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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Four Layers of Politeness

By Judith Ashley

Do you ever have nights when you just can't slip over the edge into sleep?

Last night was one of those nights for me.

Finally, around 2 a.m. I got up and jotted down some notes - those pesky thoughts that just wouldn't go away for one: ideas for other blog posts, thoughts about something I read in a blog post  Melania Tolan put up on Google and a comment Michelle Knight made (she was one of the three young Cleveland, OH women held captive and tortured by Ariel Castro.

How does that all fit in with my current theme of exploring Dr. William Glasser's concepts?

One of the fundamental premises is All behavior is purposeful. 

Does that mean if I bump into someone at the grocery store I did that on purpose. Most likely not. But we all engage in behaviors that have consequences we don't plan for.

When Mr. Castro kidnapped the young women, held them captive and tortured them he did know what he was doing in that moment. Perhaps he was "sick" but he did know what he was doing. He did know he was inflicting pain, inflicting harm. After the fact he being sick doesn't mean he didn't know what he was doing. In reports I've read, he said he was sick and wanted someone to stop him. He even may have regretted it but not enough to release them, to stop, to get help for himself or any number of things he could have done.

Judith Ashley
I sometimes wonder what went wrong before the young women got into his car. Did they really not have any uneasy feelings or a sense that something was wrong?

Not that I'm an expert but my 40+ years in social services certainly has exposed me to predators and victims. My thoughts are not all that original in some ways but they are what I jotted down in the middle of the night.

The Four Layers of Politeness:

1. Women of a certain age were raised with similar messages. They were told to be nice to everyone, to excuse other people's intrusive behavior, to look at what they'd done if someone was abusive to them. Hearing that from early childhood "good girls don't shout, hit, kick, scream, yell, fight - well you get the picture". Women, in particular raised in this way, often don't even see a problem or feel uncomfortable.

2. Women of a certain age and those a little younger feel uncomfortable, maybe even see a problem but they excuse the perpetrator's behavior away. "He didn't know any better." "She's only a child."

3. Women, usually a little younger, feel uncomfortable and see a problem but choose not to act. What if they are wrong? What if they embarrass the other person? What if doing something makes it worse?

4. Women and now girls, in my opinion, often recognize the problem. Taking action is more prevalent today than ever before. How to handle difficult social situations, like on a date, is taught in some schools. Girls are encouraged to have and use their voices.

An example: I'm one of those "women of a certain age." When I was in elementary school and a boy grabbed a girls breast or purse to pull her Kotex out and run down the hall with it, girls were told "boys will be boys" and other than maybe a "you shouldn't do that", nothing happened to the boy. Today, a boy who did anything like that would be at least suspended from school.

Read about Ted Bundy and see how these Layers of Politeness worked for him.

Segueing back to Dr. Glasser - all behavior is purposeful. What do you want when you make the choice to act or not act; to perhaps appear foolish or embarrassed or if your inner warning signal is right on, live another day?

It's fairly easy to determine what our purpose is when we are kind and caring towards each other but what about when we aren't? All behavior is purposeful so when we snap at someone, cut someone off in traffic, say something mean or threatening - what is it we want in that moment.

Which Layer of Politeness were you raised with?
How have you overcome it or have you?

The women in The Sacred Women's Circle series were all raised with one of the Four Layers of Politeness being dominate. When you read their stories, see if you can figure out what those early childhood messages were. Let me know what you think.

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