We enable other people’s unacceptable behavior. We do it all the time – at work, at home, in social situations. We pretend we don’t see their unacceptable behavior and that enables and encourages it to continue. In the extreme, that is how bullies and abusers accelerate and get away with their behavior. They know that a certain number of people will ignore it. Victims enable unacceptable behavior, too, because for many reasons, they are not able to stop it.
It takes courage to stand up for what’s right or to acknowledge and reject unacceptable behavior. It is often the “nice" people who enable the most bad behavior because they don’t want to appear to be not nice, so they say things like, “I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way,” or “Oh, I just find his antics amusing,” or “I think she must be having a bad day.” Sometimes, these statements are true. I’m not talking about the person that inadvertently says the wrong thing or really is having a bad day. I’m talking about people who go around behaving badly on a regular basis.
Some people simply don’t acknowledge the bad behavior at all because they don’t want to have to deal with it. There’s the person at work who thinks that s/he is irreplaceable and abuses his/her co-workers by not co-operating, using passive-aggressive behavior or martyrdom as their work strategy.We’ve all encountered managers in the work place who allow certain employees to continue bad behavior because they don’t want to have to deal with it directly. Somehow, they see it as easier to ignore it than to deal with it. I remember a few years ago actually hearing a manager say that he had transferred an employee to another department rather than deal with her bad behavior. Transferring her did not deal with it; she thought she’d been promoted.
Families and groups walk around on egg shells acquiescing to every whim and desire of the abuser, bully or person who exhibits unacceptable behavior because they are afraid of the consequences. It is like the family members of the alcoholic who cave in to every whim of the alcoholic because they are afraid he or she will drink if s/he doesn’t get his/her own way. Or, children who have tantrums if they don’t get what they want, so the families do what the children want to avoid the tantrums and eventually they have created demanding spoiled brats who continue to abuse the people they encounter in life whenever they don’t get their own way.
These people take our energy and we must not let our creative energy be diverted toward trying to protect ourselves from unacceptable behavior. We need to have the courage to name it, not accept it and move on to fulfilling our passions and goals.
Rejecting unacceptable behavior does not mean that we are rejecting the person or that we do not have compassion. But, it means that we are rejecting the behavior and we do not support, enable or accept it.
© 2015 Dr. Carla Weaver