Sklover’s Monday Thought: “What drives people to extremes . . .”

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Feeling ignored, forgotten, betrayed . . . these are what drive people to extremes.”

– Frank Luntz

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Whether at work or home, in politics or in personal matters, this quote resonates with me at a 200% level. Especially in the workplace where, despite frictions, distractions and deadlines, each of us has little choice but to co-exist and co-labor in order to get “stuff” done.

It is often the case that those who are having difficulties at work, who seem to be losing their sense of trust at the office, share these three words: ignored, forgotten, betrayed, or words of similar meaning.

Just like it seems in our “bi-polar politics,” in which each extreme thinks the other is, to use a technical term, “just plain nuts.” Few, if any, are really “nuts,” just beyond the limits of their own self-respect and self-control, at or near the end of their rope, in frustration, bitterness and resentment. They surely are in need of encouragement to dare to come back “over the line.” Without that, the tendency is just to go to further extremes.

What gets them back to “the middle” is their sensing that they are not being ignored, forgotten or betrayed. So, listen more; don’t walk away, and never yell. Be the one who initiates the recuperative “intense listening.” After all, someone has to go first.

Seek mutual understandings, however small; they are the bricks in the road to peace and productivity. People are not born in the “extremes,” but instead are usually “driven” there, almost always against their own nature.

Demonstrate that you appreciate that each of us faces great pressures, often hard to manage . . . even those who seem personally toxic. Reach deep to maintain your self-respect while showing them you respect them. Surely not easy, not at all. But easier if you bear this quote in mind:

“Feeling ignored, forgotten, betrayed . . . these are what drive people to extremes.”

It’s not only the right thing to do and the wise thing to do, but also in your personal interests, as well.

We recently heard this quote used to predict who is likely to prevail in upcoming political contests: those who show they are truly “listening.” We hope this insight makes sense to you, and in turn, that you will make use of it at work, home and elsewhere.

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