Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Sticks and stones ....

Published:Sunday | October 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM

An incident between two children in a bible study class, has prompted me to call on well-thinking individuals to step up and make a difference.

There is a crisis of intolerance, provocation, hostility and retaliation that is spiralling out of control, and is reflected in the statistics on domestic violence. The tragedy is that the pattern that has been established among adults, is being copied by our children. If this cycle is not broken, we will be creating another generation in which hostile conflict is the norm.

I am putting out this call for you to play an active role in tempering hostility and guiding others to peaceful coexistence.

Here is what I would like you to do:


1. Teach that words do hurt


We recite the phrase as children: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words don't bother me." We have to recognise that the society is stressed. People are under pressure. There is frustration.

In that state, we are not as composed and rational as we ought to be. Throwing words designed to hurt at someone in that state of mind can produce unfortunate results. It just makes sense for everyone to tone down the rhetoric. Avoid statements that could cause provocation no matter what your intention.

We have to launch a campaign to encourage moderation in our speech. And this applies to all levels. Our leaders must forego bad mouthing others. Colleagues at work must take care to speak respectfully to each other. Neighbours must avoid cass-cass. Parents must remove some of the demeaning words they use when scolding their children.

The level of violence in our society is not merely a policing issue. The reality is that there is a huge deficit in social capital. What that means in plain terms is that we do not know how to live together peacefully and cooperatively. We have lost respect for others. Also, the failure to receive the respect they desire causes some to feel unappreciated and bitter. In that state, they feel no restraint in striking out - verbally and physically.

Time is running out! We have to make a difference now.


2. Encourage empathy


The prevalence of the "silo-mentality" or "every man for himself syndrome," goes to the heart of why the society is becoming increasingly dysfunctional. We are meant to be social beings. The intention is for us to cooperate to improve the fortunes of each individual and the whole.

The silo-mentality destroys the core reason for coming together as a society. But the problem is even more serious. Not only are we engaged in a blinkered rat race, but we lose sight of the humanity in others. We forget that others have feelings and challenges, and we conveniently ignore their pain and needs. In fact, the worst elements among us prey on the weaknesses of others and increase rather than lift their burdens.

I am calling you to be sensitive and caring. Start a movement to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Let us work to appreciate where others are, and what they are going through.

What if you were at the receiving end of demeaning and hurtful comments? How would you feel?

It is so easy to devastate the life of an individual in one social media post. What if that was your life?

The call is for you to help others. Remember that a significant proportion of our population does not have the benefit of wise counsel and example at home. Some basic social skills have to be taught at school and in the workplace. Unfortunately, people who are looked up to and should be good role models are setting bad examples. Let us call out those individuals.

I will examine the other side of the issue next week.

How to respond to provocation.

"Watch words" is our watchword!

Now enrolling for the SHRM-credentialed "Certified Behavioural Coach" programme. Email:

• Trevor E. S. Smith is a Behaviour Modification Coach with the Success with People Academy home of the "Certified Behavioural Coach" and "3-D Team Leader" international certifications.