In his column in the March 15, 2016 edition of The New York Times, David Brooks wrote about the concepts of “guilt” and “shame”. He makes a very cogent case about their differences and he observes that in today’s culture in America, shame has overtaken guilt as a force in our lives, largely the result of social media.
Guilt is something that is self-generated. When we feel guilt, it is because we realize that we have done something that we know is wrong. Shame, however, is something that others impose, so Mr. Brooks posits.
Generally speaking, I find that when one person shames another it is, well, shameful. On the other hand, if you feel guilty because you know you have done the wrong thing, why that’s a good thing. It means that you know right from wrong. Knowing right from wrong is important. Someone who doesn’t know the difference can commit terrible acts without ever feeling a twinge of regret.
What has this to do with meetings, conferences, trade shows and exhibitions? Quite a bit, I’d say. These events bring people together. When people get together, good things can happen…or not. People who don’t know right from wrong can produce toxic results. That’s true, too, of participants for whom embarrassing or ridiculing others is sport.
But read David Brooks column. He explains it all far better than I.