I think our instincts say a lot about us. In less modern times instincts kept you alive and fed. Today though, or instincts seems to serve a very different and less primal purpose. In social settings it seems to me that our instincts have really started to do us a disservice.
What am I talking about?
Here’s what happened to me today. I sent out a link to all of my coworkers to the photos from our recent company Christmas party. The link contained a few photos with captions (for awards given at the party) and lots of pictures of the fun had during the evening. In one caption there was a tiny typo. In less than ten minutes I had no less than a dozen people call or email me telling me about the mistake. I fixed it in under a minute and still, hours later, people are making jokes about it to me. Not one person said “good job.” The only thing anyone had to say was that I’d made a mistake.
Why is that a person’s first instinct? Why do we feel the need to point out errors? And not just point them out, but laugh at them? I know I’ve been guilty of doing this in the past, but from today on, I promise to not do this.
Now, I don’t have a problem with having a mistake pointed out to me. I’m a writer, I can take criticism quite well. But that comes from a very different place. That comes from a desire to help someone improve. What I got today was different. That was belittling and hurtful and didn’t make me feel as though I was being helped to improve. It felt as though all of the comments were only aimed at one thing – humiliation.
So why is that our our instinct? Why do we tear down first? Why don’t we first think to say something nice? Why don’t we go with praise first?
Because I didn’t respond in a joking manner to all the comments now I’m being called “too sensitive.” I’m being told to loosen up and learn to take a joke. I get that their comments stemmed from humor, but why is that funny? Why is it funny to give someone a hard time about a mistake? Why is it funny to embarrass someone?
I’ve always been very introverted so I have never been able to take this sort of “ribbing” humor very well. It has always felt hurtful to me. And I’ve always felt like there was something wrong with me for being hurt by this teasing behavior.
But maybe I’m not wrong.
Maybe society is wrong. Maybe somewhere we shifted from the instinct to be kind and switched to an instinct to be cruel. Because that is what it is, even wrapped in humor, it feels cruel.
I know that I don’t enjoy being teased like this. So I resolve to never tease anyone like this myself.
I resolve to be kind first. I hope you will too.