Public Scorn

by admin on March 22, 2011

Today’s post is a follow up to a much earlier post entitled, “Scorn For The World’s Worst Neighbor”, which was about Jennifer Petkov and her bizarre harassment of a neighbor’s dying 7 year old granddaughter.   The Petkovs’ behavior was so over the top that it elicited mass outrage from a worldwide community.  But some of that outrage was carried too far so as to be as equally over the top in behavior as the Petkovs.   Death threats, vandalism, terrorizing children, and invasion of privacy were some of the unacceptable (and need I say illegal) avenues some people took to express their disgust of the Petkovs.   I felt it would be good to discuss exactly what public scorn should and should not look like.

The Don’ts


1.  Death threats means you are just as deep into the stupid as the person you are threatening.
Numerous police interventions were not enough to stop the Petkov neighbor feud so what did?  What appears to have compelled the Petkovs to offer their watered down apology with the added appeal that “we all live in peace” were the alleged death threats they received.   While it may have been effective, I cannot condone this choice of action at all.  Vague or specific death threats are the tools of the uncouth bruts of this world who know of no better way to communicate their disdain.   A death threat is meant to terrify someone into changing their behavior and it is community terrorism at its worst.   It has the consequence of scaring more than the intended target as innocent family members are affected by this.

Sometimes readers of this blog react to the more heinous stories with expressions of wishing death upon the antagonist of the story and I quietly delete the comments and ban the reader as being just another one of the twisted members of society I prefer to not encourage or interact with.

2. Vandalism is the brutish coward’s way of expressing disdain. If your cause is just and right, you should have the courage to stand up like an adult and express it in non-violent ways with your real name.  The people who egged the Petkovs’s house are just as infantile and aggressive as the Petkovs because the only way they know how to deal with a troubling situation is with destruction and cowardice.

3.  Public scorn does not inflict collateral damage on the innocent. The Petkovs reported being harassed via crank phone calls, a deluge of magazine subscriptions, and pizza deliveries to the house.    Who really was hurt by that?   Certainly the Petkovs but what of the magazine companies who will not receive payment for those subscriptions?  And what of the pizza restaurants and delivery personnel who did not receive payment for their services and product?  Those perpetrating these acts were pathetic losers who sent out unwitting accomplices to do their dirty work  while inflicting a double whammy of stealing their time, money and product.

It should go without saying that children of the scorned are off limits but unfortunately, it has to be said because there are some truly deviant people out there who think offspring are suitable targets as well.

The Do’s

1.  It’s OK to tell them what you think…within reason. If I were a member of that community, I would have likely said to Jennifer Petkov the following, “Your behavior has had some dire consequences for this neighborhood and it appears that our little community isn’t your cup of tea.  It would be better for everyone, you included, if you were to find another place to live that better suits you.”   This is a variant of a message I have used to “escort” troublesome members from the forum.    The message is clear– there are consequences to actions, you are not happy here and we don’t want you here so move along elsewhere please — without any drama, hysterics, threats or other losses of dignity to oneself.

2.  Shunning is good. There are some behaviors that are so vile that complete total shunning from good society is not only appropriate but a must.   Without a doubt the Petkovs were deserving of being cut off from all beneficial associations within the community.  But those perpetrating vile acts of retaliation are just as deserving of being removed from one’s social circle.  Why remove one bully from one’s circle of relationships only to replace it with another?

So, what does appropriate scorn and shunning look like?  The “persona non grata” approach is the most serious form of censure that treats the accused as if they did not exist.   The person is not acceptable and therefore not welcome.  There are no invitations to social events, no communication, no social courtesies extended to them.    You ignore them.

If you must speak with them, one can adapt what I call the “Business-like approach” where you do engage in communicating but your demeanor is cool, business-like, sticking to the business at hand and offering no hint of camaraderie yet still being civil.

So, readers, how do you define “civil shunning”?   Ever had to do it?  What did it look like and did the person understand they had been shunned?

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

kathy November 3, 2010 at 11:01 am

I totally agree with this. The idiots who bully the bullies are setting bad examples/sending the wrong message.

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Wink-n-Smile March 22, 2011 at 9:02 am

I agree.

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Just Laura March 22, 2011 at 9:03 am

Just to let you know, the Petkovs were required by court order to move for an unrelated incident involving trying to run someone over with a car.
Source: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/02/02/Woman-who-taunted-dying-child-must-move/UPI-40071296665601/

Good grief.
I have never been forced to actually shun someone (aside from ignoring phone calls/emails). I am fortunate to not be around nor associate with such people.

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Jillybean March 22, 2011 at 9:13 am

I agree with all, except #1 on your “do” list. I can only imagine too well what the response would be from the other side, and I just can’t imagine it would be worth it.

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Typo Tat March 22, 2011 at 9:19 am

Civil shunning is only effective if the person you want to shun is active in the community. Many people aren’t friends with their immediate neighbors and don’t participate in community activities like church/temple/club.

What will you do with a person like that, go into her home and try chewing her out? I don’t see how that can end well.

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PattyAnne March 22, 2011 at 9:33 am

What a vile woman! What gives people the right to harass other people for whatever reason. I agree with the above Do’s and Don’ts. An eye for an eye for never solves anything.

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DGS March 22, 2011 at 9:40 am

I agree, largely, with the do’s and dont’s. I would add that when a close friend’s behavior has been narcissistic, cruel, callous or otherwise, outrageous (barring the bizarre behavior that can frequently be a systom of mental illness, in which case, one would encourage that person and/or their family members to get necessary treatment), I would give them the last courtesy of a conversation that explains why you are choosing to severe social ties with them. While it seldom results in the person radically changing their behavior, one may hope that down the line, that person might examine the consequences of their behavior, which may lead to an examination of their behavior, which may lead to behavior change and becoming a better person. (It does not have to be a lengthy conversation.)

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AS March 22, 2011 at 10:05 am

Reminds me of two quotes from India’s freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi: (1) “An eye for an eye only makes the world blind” and (2)“I believe that a man is the strongest soldier for daring to die unarmed.”

I agree with the OP. Surreptitious violence threat (of actual violence) is no answer to anyone’s bad deeds. Though I am not sure if the very polite but stern tone that admin said that she might have replied would have worked with these people. They seem so thick skinned that the polite “threat” would have just slipped off their skins before getting to their head.
@Just Laura, thanks for that update. I was wondering if is there some way these people could have been removed from the community before. Like, for example, the state takes them to a rehabilitation center or something before they try to do something worse (like run over someone with a car as Just Laura’s post pointed out – I know, they only tried, but what if they actually had succeeded)?

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Enna March 22, 2011 at 10:06 am

I agree with this too. If you ignore someone because of their bad behaviour it does not reinforce or encouarge it: this method will hopefully let the “offender” think of their actions and chase for the better. I had one person who was sick towards me on Facebook so I deleated him: I gave him two more chances but the 4th time I blocked him. It’s upset him and firends have said “he’s only doing it to wind you up” 1) I am not easy to wind up 2) if he is sexually harrasing me on facebook I don’t what anything to do with him – it gives out the wrong message 3) I don’t want to be near him as I can’t trust him 4) if the “winder” go out of his/her way to “wind someone up” which he did eventually then the “winder” has to take the consequences that he/she has upset that person.

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jenna March 22, 2011 at 10:13 am

I’ve engaged in shunning – cutting off all contact, completely ignoring, severing ties – and honestly, it didn’t work.

I am fairly sure that the person never quite figured out why they were shunned, never learned from the experience and never figured out what they did to cause the shunning. It really didn’t do any good (well, it did some good in that the person was out of my life, which was good for me, but it didn’t do any good in that it didn’t really teach a lesson).

That’s why I am in favor of the more direct approach of telling someone that you are disgusted with their behavior and why it is that you are exiting their life and ending contact first, and then severing ties. I am not convinced that shunning actually works, at least if the goal is to make disgust clear and teach a lesson.

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AS March 22, 2011 at 10:23 am

BTW, I feel really sorry for the Petkov children. They are being brought up probably without friends, and also probably learning their parent’s (particularly mother’s) ways.

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Samantha March 22, 2011 at 10:31 am

The one thing that I found effective, albeit in elementary and high school, was to warn the perpetrators of the harassment/bullying that their actions could and would make their way back to someone they really respected, cared about or were afraid of. Normally in those situations, it was a parent or family member but for adults it might be a celebrity, politician or someone like that.

When that didn’t work (which was fairly infrequent), I did get the facts to the person in question. Nowadays, that’s very easy to do with Twitter, Facebook and other social media forums. The scorn of that person was almost always enough to make even the worst kids stop their harassment/bullying, all without hurting them beyond what their own actions gained them. What’s most important in this move is to give the influential person only straight-up facts and try to keep bias and resentment/anger from the discussion as much as is possible. They have to have a fair view of what the person is doing in order to pass along scorn that the other person can’t immediately reject because “that’s not what happened”.

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livvy March 22, 2011 at 10:45 am

While I don’t disagree with anything Admin said, I don’t believe that it would be effective in a case such as this – where the perpetrators are so far outside the normal bounds of courtesy, etiquette and just plain humanity – that they are VERY unlikely to take notice of such subtle remonstrations, and even less likely to care.
I would think people would need to be a lot more direct in expressing their displeasure – for example writing a letter (without any threats – perhaps suggesting some form of empathy counseling?). Local business owners could shun them from their store, etc.
To some degree, this is a problem of the modern age – so much communication, but so little community. So many of us have lost the kind of local connections that in the past might have held us to higher standards than perhaps our closest friends and family (who are prepared to forgive us) or strangers (who probably don’t care, or are amused from afar) would. In many of our lives, we can’t even recognize our neighbors, much less know anything about them.
Maybe we’ve all become a bit too respectful of privacy….now we all seem to turn to the state to intervene when people are horrible, because we have know knowledge, community or leverage with which to make them behave properly. Sigh.

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RP March 22, 2011 at 10:59 am

I think most people agreed with the shunning in “Bridal Bait and Switch” and the recent whale watching story is a good example too.

@AS – IIRC, at the time the original story hit this site Jennifer had already been arrested for trying to hit someone with her car (There was 8 days between the time the original story was posted to the news site and the follow-up story of her arrest) so I think this is the resolution of that incident, not a brand new one.

Seriously though, this woman is the best argument for a Home Owner’s Association I’ve ever seen. They wouldn’t have the power to kick them out the neighborhood but they could have hit them with financial penalties for doing things like parking coffins in front of other people’s houses and driving in an unsafe manner.

However, as far as the harassment in the original story goes there wasn’t enough to have them put away somewhere. As awful as what they did was none of it implied that they would later engage in violent behavior. Had they actually threatened to hurt someone they would have been put in jail.

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Leslie Holman-Anderson March 22, 2011 at 11:04 am

I belong to a minority religion with no central authority, which leaves shunning/snubbing the only option when a member violates our (few and reasonable) codes of conduct. It’s every person’s right, after all, to choose who they will associate with. And yes, I’ve had to shun someone a couple of times. It’s usually a matter of simply not communicating with the offender, including not attending something they’ll be at — though if you get there and the object of your scorn is already there you have to decide if you can leave discreetly or must stay to avoid spoiling things for everyone else.

Sometimes it requires a little more finesse, though: there’s a gentleman in our local community who broke one of our cardinal rules, one that was emotionally hurtful to a number of people and could have had real-world consequences for them. Along with just about every one of us within a hundred miles, he attended a huge outdoor reception we gave for visiting dignitaries. Everyone was on their best behavior, not wanting to parade our little drama in front of our guests. So when he headed towards me across the lawn, I simply nodded and smiled, and veered gently away as if I had been going in another direction all along. Did he know I’d snubbed him? Probably. Did anyone else? Not a clue. Except for those closest to me who knew the issue, one of whom murmured “Slick move.”

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Ashley March 22, 2011 at 11:15 am

I don’t like people who stoop to the same level as the person attacking someone. If it is self defense, fine, but if it is just flat out retaliation as most of this seemed to be, that is just wrong. What the Petkov’s did was wrong, but so are all the death threats and eggings and such that they received.

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Maitri March 22, 2011 at 11:21 am

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been the target of a civil shunning. I’ve had several people stop all contact with me, and I never knew why. Or maybe I’m just paranoid :)

IDK, if someone owns their home, don’t they have a right to live whereever they like? I don’t agree with the family’s actions, but I would think that they can’t be told they can’t live somewhere. YMMV.

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RP March 22, 2011 at 11:47 am

I would think that they can’t be told they can’t live somewhere.

@Maitri – They do it all the time with sex offenders and anyone who has a restraining order against them. Also, it’s not a flat out order not to live there it’s a condition of her parole. She’s agreeing to move in exchange for not going straight to jail.

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ashley March 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I don’t really remember the Petkov story; I’ll have to look it up later and I agree with the admin. Retaliation in the form of “an eye for an eye” only makes one feel shamed that they stooped to the same level as the other person and in the end nothing is ever resolved that way.

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Lola March 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I’m on board with civil shunning as a personal preference. However, a group boycott smacks of the scarlet letter situation a bit too much for my liking. Moreover, while I might minimize contact with people I find toxic or unpleasant, I wouldn’t presume to tell them where to live (!) as Miss Jeanne, in a rare misstep, suggests doing.

As for dealing with those like Petkovs, I would leave any actual confrontation to the authorities (after notifying them if needed) and instead focus my energy on something positive (like reaching out to and supporting their victims).

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Miss Miaw March 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm

While I agree with most of this, I have to add one serious caveat. In a case like this, yes shun the perpetrators, but if the perpetrators have children, remember that they are innocent. That means that if your children are set group work with the perpetrators children, it is not okay to refuse them entry to your house, to tell your children to shun them or refuse to help them. If your children are having a birthday party, and the perptrators children would normally be invited, don’t shun them too.

If the children are slightly older, and supported or engaged in the same behaviour, then by all means shun them too, if they are too young to know, don’t punish them for thier parents mistakes. You might feel that it will teach the parents a lesson to have thier kids excluded like this, but the only ones hurt will be the kids, and remember that you’ll be directly responsible for hurting the feelings of children that aren’t responsible for thier parents desicions.

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Daisy March 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm

A dear young friend was molested as a child by her uncle, who was also a friend of ours. She sought help from her mother and her aunt, one of whom called her a liar; the other told her that she would wreck the family if she didn’t keep quiet about it. She kept it a secret until she was a young woman, through two suicide attempts and a years-long depression, until the uncle was arrested for molesting several other girls to whom he was not related. He managed to plea bargain his way down to several months in a “lust” rehab program and 6 months of weekend jail time. When we ran into him at a store or on the street in our small town, we treated him as though he was invisible. We didn’t talk to him or smile at him. We pretended he didn’t exist. He used to telephone, but we quietly hung up as soon as we heard his voice. After several months of this, he moved to the other side of the country. Shunning is the only way civilized people have to express dislike and disapproval to the very worst of society.

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ladycrim March 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm

My former best friend and I have pretty much ignored each others’ existence for the past 5 months after one too many severe differences of opinion. If we must be around each other, we politely fail to notice the other person. I have decided to keep matters between us and have not talked to our mutual friends about it. I assume she is doing the same.

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Luna March 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Civil shunning is very effective, my group of friends began to shun a particular young man after one too many “sticky fingers” incidents and lies. Because he actually valued my friendship and then saw it disintegrate, it forced him to examine his life. He has since moved in with different family members in a different area and has begun to actually do something productive with himself.

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Numa March 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Daisy,

Good for you!

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jenna March 23, 2011 at 1:10 am

I do agree with Daisy that the very worst of society (like the Petkovs) can and should be shunned, and there’s not much more you can do.

My feelings about shunning – and how it doesn’t work – are more centered around former friends and once-close family who maybe haven’t done anything on the level of molestation or harassment as the Petkov’s or the person Daisy knew, but have acted in a way that ending contact is the best choice. If the person was once close, and the offense(s) was/were not so grave as to be illegal, I am very much in favor of telling the person – once, briefly, and firmly but without anger – why you are removing them from your life. Not for discussion, but for informational purposes only.

Shunning without reason creates the possibility that you just “drifted apart” or that you’re “busy” but the friendship might resume at a later time – I’ve found truly graceless/offensive people are good at convincing themselves of this (I, once upon a time, had fairly poor social manners and probably did this too, before I grew up and learned a few things, so I can say from the experiences of my formerly immature self that this does happen).

I really have found that simply disappearing does not get the message across in these instances, and it also leads to the possibility of what Maitri described – wondering (if you are a genuinely good person) if people who have ceased contact with you did so because you committed some grave offense, and you weren’t even aware of it. It also creates room for massive miscommunication, along the lines of “but I *did* send a thank you note! It must have gotten lost in the mail!”

After I did learn some manners, I had two friends who did this: just suddenly ceased contact. To this day I am not sure if I did something unwittingly to offend them. If I did, I would have liked to know what it was so I could a.) learn from my mistake, if there was one and b.) apologize, if I’d stepped over a line. They never gave me that chance…and that’s everyone’s loss.

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karmabottle March 23, 2011 at 5:27 am

Respectfully, Miss Miaw, I disagree that only the adults within an household should be shunned. I do not think that a person should be openly unkind to the children of a person you need to shun, however if you must close the adults of a household out of your life, best to close the door on all.

That does not mean speaking rudely or behaving hatefully to the children of such a household, but it does mean closing contact. No, don’t continue to host in your home the children of a person you need to shun.

If a relationship has become so toxic that it is est to sever contact, do it cleanly and civilly. If the children of a person that must be shunned turn out okay, you’ll know in time. Meanwhile they are simply an extension of that person and will be for many years.
If the adults in the household are toxic for your family, chances are their children will be too even if through no fault of their own.

Sometimes you have to look at your child and say, “Dad and I have decided that it’s best for all of us if we just don’t spend time with Cousin Marty/Neighbor Jimmy’s family (etc.) right now. They have made some decisions that are not good for our family to be around. We don’t hate them, but we don’t need to be around them until they have worked out their problems.”

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Anonymous March 23, 2011 at 5:30 am

@Maitri–I’ve been inexplicably shunned many times in my life too, most recently by a former housemate of mine, who used to be my best friend. It hasn’t taught me anything, because I still don’t know what I did wrong.

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RMMuir March 23, 2011 at 6:36 am

Civil shunning is much harder in the current age of instant communication, especially if the person you’re trying to shun is someone that really gets you worked up. One of the ladies in my church said that she feels that text messaging is the worst thing to happen to society – it allows you to send a message in the heat of the moment which you’ll probably later regret and will always only exacerbate the situation. If we didn’t have the availability of instant communication, there’s a greater possibility of being able to get some distance emotionally and being able to view things more rationally.

I’m currently in the middle of a really horrible flat situation at the moment, and I’ve been advised to cease contact with the flatmate involved. It’s difficult though. I stay out of her way as much as I can, if she asks me a direct question, I’ll respond in as few words as possible. I’m not sure that she knows why. I explained after a previous argument we were probably better off trying to keep out of each others way until we’re no longer living in the same flat if we want any chance of a salvaged friendship at some point in the future, but things have gone downhill since then. I think that she is interpreting it as “being the victim of silent treatment”, but after realising that every time I respond she will try and draw any communication into a fight and will get nastier and more hurtful with every response that it wasn’t worth the drama. And as I know that due to all the stress I am likely to fly off the handle as well, it really is better for me not to respond as I will just end up in the wrong too.

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Alexis March 23, 2011 at 6:47 am

I feel sorry for the Petrov’s kids. They are probably being shunned and/or harrassed along with their parents. However, I doubt they are the kind of sweet kids one would want to be around anyway. There was probably good reason they weren’t invited to that original birthday party. In all likelyhood, they are just as poorly socialized rude, and bullying as their parents. But just because you feel sorry for someone else’s kid doesn’t mean there is anything you can do to help that child. In this case, they all live with their father now, and I HOPE he’s saner than his ex-wife. Something tells me he probably isn’t, or he wouldn’t have had kids with her.

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Xtina March 23, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Agree with the whole list of do’s and don’ts. I have always failed to understand the mind-sets of people who think that the eye-for-an-eye approach was a good one; whatever happened to the old “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” rule? Sure, maybe those people have been extraordinarily *bad*, but what comes around goes around, I truly believe, and dishing out death threats and harrassment is only going to set a bad example that comes back to haunt the disher-0uter one day. Would you want to be remembered forever more as the person who did *that*? Set a good example that will define you!

As for shunning, I think it is effective, even if for no other reason that cutting that person out of your own life and no longer having to deal with their toxicity, as well as making your own statement to that person about how you feel about them. However, I think it was probably more effective in getting a message across to the offending party in the days when communities were more interactive with one another–i.e. in this day and age of neighbors not really knowing each other and regularly speaking, people being able to shop and do business from the comfort of their own homes, one could not really feel the effects of shunning if they don’t really get out much in the first place. It would definitely be effective if say, all the neighbors of the Petkovs jointly decided to shun them, and maybe even going as far as locally owned businesses refusing to serve them, etc.

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Catvickie March 24, 2011 at 7:30 am

I had some problem neighbors years ago–two families on one side of us that banded together. My kids used to come home crying after playing with their kids, and they were always playing favorites with my middle child, which caused problems in our family. These people did a whole laundry list of other things as well, all damaging. I ended up having my family shun the whole lot of them. Maybe not the best solution, but you could not have a discussion–the one woman was bipolar and off her meds half the time, we found out later. There is nothing you can do with some people except avoid them.

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RMMuir March 24, 2011 at 8:09 am

@Xtina: From what I’ve been taught on the “eye-for-an-eye” mentality, it was introduced to stop disproportionate responses, not actually as an incitement to do the same back. So for example, if someone stole your cow, your “revenge” should be limited to getting a cow back from them. A disproportionate response wold be to slaughter all their cattle in retaliation. The ideal thing would actually to not retaliate at all – but I guess it depends on the actual circumstances of the crime.

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Liz March 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm

My BF was on the receiving end for the eye-for-eye approach to rudeness yesterday.
He had gotten off the tram and was walking two a breast with some one (a stranger) between the tram tracks and the fence between the tram tracks and the road… some one was coming the other way, and because my BF was on the right he should have moved to the left behind the person walking the same way has him (we drive on the left, so the idea is keep to the left on escalators, footpaths etc), but he didn’t, so the person coming the other way pushes between my BF and the other person and purposely shoves my BF with his shoulder any my BF gets pushed against a moving tram.

The mentality of “oooo you’re blocking me so I’m going to push you up against a moving tram, haha that will teach you!!” Doesn’t make sense. It’s dangerous and more rude than blocking some one.

This seems to happen a lot in my city though -two or more people walking a breast… my response if I’m walking the other way is to stop dead and make them walk around me, and I’ve asked a couple of times it they’re REALLY going to make walk on the road or the tram tracks. Sometimes people just don’t realise what they’re doing, and you need to tell them, but I don’t think pushing some one into a moving tram is an appropriate response

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Cat March 24, 2011 at 11:53 pm

I doubt that shunning would be effective against people like this. Who would associate with them in the first place? I doubt this is their first and only violation of the laws of decency.

As for rude people one encounters in life, asking for the manager is certainly the best thing to do in a business. In a grocery store with a fellow shopper, I think I would simply ask, “Do I know you?” or walk away as if I did not hear or notice them.

For those who make threats, or damage property, or send pizzas/magazines/Bibles, I rather think those people are mentally ill themselves. One should support the innocent family they are victimizing. Having a car wash, bake sale, something along that order to show sympathy and support by giving money (if you raise enough, offer to buy the miscreant’s house) or offer to assist the victims in any way one could.

Yes, I have shunned people. My sociopathic half-brother immediately comes to mind. I suffered through twenty-five years of constant abuse because my parents’ were still living. Once they died, I felt my years of living in Hell were over. I changed my name, moved, changed my job and disappeared from his life. That was thirty-seven years ago and was the best thing I have ever done.

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tina March 28, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Shunning will fail if used upon about 50% of the population. Carl Jung noted this population as those who do not use “Extroverted Feeling” as a mode of judgment upon one’s actions. Since the problem is not clearly defined or explained, individuals who do not recognize shunning as social censure will continue to repeat the undesired behavior.

People who do utilize “extroverted feeling” tend to be highly attuned to social connectivity, social manners, politeness and proper civility towards others, even when internal filled with disgust at another. Thus even slight social shunning will be obvious to them and induce a sense of shame and thus result in modification of behavior. These group will innately define their lives by the laws of “common decency” and mistakenly assumes that the other half of the population just doesnt “want to improve themselves” when they fail to observe those unspoken laws.

Unfortunately, for those who utilize “Introverted Feeling”, that first 50% of individuals, oblivious to shunning, only pick up on the social exclusion when they are left utterly alone with no understanding of why. Often they become suicidal at this point, having never actually been given the direct feedback that would have enabled them to modify behaviors to be more socially acceptable. This lack of feedback or “socialization” is especially problematic, when raised by families who were socially shunned, thus only creating a worse gap between the two groups. Interestingly those with introverted feeling tend place an more value upon authenticity of emotional expression and will cling tightly to internally defined values of very idealistic behavior, even when oblivious to the externally defined values of social civility-innocent barbarians, so to speak. Typically they navigate with much smaller social circles made up of deep emotional interactions, only showing direct bluntness to the external world.

Perhaps those of you skilled in the understanding of civility might take it upon yourselves to reach out to those, such as the children of this terrible couple, or of the poor, and find ways to actively serve as guides to them, to convey those messages of common decency in a format that doesnt judge these children but does allow them exposure to an alternate version of what decent behavior could be.

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admin March 29, 2011 at 6:43 am

I should have noted that shunning and social ostracizing has the main benefit of keeping *me* from associating with bad company. Removing oneself from interacting with rude aliens from Planet Booron means the likelihood of me morphing into one by osmosis is greatly reduced.

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RMMuir March 31, 2011 at 6:16 pm

@ admin: It also helps you keep your own mental health intact! I was thinking about what the OP said in Going Postal: something along the lines of “she made herself look like a grade A jerk on her own!” And that’s true. I have a tendency to snap out when tense/scared, and will easily get drawn into a fight. And afterwards, I realise what a fool I’ve been and am genuinely regretful. You hurt yourself a lot by losing your temper. If you just civilly shunned them, refused to get involved, it would be clear who is the one at fault! And it’s unlikely to escalate, meaning the problem dies away faster, leaving you with less stress in the long run.

This year has taught me a lot. I’ve ended up moving out of my flat, away from the problem flat mate, and by calling my parents before responding to any of her written communications, I’ve been able to not engage (almost wholly down to their constant reminders) and that has definitely been the healthiest action. Also, thanks for this post, as it has increased my resolve that this (although it’s an extreme form of shunning) is the best way to deal with her.

Finally, I’m reminded by what Peter says of Jesus: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2 :23).

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