Today in India and around the world, we see an agitated society, in endless debate, with the cacophony of politics and media drowning sane thinking and behaviour. Politicians, Media personalities, Social Activists, Community leaders and other groups of like minded people seem to be constantly telling each other how wrong they are!
Don’t we see more and more people in the public arena taking an “I am ok…You are not ok” position?
Life Positions that determine our posturing
Before going further, let’s take a brief look at one of the most effective theories on human behaviour , called Transactional Analysis, by Dr.Eric Berne, the well known Psychiatrist. A simple yet, impactful part of this theory is the one on Life Positions. It says that there are four typical positions people tend to take in situations, reflecting their attitude in life.
- I am ok…You are ok
- I am ok…You are not ok
- I am not ok…You are ok
- I am not ok…You are not ok
Each one of us has one of these four positions as a dominant one; something that we exhibit most often. But depending on circumstances, we may be moving into the others from time to time.
Of these, the first one, I am ok…You are ok, is the life position that is healthy. It ensures objectivity and respect for all; and hence ensures good relationships and harmony.
If you stop for a moment to think on these four life positions, what do you see as the typical stance that you tend to take vis-a-vis others? What do you see others, known and unknown to you, doing? Especially those in the public space?
Public reactions based on their adopted life positions
Let’s visualise the reactions of the common people or the public, to the noise in the public space, based on each of the four life positions; and see how society may get divided.
As a reaction to the “I am ok…You are not ok” stances by opinion makers, the audience, in all likelihood, may react as follows –
- I am ok…You are ok: People with this dominant life position may go quiet and try to look at things objectively. But only up to a point. Eventually, if a particular issue drags on in the public space for too long, they will also take one or the other side, based on whichever stance looks more reasonable; and, may be, convenient to them.
- I am ok…You are not ok: The ones with this life position, without hesitation, would align with the public postures relevant to their thoughts and become their loudest supporters. They are the first lot of visible support base for one line of thought or argument.
- I am not ok…You are ok: Those in this life position may either meekly align to one of the vocal points of view; more out of submission to pressures from the vocal lot. Or, follow those whom they consider their role model (who may be from any of the four positions)
- I am not ok…You are not ok: This lot may get disengaged from the noises, become skeptical, angry and restless; and may even turn violent, harming themselves or others. They may become the extremists who do not agree with the moderates even on their side of the debate.
Thus, the position taken by the social influencers (leaders, media, activists) is the trigger for the alignment that happens in the rest of the society, who are the audience.
If positions get hardened with posturing and counter posturing, society starts firmly aligning to one or the other line of thought, the divisions getting too deep and irreversible.
What could be the way out?
The solution clearly lies with both the noise making leaders and the silent public.
It is so important that people in influencing positions – the leaders, media, activists etc, adopt the healthy “I am Ok…You are Ok” attitude. Even if one of the two sides engaged in a public debate takes this healthy stance, with a willingness to work with the other in resolving the stalemate, there is a good chance of bringing sanity back in society. This has happened many times before and must not be abandoned.
Equally important, the thinking public needs to adopt a strong “I am ok…You are ok” position, maintaining neutrality and objectivity. Not adding to the noise, keeping a cool head and trying to get both sides to a discussion point, is critical.
In any dispute, the role of an arbitrator needs to be performed by somebody. In a democracy, who better than credible individuals from politics, media, social organisations and industry, who have the ability to think , keep their sanity and objectivity and work rapidly to diffuse the situation.
Today, India is being pushed deep into a crisis with the “I am ok…You are not ok” stance from multiple sides. It is so important that some credible individuals, either from amongst the influencers or the silent public, take the initiative to break the deadlock.
But for that, every one needs to take a step back and stay firmly in the “I am ok…You are ok” position.
Also read this article by Ragini Rao about how to bring about Attitude Change .
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