ship and the ship became the argument in the next sentence, it was metaphorical and very useful at the same time. I just want you to have a little fun at this and be wary of your accusations. Accusations are built on assumptions and assumptions have a lot of holes in them and it leaves you open to a lot of debate and I think there are ways to be very productive without making accusations against anyone.
And if there are accusations to be made, make them as statements of observable behavior. You all took conflict management, right? If you haven’t studied conflict management, it’s as simple as if your spouse walks in the door and they’ve been leaving the house a little bit of a mess and you had to clean up that mess and they come in the door and you say to them, “You know what, you don’t care about me! You don’t care about this house! You’re lazy!” I think the research would show that there’s not going to be a lot of intimacy. Wild guess, total left field Brendon opinion kind of thing.
How do we share and spread love when we make these assumptions about other people? Instead, we make statements of observable behavior. Instead, we can say, “When I came home today I noticed the vacuum cleaner was out.” That’s observable. I came home, vacuum is out. You didn’t have to say, “You’re lazy, you don’t care about me, you don’t love me.” Those are all accusations and assumptions. Instead, we observed, we noted what was there. And that’s really important especially in times of crisis.
A lot of the inability for some people to understand the Black Lives movement came from when, unfortunately, media or people portrayed what was happening with police brutality and sometimes wasn’t specific in describing and made inferences or made assumptions or accusations about, and they combined two very dangerous things: accusations with generalizations. When you do that, it closes productive debate.
It’s why, and I got hammered for this and I always share with you, I’m sharing a little bit about my experience in this one. I came out day one and I said all officers involved in the killing of George Floyd need to be arrested. And immediately I got people saying, “How can you blame police?” or, “Why do you think all police are bad?” I’m like, “I didn’t say all police are bad. Those men that killed that man, they should be charged.” I could observe they did this, that happened, okay, let’s start the conversation. Let’s start the process. Let’s start the process of examining what happened and I recognize that even saying that creates feelings for people, but my effort was to try and be very specific and not trying to accuse all police of this. Not trying to accuse George Floyd of that. Just saying in custody, that man died. That needs action. That’s the law. If a person is killed in custody, that needs action.
And so, wow, do I understand how that can create vitriol ’cause trust me, I saw it, I got it. And so in any wiggle room that I might leave that it might sound like an accusation or a generalization or assumption, I open myself up and I think it’s really important for everyone to hear this.
If you’re going to make what you think is an accusation, just describe what is specifically there that others can observe. Don’t assume intention, don’t assume background, don’t accuse with generalization. Say what you see.
Because now, without guessing all the stuff behind what we see, we can start the conversation with what we both observed, not what we both fear, not what we’ve been conditioned by; everything. So again, I’m coming back to the specificity and I want to let you know if you want productive debate, accusing is, be very careful, and again, this applies to your families, this applies to your spouse, it applies to your kids. If you’re having conflict with your kids, listen to your judgments, your generalizations, and your accusations against them.
You want to, forgive my language, piss off a teenager, start accusing them of a bunch of stuff. And watch what happens with base impulse. They will light up, they will get ready to burn the house down. Those who have teenagers know exactly what I’m talking about. Once you, man, you litter accusations on a teenager and you’re peppering war. You gotta understand this, so this applies to your families as well.
Okay, last piece here, I think this is important on this specific point: condescension. Condescending. Be very aware, I would love for you, each and every one of you, who post on major issues in the world to read your post three or four times and just ask if you are sounding condescending to any demographic or group. And I will share openly with you, I promised to share some things I’ve learned in this process. I think I’ve gotten this one wrong several times over the last years. And what I mean by that is it wasn’t intentional, but sometimes for me… For those of you who have academic backgrounds or you conduct scientific research and had any of it collaborated or corroborated or peer-reviewed, you know how important it is to share where you draw your research from. To share what holds up, if you will, your evidence, your arguments.
And in years past, ’cause I come from that, I come from an academic research base; in years past when I explained that to people I genuinely did not understand the way that I was explaining, it sounded not only defensive… That it could sound condescending. As in, “I know this, you don’t.”
And while my intention wouldn’t be there, I’ve been busted on that in the past, even recently and deserved to be, because I hit send too fast or I’d say it too fast. And you have to listen through that filter and I’m learning to do that more. I faced this years ago when I started teaching business. How do I explain I know how to give some advice to a beginning business person and at the same not say to them, “Hey, you might not know this?” Because when you tell someone they don’t know something, even if it’s true, it sounds condescending. How many of you know what I’m talking about? It’s like this slippery slope and I want to let you know I don’t know how to navigate that a lot of times. I might not have navigated it in this; I’m sure some of you feel like something I said today was condescending and I just hope that you know my heart enough and my values enough of inclusion in conversation.
It’s hard! It’s hard, it’s hard for me as a student of history not to get really upset when people do things that we know doesn’t help. And when you tell someone they’re doing something that doesn’t help, that sounds condescending even if it’s fact-based. How many of you know what I’m talking about? Oh, it’s so hard! And I just want to let you know I don’t know the answer, I don’t have it right and all I can ask you to be is just be aware of it.