Mothers, fathers, and other leaders commit one particular flagrant violation that disrupts the process of generating reciprocal respect and mutual influence.
They see a child or employee do something wrong. Instead of focusing on the undesirability of the results, they focus on the offender. Parents often yell and other leaders pointedly say or imply, “Why did you do that? What were you thinking?” They ask or imply, “How could you have been so stupid, dumb, or careless?” Such reactions are common, right? Say, Yes.
Here’s the shocker that such mothers, fathers, and other leaders don’t recognize. Asking such questions immediately shows disrespect for the wrongdoer’s reasoning, judgment, and ability. Only spiteful people try to screw up the things they are supposed to do. Most likely, whatever the offender did was done with no malice aforethought and for reasons they thought appropriate at the time. In short, they’re not as screwed up as the results they produced. They erred, miscalculated, or mistook something they thought would work. In any event, recovery is everything, and they learned how not to do it in the future and probably long before the condemning leader came down on them. Given the time to mull over the result they produced, they feel confident they can figure out how to do it right the next time. (We all learn most effectively by doing something wrong the first time.)
The point is this: Just the process of asking ‘why did you do that’ or words to that effect bring a culprit’s character, reasoning, and judgment into question. It challenges the wrongdoer’s self-respect. In the case of males, it also disrupts his sense of self-admiration and, consequently,weakens his interest in figuring out how to do better the next time. In the case of females, it disfigures their sense of self-importance by unintentionally displeasing someone.
It gets worse in the home. Siblings pick up on parental questioning of a particular child’s repeated mistakes or misbehavior; the child must always explain himself. Siblings carry it into adult life and easily doubt or question why their brother or sister does certain things with what appear to be dubious reasons. They carry parental habits forward long after the parents are gone, which effectively weakens family glue between adult siblings.
Mutual respect and mutual influence are severely weakened by the simple expedient of calling someone’s character, reasoning ability, and judgment into question. The leader may think it’s only a question. Wrongdoers take it far more personal and also as nullifying the confidence and regard in which leader holds them. When wrongdoers see disrespect aimed at them, their trust of the leader wanes ever more rapidly with each incident, and the leader’s effectiveness as an influencer fades.