This blog post deals with generalizations, what Emotional Fitness Training refers to as thoughtless thinking, or what the experts refer to as fallacious or faulty thinking.
Talking about groups of people will always offend someone, and rightfully. We are all guilty of name calling. The labelling of groups of people is generalization and generalizations are common forms of thoughtless, fallacious, and faulty thinking – call it what you will.
Some of my dearest young friends who tout “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” are generalizing by saying so, as are we old folk who bemoan the actions of the younger generation. Some of us do so only in our in our heads, but even silent name calling or labelling hardens hearts and erodes emotional fitness. This is particularly true when the labels get applied to groups of people.
This post reflects my thinking about all sides involved in the ranting surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. Most of the ranting involves what I mean by thoughtless in two ways. The first refers to not thinking much about what you are saying. Usually, such thoughtless generalizations are part of an embedded cultural belief. This type of generalization is thoughtless in an off-handed way. When such talk is meant to offend and or used to inflame, it represents a different kind of thoughtless behavior – thoughtless logic by generalization.
No matter whether you are being thoughtless with no ill intent or with malice, logic has failed and emotion has ruled. Emotional fitness is about thinking carefully before acting. The more we examine our behavior and thinking logically; the more we act wisely. The more wisely we act, the stronger our emotional fitness.
Emotional fitness Training tips for avoiding generalizations about people
Tip one: Focus on specific behaviors.
Tip two: Talk of specific acts of specific people.
Tip three: When labeling behaviors think of the following six words:
Some unacceptable words can be linked. These include thoughtlessly cruel or dangerous, or criminal or evil.
Tip four: Feel free to loudly label cultural, societal, and religious practices as evil; but never assume the label applies to all in the category named.
Tip five: When labeling a person’s behavior think how cruel, how often, to how many. Also think balance: how kind, how often, to how many, and for what reason. Do the same with cultures.
George Zimmerman’s behavior was dangerous to himself when he did not stay in his car. Trayvon Martin’s behavior was dangerous to himself when he was dressed gangsta style, and out late at night in a neighborhood where he stood out as not belonging.
Then there remains what happened when the two met. Did either back off seeking peace or did their fear turn to fight instead of flight?
Apply similar ratings on a broader scale when thinking of countries, cultures or religious beliefs.
Tip six: Most criminal behavior is bound by a statute of limitations. In another recent media furor, Paula Deen was essentially destroyed for having used the N-word almost twenty years ago. Hurtful and cruel behavior, probably thoughtless given the then racist culture she lived in at the time. That culture remains racist, but to a somewhat lesser degree. That racism should be faulted, but Deen should have been given a pass on the basis of time passed.
Tip seven: When in doubt about an individual’s behavior, practice kindness; when not in doubt think very carefully about the human tendency to generalize before you start labeling or name-calling and even then follow the rules above.
The jury in the George Zimmerman trial thought deeply; the law requires juries to do so. They apparently had doubts about some of the facts presented by both sides. In America, as was said in another high-profile trial, “If the shoe don’t fit, you must acquit” which also means if you have reasonable doubts about what happened you must find the person innocent.
Questioning strongly held beliefs is not easy, but if we are to find peace on earth each one of us needs to stop thinking thoughtlessly.
Remember what matters; be grateful; practice kindness; laugh; play; enjoy the good; speak out against the bad, but in thoughtful ways. What you do and how you do it matters.
For all you do to support my efforts, thank you.