What do you do when someone behaves so poorly that it scares you? How do you use positivity to address poor behavior when what you want to do is slap the pee-bo-snoddy out of the person?
For me, given my Scots-Irish ancestry in what Malcolm Gladwell refers to as a “culture of honor,” it’s easy to go from cool as a cucumber to hot as a pistol when somebody offends my sensibilities and does something so potentially dangerous as intentionally going at a fairly high rate of speed the wrong way against one-way traffic.
Especially when it’s someone in a leadership role.
With students in the car along for the wrong-way ride.
For what I later discovered was the second time in the same week.
At the time, I was absolutely floored by the behavior and communicated my disbelief and displeasure with clear (though still polite) signals; you may be surprised to learn that I did not communicate my displeasure “uni-digitally.” Rather, I held up both hands, and mouthed in startled astonishment, “Really? Really, dude?”
And, what happened then, you might wonder? The driver stopped, rolled down the window and said, “The facilities people do it! And they have the University logo on the sides of their vehicles!” My astonishment found yet a new peak – and pique, for that matter. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was a grown person, making excuses for poor behavior on the same level of maturity level as the kindergarten students I used to teach. Wait – that’s an insult to some of the kindergarten students who had a little home training and knew how to admit when they were wrong and maybe even learn something from it.
So – here I am now, trying to figure out – on this positivity journey – what I should do about a fellow University community member having such a blatant and unrepentant disregard for others’ safety. I’ll tell you, my Scots-Irish ancestors have been yelling in the back of my head for two days to find out how to file a honor code violation charge against a fellow employee. Or, to write to the Powers-That-Be, naming the person and asking for their help in curbing such anti-social, me-first behavior in someone who really ought to be setting a better example.
But, I’m on this journey of positivity and I’m reading about Appreciative Inquiry. In short, Appreciative Inquiry is a method of discovery and change with a basis in expressing appreciation for strengths rather than focusing on and expressing disappointment and chastisement for weaknesses.
So, here’s what I intend to do: Send a message of appreciation of the many good things – and the great value – the driver brings to the University community. It will read something like this:
“I want you to know how much your contributions mean to our campus culture and to me personally. You were such a great help and so very gracious in your welcome when we first became a members of the University community. The knowledge and history you shared and the introductions you made were invaluable in making us feel like “lifers” from day one. The assistance you give to students both inside and outside of class is impressive and knowing that you’ve been recognized and rewarded for those contributions clearly tells me that I’m not alone in understanding how important those contributions are to our students and to our campus culture. Your long association with an institution and a profession that are based on service to others is further evidence of our community’s faith and belief in your abilities and your capacity to serve others. You are an integral part of what we do at the University. I look forward to a day when you are assured of your importance in the larger scheme of the University and know that you are appreciated for what you have to offer.”
There are four stages of Appreciative Inquiry: Discover, Dream, Design, Destiny.
It is my fervent hope that such a note might help the driver discover a calling to respect the safety of others, to dream of a day when safety supersedes self-centeredness and design a life worthy of our students’ emulation on the way to fulfilling a destiny of concern for others.
P.S. It is not lost on me that sharing the entire story with you, my no doubt single-digit number of blog readers, and the conflict I felt as I struggled to formulate a positive response violates the purity of the appreciative response I’ve sent to the driver. It’s my hope that there is something sufficiently helpful in it for others who are also seeking to increase the positivity in their lives and responses that you’ll forgive the incongruence.