The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Abuse: Reacting to Inappropriateness

This week on "Dancing with the Stars," there were a lot of emotions expressed by the dancers. They were more than unhappy with the inconsistency of the expressed evaluations of the judges. They were extremely annoyed with the derogatory personal comments by the judges. Although in the spontaneous feedback after the routine those objections were expressed (and were audible to the judges), reactions to the flaming critiques were curbed. Last month a recruiter posted an invitation on Facebook to attend his chat. The topic was the importance of not saying negative things about your boss. Perhaps this week on "Dancing with the Stars" was a lesson for not only him but for all of us.

One would think the season with David Hasselhoff and Michael Bolton taught the judges a lesson about using tact and diplomacy. It appears that isn't so. This week they just went over the top with personal attacks veiled as humor - humor that came off as making the contestant the victim of the barbs. This type of humor is simply unacceptable. It would be more appropriate to call it verbal abuse.

It was shocking to the psyche to hear Chaz's complaints (I missed the comments from the Monday night competition). Who would think a judge would feel it's acceptable to publicly refer to someone as an Ewok or make a comment about looking like a penguin - or even a basketball!? Verbal abuse in the form of personal attacks (even veiled as humor and laughter) is not acceptable. If these were personal friends sharing private or even semi-private sarcasm with one another, it might work. But in this case, these criteria are not true. They were quite public and recorded for as long as video endures.

Verbal and emotional abuse leave scars that cannot be seen but cut deeper than any physical injury. The words come back to you at the least expected times and are like ghosts. They bring forth fear and uncertainty; they create doubt and low self esteem. In order to break them, it's necessary to be stronger than usual to remind yourself of the things for which you didn't feel confident yet towered in the delivery of what was expected.

Reliability of Critiques
The judges' opinions after each routine are also inconsistent. Some of the dancers and even the spokespersons have made that observation. The immediate critiques are beginning to sound more like platitudes in order to entertain rather than legitimate evaluations and comments to encourage improvement. That in turn suggests there may be some form of favoritism involved in the judging. The comments after the routines also sound more like flattery in order to feed the ego and avoid having the performers feel discouraged. These days the judging does little to provide actual, understandable pointers for improvement. Sometimes they don't even hit the mark.

At the Limit Reactions
One of my favorite professional dancers is [Macho] Maks. He's a favorite because his dancing is beautiful. Not only that, he gets invested with his partner. He is not only the choreographer, coach, and partner, he is also the advocate and cheering section. The feedback from the judges is also feedback on how well he coached his star and is supervising their progress. It tells him whether he demanded sufficient discipline from them, whether the routine was creative enough, and what needs improvement. He's very invested in showcasing the best from his partner and actually teaching them, pulling from them, the best that they can achieve; it showcases what he can teach and perform.

A bit of his ego gets tangled into the entire process for the presentations. So when the judges have poor comments, Max has started expressing his frustrations. Push-back is good when it spurs conversation and promotes a meeting of the minds. On the dance floor while on air is not the time to work on having that coalescence. Max could also use a few lessons on tact and diplomacy. But sometimes emotions simply boil over. There's no taking back words. Still, his frustrations are understandable because the standard the judges are using is not consistent. How can you work on improvement when the instruction and deployment are essentially the same yet the criticism levied one week is praise while the next week it's the opposite?

Appropriate Attire
I'm so glad the show has finally gotten the dancers to start wearing more clothing. The routines were verging on becoming "Dancing in the Nude with the Stars." I'm also glad the men no longer feel obliged to rip off their jackets at the beginning of a Latin dance and then perform bare chested. There was no purpose to it except to show skin; and I don't think men in the Latin countries go to clubs and strip while they baile a la musica.

Recovery Mode
The dancers did a good job of recovering their composure for the remainder of the public reaction to the judges' feedback. They showed the traditional manner of not "bad mouthing" your employer publicly. There's a repercussion in taking that route. It leaves a taint on your character and discretion. But those who hear the lambasting also wonder about the veracity of the words. Rather than become yet another victim of the offenses, people will go elsewhere for their needs. They'll probably avoid the speaker so they don't have to suffer through what could be constant, or routine, acerbic attitude.

It's good that those insult sessions are left in the tape that's aired. Those comment sections make great training content for verbal abuse and recognizing it for what it really is. Unlike Halloween, those comments are not costumes (i.e., not real) for appropriate behavior. It is possible to have entertainment and free expression without being abusive. It is also possible to offer constructive criticism without stooping to cloying, false flattery that does no one any good.