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Dehumanizing Always Starts With Language | Brené Brown

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.

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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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Verbal violations
  • Not allowing you to speak or be heard.
  • Yelling at you.
  • Saying things that are derogatory about your integrity and character.
  • Gossiping about you.
Psychological/emotional boundary violations
  • Preying upon your sense of self and self-esteem
  • Using what you’ve told them in confidence against you
  • Lying to you
  • Criticizing you
  • Manipulating you
  • Mocking you
  • Making demands of your time
  • Bullying you
  • Lording a superior attitude over you
Physical violations
  • Moving into your personal space
  • Touching you without permission
  • Being inappropriate or too familiar towards you
  • Violating your privacy
  • Damaging or destroying your personal property
  • Threatening you with physical harm

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What forgiveness is

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or minimising the pain we feel; nor is it about excusing others. 

Forgiveness means making a conscious and deliberate decision to let go of our fe...

A proper apology

One thing that often helps people to forgive is receiving an apology.

A good apology ideally has three parts: an admission of responsibility, a demonstration of sorrow, and doing something to remedy the offence, or prevent a repetition of it. 

Apologies and understanding

An apology is not telling others we feel sorry they are angry it is telling them we understand why they are angry with us, regret making them feel that way, and wanting to take their anger away. 

An effective apology is showing the person we understand why they are hurting.

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