As long as I can remember there has been a lot of talk about our rights as individuals in a democratic society and about what freedom of speech is.
Without a doubt my peers and I have grown up in the fastest period of growth and change for all of mankind, but particularly for women.
I was born in the early 60’s when many women only worked until they married at which point it was expected that they would have children and care for their husbands full-time. You could pay off a home on one wage. My aunty had what was known as a Glory Box which was full of hand embroidered doylies, tablecloths and other household goodies and she worked to fill it in preparation for married life. Mum had a machine in the laundry with two rollers that she hand fed every item of clothing through in order to squeeze out the excess water prior to placing on the line, we only had one car, the TV was black and white and we had to get up and go over to it to change the channels or adjust the volume.
Manufacturing was not what it was today. It was advantageous back then to do a lot of things for yourself and people paid a lot of money for everyday things so they looked after them because they had to work so hard to get them in the first place. Unlike today when most things are manufactured cheaper than the sum total of the cost of their parts and it is cheaper for example to buy a new printer than it is to replace the ink when it runs out.
Whole industries have fallen by the wayside as a result of the internet and computers and the way in which we do business now and the world is so much smaller than it ever was because we have access to it in so many ways without even having to leave our own homes.
We now live in exciting times full of opportunities and rights many people never thought possible and yet we seem to struggle even more with relationships and with our ability to co-exist in peace and harmony than ever. It seems that few are able to publicly express an opinion or heartfelt fear without being attacked, sworn at, called names, told to go and die, and in the worst of cases, being spat on, physically intimidated, harmed and even murdered.
What the hell? Where are all the adults?
Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with people having feelings about someone else’s opinions. Nor do I have an issue with them expressing those feelings in a respectful way. I just don’t understand how some people think their feelings give them the right to inflict such ugliness onto another human being? And it comes right back to our individual ability to be self-aware and to self-manage.
Having Emotional Intelligence means I am aware of my feelings, I can identify the intensity of them and I can manage, sooth and resolve them in a positive, functional way. I have self-esteem which means I am not reliant on the good opinion or agreement of others in order to feel ok about myself and until I practice Emotional Intelligence I am literally in danger of giving responsibility for my behaviour to anyone who has an opinion that differs to mine.
A great example of how we give our power away comes from one of my teenage clients who was in all sorts of trouble for punching another child on the bus. He was being consistently provoked by this other child and because he didn’t know what else he could do in the situation he threatened the other child saying, “If you do that one more time I am going to hit you.”
Of course the other child provoked him again and my client felt compelled to follow through on his word. But when I questioned him further about the chain of events, he soon realised that as soon as he threatened that other child, he gave his power away. His behaviour from that time forward was dependent on what the other child chose to do and that other child now had full responsibility for how my client behaved. Needless to say my client is much more thoughtful now about how he manages himself in those sorts of situations.
I think a lot of people are terrified that their rights and freedoms are being eroded and I think many feel powerless and angry as a result. This is perfectly natural and understandable especially when the media loves to feed us so many stories of terror and powerlessness. Lots of people are on edge and literally frightened for their lives.
It all goes wrong, however, when someone expresses an opinion about something important that is contrary to our own thoughts and we react to them out of fear and anger instead of responding to our own need regulate and sooth our own feelings around the subject.
Our feelings are our feelings. We need to respond to them. We need to care for them. We are responsible for them even if someone else triggers them.
When someone else is expressing their opinion based on their feelings, they are their feelings. They need to respond to themselves. They need to care for themselves. They are responsible for themselves even if my opinion triggers them.
This does not make it ok to say and do whatever we like without care for the people around us. Being mindful of how our words and actions are impacting on others in our environment is the next stage of the development of Emotional Intelligence but the first thing we need to understand is that it really is ok to be different and express different opinions. That is how Emotional Intelligence enhances our relationships and helps us to feel safe while we are all enjoying freedom of speech.
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