Linda Clark-Borre

Snakes & Arrows

06/12/2013 14:41


“The snakes and arrows a child is heir to/Are enough to leave a thousand cuts.” ~ Rush, Armor & Sword, from Snakes and Arrows Album


Here at NCALC, Inc. we like to think of ourselves as behavioral experts, adept at reading between the lines, so to speak, so that all persons we know and support are understood as often as possible.

Note: I didn’t say we WERE experts, I said we like to think so. Anyway, dealing with one another in an open, honest, and welcoming manner on a day-to-day basis is a noble goal but easier said than done.

Those familiar with our organization may think the bulk of our collective study is focused on the nature of our relationships with the people we support – the developmentally disabled.

Folks, no…the enemies of peace, purveyors of insult and invective, are often the so-called and inaptly named normal among us.  I am not joking.

Here is a list of what psychologists call coercive behavior, signifying possible ways we might manipulate others and the environment to try to get what we want.  The behaviors range from very subtle (even passive aggressive) to violently abusive. From time to time (like today) I review the list just to see what I may have inadvertently been up to on a given day, not realizing, until I stop to think.

I  don't see sarcasm here. Sarcasm can be amusing and even oddly familiar to us as a form of humor. A professor of mine, a Greek classical expert, noted to the class that sarcasm comes to us from the Greek language and means literally to "rend or tear skin." Given the high rate of incivility and intrusiveness in today's culture, maybe we should try to find a way to laminate the following list and give it to everyone in the world.


Behavioral Coercive Examples

Monopolizing shared space

Invading another’s quiet time

Disregarding another’s privacy

Prohibiting another’s social contact

Ignoring boundaries – social, professional, personal

Being silent or ignoring another in conversation

Interrupting another’s sentences or activities

Last-wording (always having to have the last word in a discussion or argument)

Eloquenting (using elaborate arguments to wear your victim down in a discussion)

Interrupting another’s sleep

Interrupting another’s eating


Refusing to talk

Withdrawing affection

Blocking efforts to mediate

Blocking efforts to negotiate

Belittling your victim (You’re too stupid)

Being right about what was said (That’s not what you said)

Being right about what was done (That’s not what you did)

Being right about what happened (That’s not what happened)

Being right about what was seen (That’s not what you saw)

Being right about other’s experience (That’s not what you felt)

Warping reality (I know I said it, but it’s not true)

Demanding agreement

Defining the truth (You don’t know what you’re talking about)

Defining another’s motivations

Defining why another does things

Blaming something else for what you say (I just said it because you’re mad at me)

Blaming something else for what you do (I just lost my job/I just started a new job)

Blaming something else for what you feel (I was up too late)

Blaming someone else for what you do (If you hadn’t left…)

Blaming someone else for what you feel (You hurt me)

Laughing, smirking, joking

Mimicking another

Infantilizing another

Repeating what you say to another (as if the other was too stupid to understand you)


Edifying (reacting to a peer’s concerns by instructing them “how it’s done”)

Knowing it all

Staring, glaring, stonewalling

So or So what? reponses

Being sarcastic to your victim

Whispering or muttering to another

Dismissing (That’s stupid, that’s wrong)

Swearing and cursing at another

Shouting and screaming at another

Making abrupt forceful body movements in another’s presence

Stomping out of the room

Rough bodily treatment of another – pulling, grabbing, etc.