School and Public Shootings in the USA, a Solution
The Top Gun National Crises Troubleshooter, Retired
On examination of previous school and public shootings, the term “bullies” has come up possibly as a common denominator. Given that “bullies” are at the root of the cause of these shootings, I hereby submit my proposal for mitigation of these shooting incidents in the USA.
At the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in my past experience (18 years ago) and a local church (current to date), I have noticed that the number of persons developing the “only-child syndrome” in regard to the bully complex has increased. The number of “only children has increased dramatically in the past twenty years. This could explain the increase in school violence, as more bully and more passive aggressive personalities would result in more conflict.
During my last several years at LLNL, I was often paired up with the new employees that were exhibiting this bully communication style, since I had been through the special training to transform an aggressive communicator to an assertive Communicator (for good reasons). The basic tip-off that I was dealing with an only child bully was that, on meeting them the first time, or sometime after, they would hit me with a blast of criticism. Dr. Kevin Leman wrote a separate chapter in his latest book on the subject, titled The Lonely Only: Super Firstborn Only Children. [i] In it, he listed the Strengths and Weaknesses of Only Children. [ii]
Assertive communicators make very good team players and the basic group at LLNL could be termed a “task force to accomplish a mission.” A synopsis of the methods used to transform the bullies to an assertive communicator is given below.
Proposal to Mitigate Public Shootings
The pundits of communication have identified four styles of communication that pretty much describe all of our citizens. They are identified by four different characteristics.
|You win; I lose, but I will get you back||You win; I lose||You win; I win||I win; you lose|
|Loser to tyrant||Child to adult||Adult to adult||Adult to child|
Becoming a Passive Aggressive, Submissive or Aggressive communicator is a function of birth-order and environmental knowledge learned early in life (less than six years old). Becoming an Assertive Communicator is a function of training and education. A slight modification of this standard chart to accommodate the Bullies in our schools and society is as follows:
|You win; I lose, but I will get you back||You win; I lose||You win; I win||I win; you lose|
|Snakes in the Grass||Child to adult||Adult to adult||Tyrant to child, only child syndrome|
At the LLNL, (in my past experience) dealing with bullies was a standard and common practice. LLNL is well known for allowing only the best and the brightest through the front door. Academically, the firstborns in their family and only children or children raised as only children (functional only children) were typically at the top of their class in college, [iii] Therefore, LLNL was made up of personnel that were predominately in these two categories, and therefore it was not unusual for LLNL to have a significant number of bullies. This situation was mitigated by having an on-contract professional communication specialist who conducted seminars at LLNL. When a bully made themselves known to management, they were encouraged to attend these communication seminars.
The following could be called the Ten Commandments (Ten Guidelines) for communication. The objective for all of society, including schools, is to become assertive communicators (You win; I win).
Interpersonal Communication Techniques Explained [iv]
“It doesn’t matter how you became what you are; this is what works.” Manuel J. Smith, Ph.D.
(1) Broken Record: A skill, by calm repetition – saying what you want over and over again – teaches persistence without you having to rehearse arguments or angry feelings beforehand, in order to be ‘up’ for dealing with others.
Effect: Allows you to feel comfortable in ignoring manipulative verbal side traps, argumentative baiting, irrelevant logic, while sticking to your desired point.
(2) Fogging: A skill that teaches acceptance of manipulative criticism by calmly acknowledging to your critic the probability that there may be some truth in what he says, yet allows you to remain your own judge of what you do.
Example: “That’s true. I …”
Effect: Allows you to receive criticism comfortably without becoming anxious or defensive, while giving no reward to those using manipulative criticism.
(3) Free Information: A skill that teaches the recognition of simple cues given by a social partner in everyday conversation to indicate what is interesting or important to that person.
Effect: Allows you to feel less shy in entering into conversation while at the same time prompting social partners to talk more easily about themselves.
(4) Negative Assertion: A skill that teaches acceptance of your errors and faults (without having to apologize) by strongly and sympathetically agreeing with hostile or constructive criticism of your negative qualities.
Effect: Allows you to look more comfortably at negatives in your own behavior or personality without feeling defensive and anxious, resorting to denial of real error, while at the same time reducing our critic’s anger or hostility.
Example: “You didn’t do too well in (criticism).” “You’re right. I wasn’t too smart in the way I handled that, was I?” “That was a dumb thing for me to do.” Use this technique in non-legal matters ONLY!
(5) Negative Inquiry: A skill that teaches the active prompting of criticism in order to use the information (if helpful) or exhaust it (if manipulative), while prompting your critic to be more assertive and less dependent on manipulative ploys.
Effect: Allows you more comfortably to seek out criticism about yourself in close relationships while prompting the other person to express honest negative feelings and improve communication.
Example: “What was it about … that is wrong?” “What was it that I … that was wrong?”
(6) Self-Disclosure: A skill that teaches the acceptance and initiation of discussion of both the positive and negative aspects of your personality, behavior, lifestyle intelligence, to enhance social communication and reduce manipulation.
Effect: Allows you comfortably to disclose aspects of yourself and your life that previously caused feelings of ignorance, anxiety, or guilt.”
Example: “I like …” or “I don’t like …”, etc.
(7) Workable compromise: In using your verbal assertive skills, it is practical, whenever you feel that your self-respect is not in question, to offer a workable compromise to the other person. You can always bargain for your material goals unless the compromise affects your personal feelings of self-respect. If the end goal involves a matter of your self-worth, however, there can be no compromise.
(8) Reflective or Active Listening
Reflective or active listening serves a couple of purposes. 1) The target summarizes or paraphrases what the verbal bully is saying and confirms their complaint or position. 2) The target is given time to think of their response. This technique is something like counting to ten before returning the punch! 3) If the verbal bully is attacking with a question, repeat or rephrase the question, and then answer the question. This technique also allows the target time to think before responding. This technique is sometimes used by politicians, only they may even go so far as to change the question to one they can answer!
(9) Expand Your Repertoire of Emotional Words
(10) Find or Organize a Group to Practice these New Communication Skills
11) Pass on Your New Communication Skills to Someone Else.
The big question is: can these assertive communication techniques change the personalities of the aggressive bullies and the passive aggressive shooters? Will the aggressive and the passive aggressive use these techniques to advance their own agendas? An alternative would be to place the only children who tend to be aggressive in the same classes so they are matched with students of the same aggressive personalities. In the 1980’s, China enacted their “One Child Only” policy. That would mean that China is ahead of the USA in dealing with these aggressive personalities, as all the children in China would be only children. However, as Dr. Kevin Leman has observed, “When it comes to finding the perfect mate, only children are like vanilla ice cream—they go together with everything, except another only child.” [v] It looks like China has recognized this trend of incapability of two only children as mates and has enacted a new policy of two-child families. However, this policy will not produce the middle born peace-keepers and natural negotiators.
As purposed in an earlier letter, a task force could be assembled at a local church consisting of persons who have been members of the Explorers group for several years. This group could act as a pilot program for proof of principle and a problem-solving task force. My observation is that at least one of these members is an only child who has been through these assertive training programs, along with a much younger only child involved in the education system. Therefore, this mix of personalities should produce a successful task force.
[i] Dr. Kevin Leman, “The Birth Order Book” “Why you Are the Way You Are”, Pub. Revell, 2009, Chapter 7
[ii] Ibid p 147
[iv] Manuel J. Smith, Ph.D., “When I say no, I feel guilty”, Bantam Books, 1975, pp 323-324