Linda Clark-Borre

The Art of Coercion - And You

07/17/2012 12:38

With so many people swinging blindly and often against, well, whomever and whatever they are against while trying to get everyone else to see how right their politic is, I’m reminded of a class I took on behavior management. There we learned about coercion as a behavioral tool –the way we attempt to motivate others even in some fairly low-stakes settings, and how others get us to do things.  It’s what we as humans do, and sitting through that class, I thought to myself-- boy, I can be mean, and sometimes ignorant, too.

Here’s a list of coercive behaviors and examples of how we use them as means to get others to do or believe something we think they should.  The take-home for me – maybe for us – is to know and understand any preferred techniques we use, and understand the difference between motivation and manipulation.

  • Questioning can be coercive. Think about a perpetrator grill session, where skilled questioners can overwhelm even the smoothest operators to the point of telling the truth – or getting out of the miserable situation by telling a lie.
  • Arguing is something most everyone does in an attempt to motivate another person to change. Some people are so good at this it makes you want to tear your hair out, because you can’t think that fast and you really are trying to listen.
  • Sarcasm is a means of control. One of my past professors noted that the word sarcasm was rooted in the Greek and meant to tear or render skin. A sense of irony was intelligent, he said. Sarcasm is by nature less than helpful, and at its worst, mean-spirited and sometimes cruel, though we often find it funny.
  • Force – one way to make another compliant, effective only in the relatively rare cases it’s necessary.
  • Threat, as parents know, is especially weak when not followed up with appropriate action.
  • Criticism. Hmm, why does it feel like it’s so helpful when we offer it?  Here’s a dictionary definition: 1) the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything. 2) the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding. 3) the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality of a literary or artistic work, musical performance, art exhibit, dramatic production, etc. 4) a critical comment, article, or essay; a critique. 5) any of various methods of studying texts or documents for the purpose of dating or reconstructing them, evaluating their authenticity, analyzing their content or style, etc., e.g., historical or literary criticism.
  • Despair. In this political season, this usually accompanies criticism, and perhaps rightfully so, as our immediate life experience is unlikely to change much until we, whoever is President, all act like a United States of Anything by learning more about Coercives.
  • Logic is a value, but more people appear to claim it than use it. And when it’s used, it may still not represent the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but.  It’s logical that a brain-deceased family member be pulled off life support as soon as possible so as not to prolong the inevitable…it’s logical if the oxygen masks are required suddenly that we’d put the masks on our kids first.
  • “Taking Away” is not just taking one’s toys from the sandbox and going home, or pulling a toy gun from an aggressive child’s hands. It can be stomping out of the house to end an argument after you’ve gotten in the last word.
  • Telling on Them to Others. Kind of laughable, I mean, who does that as an adult? Well - to an extent, most everyone in the form of gossip.
  • One-Upmanship. Hey, I thought no one in the world has seen the trouble I’ve seen??
  • Silent Treatment

That’s what I gave myself after I took this class, which I still reflect on from time to time.