Combat Shame with a Smile!

How many of us have heard the saying, “Shame on you….”

 It usually is followed by a condemning statement or brings attention to a mistake made. 

Shame on you, don’t treat your brother that way!

Shame on you, you should know better!

Shame on you, we raised you better than this!

Or even more damaging

 Shame on you, no one acts like you do!

Shame on you, everyone else is getting along!

Shame on you, you are such a waste!

A few years ago, I heard a family member say a “shame on you” statement to my daughter.  It was the strangest thing because it was the first time I had ever “heard” it said to someone I love, protect and it something I would never say to her.  At our house, we don’t talk like this to each other or to our kids.

I realized at that moment, when I heard it coming out of someone’s mouth how literally this was speaking ‘shame’ over another person. Yet, when I grew up, and when my husband grew up, this was very common for parents and extended friends and family to say to kids when they were being instructed or disciplined.

This statement isn’t a life changer said once by an extended family member, but it does become problematic when it is the messaging that a kid hears all the time. 

Also, in abusive relationships this type of shame game can fuel verbal and emotional abuse. A pattern of speaking to another person over time in this way can be very destructive to a person’s well-being, self-esteem and sense of value.

Let’s dive into the statements above in a little more detail. 

Shame on you, don’t treat your brother that way!

There is no opportunity for dialogue here. Why was the treatment happening, what exactly happened?  I know that with my kids and when I was a kid, it usually was both kids bugging each other and then only one gets ‘caught’ and yelled at.

 

Shame on you, you should know better!

Shame on you, we raised you better than this!

This implies the message you are not only bad, but stupid too. It suggests that you don’t have the ability to make good choices or can trust your instincts to do what is right.  

Shame on you, no one acts like you do!

Shame on you, everyone else is getting along!

Shame on you, you are such a waste!

Words like no one, everyone, always, are absolute. In truth, it is some people, or sometimes. These No-no words or absolute words stop honest communication and fuel blame.

 

What can you do?

First, begin to recognize if we are making shaming statements to others.  Are we shaming others with statements similar to those listed here?    If yes, then begin to consider other ways to communicate.

Second, observe how you speak to yourself. Are you speaking shaming statements over yourself?    I know in my life, I have to watch this self-talk.

Whether it is your inner dialogue or it is your communication with others, consider changing statements easily to questions…

Shame on you…   could easily be changed to                         Why did you choose to do …….?

You should know better! Could easily be changed to          What other choice could you have made?

 Often we blurt out statements because we have not considered another way or we are just at the end of our rope. 

Take time BEFORE you are frustrated to consider what you could say instead.  Asking questions takes more time, but it allows development of a person’s instincts on how to make better decisions. Mistakes are bound to happen, so let them be an opportunity to learn.

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Combat Shame with a Smile!

Dr Brooke Jones, Founder & President  Stronger than Espresso

Dr Brooke Jones, Founder & President

Stronger than Espresso

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