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Dehumanizing Always Starts With Language | Brené Brown

Feeling emotionally unsafe

When people feel emotionally threatened, they are not speaking of getting their feelings hurt or being forced to listen. It is when they experience dehumanizing language and behavior.

Dehumanizing is making someone seem not worthy of humane treatment.

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Dehumanizing Always Starts With Language | Brené Brown

Dehumanizing Always Starts With Language | Brené Brown

https://brenebrown.com/blog/2018/05/17/dehumanizing-always-starts-with-language/

brenebrown.com

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Key Ideas

Set boundaries

We will all, at some time, experience a real, face-to-face conflict.

Do we have to put up with someone tearing us down or questioning the right to exist? Is there a line that shouldn't be crossed?

The line is usually drawn at physical and emotional safety.

Feeling emotionally unsafe

When people feel emotionally threatened, they are not speaking of getting their feelings hurt or being forced to listen. It is when they experience dehumanizing language and behavior.

Dehumanizing is making someone seem not worthy of humane treatment.

Dehumanization

Dehumanization has fueled innumerable acts of violence, human rights violations, war crimes, and genocides like slavery, torture and human trafficking.

Groups are depicted as "less than" or evil when they are targeted based on their identity - gender, ideology, skin color, religion or age. The group eventually falls out of the scope of who is protected by our moral code.

Dehumanizing always starts with language

Images often follow after language.

  • During the Holocaust, Nazis described Jews as subhuman. Jews were called rats and depicted as disease-carrying rodents - from military pamphlets to children's books.
  • Hutus in the Rwanda genocide called the Tutsis cockroaches. 
  • Serbs called Bosnians aliens.

How to rehumanize

We can rehumanize in the same way as dehumanizing - with words and images.

  • Be careful when you push the people whom you disagree with into the territory of moral exclusion.
  • Find the face of God in everyone you meet, including politicians, media and strangers.

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Feeling Offended

Taking offence is an experience of negative emotions triggered by a word or deed which conflicts with what is expected or believed to be correct, suitable, moral and acceptable behaviour.

Kinds Of Expectations
  • Foreseeable expectations are those which we assume others will know based on our interpersonal relationship with them and feel offended when we see it is breached.
  • Reciprocity expectation is a hope that our favors and kind deeds towards someone are repaid by them.
  • Equity expectations happen when we want to be treated fairly and equally.

These expectations, values and beliefs are all based on our past experiences.

A Sense Of Entitlement

Believing in our values forms our identity and provides us with a sense of entitlement to feel offended because we feel these 'sacred' values should be respected. 

This is amplified by being exposed to a lot of different points of view on social media.

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Anger and Aggression
  • Anger: An emotion felt when we believe we have been wronged.
  • Aggression: is an act of expression of the anger, by our words our actions. Aggression can be insults, sarcas...
Validation and Boundaries
  • We can try and validate the anger felt by an individual by making them know that their anger is maybe justified while putting firm but respectful boundaries on their aggression.
  • We then need to be clear about what type of aggression we are willing to tolerate, setting boundaries on the unacceptable.
  • We may have to put our foot down and be ready to leave the conversation or escalate the issue, without falling into the trap of guilt and emotion.
  • If possible, we need to restart the conversation when things have cooled down, and diffuse the issue in a calm way.
Avoiding Speculative Self-Talk

Unchecked self-talk can easily turn into self-delusion. The stories we create almost always make you look like the good guy and cannot be termed as objective.

  • The way to get out of this speculative self-delusion is to avoid any speculation about other people's anger, at least initially.
  • Make sure to note down the facts of the situation. This can make the story less according to your gut instinct, and more towards the objective reality.

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