By Letesha Nelson, Goodman Center CEO
Can we agree it’s a little rough out there? I know it’s not just my imagination. I think we’re seeing our national culture become numb to acts of rudeness and some people seem to be embracing incivility.
Weeks ago, when we had those warm sunny days, I went for a walk and listened to a Hidden Brain podcast. The topic? How rudeness affects us.
And I gotta tell you — they dished up some sobering facts. Shankar Vedantam, the velvet-voiced host of Hidden Brain, interviewed Christine Porath, a behavioral scientist who researches how incivility impacts us.
It does a number on us.
“Incivility can hijack your emotions. When someone is rude, your brain becomes flooded with emotions and that makes it hard to process things.”
Incivility can hijack your emotions. When someone is rude, your brain becomes flooded with emotions and that makes it hard to process things. Porath refers to it as “the storm inside your brain.” I’ve felt that. Who hasn’t?
I was surprised to learn that simply witnessing rudeness has a profound affect. Porath found that cognitive performance goes down by 30% — it took people much longer to answer simple math equations or to recall basic information. Physical responses were delayed. And it dulls creativity. When people were asked to come up with creative things to do with a brick, normally they’d suggest things like “use it as a doorstop or bookend.” If they’d just seen a brief video of rudeness, ideas were more like “smash a finger,” “trip someone,” “throw it through a window.” Disturbingly aggressive, right?
And, on top of that, 95% of the participants were totally unaware they were affected. At all.
“So, I LOVE that in this place — the Goodman Community Center — I know the children, teens and older adults in our programs can breathe easy. Because our staff have their backs.”
I don’t think its oversimplifying it to say when rudeness is allowed to flourish, we put ourselves, our families — our communities at risk.
Just think: Every kid who is bullied not only has to endure the bullying, but will have a harder time learning, expressing herself and solving problems. Acts of racism are acts of incivility. Yet every day, young people of color are expected to excel — despite that. Older adults can sometimes be rudely dismissed. Transgender people are being threatened. It goes on.
And all of us who are witnessing any or all of these incivilities are affected. Negatively.
So, I LOVE that in this place — the Goodman Community Center — I know the children, teens and older adults in our programs can breathe easy. Because our staff have their backs. They are bound and determined to BE THE GOOD in their lives and help them BE THE GOOD in their own circles of influence.
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