Counteract TV’s definition of appropriate behavior!
I’m a huge football fan, so my television gets a workout on weekends from August through early February. Other than that, I don’t watch. So it didn’t occur to me until recently that businesses, families, and communities compete with sitcoms and reality TV for the definition of appropriate behavior.
During football season, I see a lot of commercials for weekly shows. I can hardly believe the crudeness, rudeness, and disrespect that make up the entertainment factor for these shows. To say that sexuality is flaunted is to say that it snows in winter in Wisconsin. Everybody knows it, so what? Same with violence. It’s TV, who cares?
Though the point has been exhaustively debated among experts, I believe that the constant baseness of these programs—showing no honor, courage, or decency—creates a profound insensitivity between real humans with whom we interact at work, home, school, and play. The clever one-liner that sounds so funny on TV can be painfully mean in real life. “Just kidding” doesn’t take away the hurt after the fact.
Animated adult cartoons portray people as clueless, selfish, dangerous, or too stupid to do anything other than bumble their way through life. Asinine remarks burped out of vapid minds are hallmarks of the laugh tracks. Hurt feelings lead to plots of revenge. There is no such thing as self-awareness or self-control. Reflection takes too long and has no pizzazz.
Of course no one expects reality TV to teach us how to treat one another, but it does. Aggressive competition, outrageous behavior, in-your-face insults, and elation at the destruction of an opponent is standard fare. No wonder our culture has become so callous.
What does this have to do with the rest of us?
Many businesses today have cut back on training and development activities, which are so often the first to go when budgets get tight. But it is a mistake to think that when you are not providing intentional development your people are not learning. They are. Between crappy TV and the worst of a culture’s bad habits, they are learning plenty. This is true at the family table and in the community as well.
What to do? First, be aware. Second, don’t wring your hands; counteract it. How? By modeling the behaviors you want to see at work, at home, in your community. What do you want people to be thinking about? Engage them in dialog about it.
What do you want them to be doing? Show them. Provide benchmarks—model the behaviors. Provide time to practice in a very conscious way. Provide feedback so they know when they are getting closer to what you want to see or moving further away. Allow time for reflection. While TV shows rarely demonstrate this, reflection is essential to learning.
This is hard work! And because it is hard, few do it well. Because it takes time, few stick with the program. Because nobody wants to be perceived as judgmental or mean, few stick their necks out to call a foul.
This is how bad behavior becomes the norm. It is how people become depressed and lethargic. It is how entire societies lose their confidence.
Don’t let it happen in your world! Counteract the nonsense on TV. Show people that you believe in their capacity to be better, do more, and contribute at higher levels. Then get busy showing them how.