How to Correct, Properly.
Ever felt the urge to correct other people’s errant behavior?
This spiritual-religious article explains the ideal way to do so.
But first, a brief lesson on sociology and “rules”…
Rules Taught and Rules Not Taught
There are two types of rules: explicit and implicit. Those we’ve been told, and those we’ve learned without anyone teaching us.
Some rules, we’ve been told. Like when someone sneezes, you say “Bless you.” When you request or receive something, you say “Please” or “Thank you.” We’ve been taught those rules – often by our parents and teachers.
These are rules that were “explained” to us.
On the other hand, there are certain rules we follow even though we’ve never been told to follow them. For example:
- When you get in an elevator, you know you’re supposed to face the door.
- You know you’re not supposed to fart or pick your nose in public.
- If you go to Starbuck’s and the place is empty except for one guy sitting alone at a table – you know you shouldn’t sit down next to that guy. (It would be weird, right?)
The “implied” rules are those no one told us about, but we know.
The Stronger of the Two
According to sociologists, the implicit rules – those which have never been articulated, spoken, or specified – are harder to break than explicit rules.
The implicit rules – the ones nobody ever told us directly – we’ve internalized. As such, we believe in them with greater sincerity compared to rules that we’ve specifically been told. Our brains treat implicit rules with the utmost respective, as if we ourselves came up with them.
If you think something is your idea (rather than someone else’s idea) and you’ve internalized it, then you’re more inclined to strongly believe in it.
Think about the difference between when someone tells you a moral outright, versus when you infer the moral of the story from a story, metaphor, or allegory. When we think the idea is our own as opposed to something that someone else is feeding us, it feels much more “real.”
An implicit rule is harder to break than an explicit rule. For example: It would be much more difficult to stand the wrong way in an elevator than to not say, “Bless you” when someone sneezes.
How to Correct
Think about someone whom you’d like to “teach a lesson.” Wouldn’t the lesson be much more effective if instead of them hearing you tell them (explicit rule), they believe they came up with it themselves (implicit rule)?
Spiritual-religious minded people who want to encourage others to do what’s right must not preach. Rather, they should lead by example. By watching such a leader, perhaps someone will think, “I would like to be like that person – I shall strive to not be rude.”
Don’t tell people what to do – instead show them what to do through your example.
Live what you want to preach.
Don’t admonish someone for not returning their shopping cart to the corral of carts at the grocery store – instead, return their cart for them. Live an exemplary life, and people will internalize from your example what they ought to do.
(Granted, this strategy cannot hold a candle to the short-term joy to be had when we really tell someone off.)
Let me end today’s article with a beautiful quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:
Preach the gospel often, but use words only when necessary.
Don’t those 10 little words speak volumes?
This week’s spiritual-religious advice is to heed the words of St. Francis, along with the prophet Micah‘s words (paraphrased): Go out and be godly. Teach the world through your living it what it means to be good, to be kind, to seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with (the) God (of your understanding).