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Call Out Culture is Toxic

As I stood in the corner, my heart pumping hot tears, trickling down my flushed cheeks, the visceral feeling of shame ran through my body. All eyes were on me. I had been singled out.

This is a memory of first grade. I was too chatty in class (if you can believe it!) My teacher decided to tell me to stand in the corner. 

I spent no time thinking about how I should have been quieter and spent all the time feeling ashamed, wronged, and hard done by. 

Were You Ever Yelled At As A Kid?

Did your parents ever punish you, yell at you, humiliate you, or shame you in front of other people? Can you connect to that experience of what it’s like to be singled out from the crowd? With that feeling of deep shame that goes along with being publicly called out?

If so, my new video is for you.

Callout Culture Video

Call out culture is toxic and in today’s video, we discuss how calling people out for any incorrect behaviors, opinions, or actions that they may have taken has spread like a wildfire.

Let’s discuss what’s going on and what we can do instead.



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(Even With People You Completely Disagree With)


We Are Living in a Cancel Culture

We live in a cancel culture where we feel very free to criticize other people in front of others, and where we feel it’s okay to bypass all of the systems that we have in place – for example, being innocent until proven guilty.

Public shaming has been outlawed as a form of punishment. It’s commonly thought to be a cruel and unusual punishment that has such dire psychological consequences to people that it shouldn’t be used.

Though there seems to be a fascination that we all have… somewhere deep in our psyche… with seeing somebody successful meet misfortune. That’s what tabloid magazines are all about right?


Have You Contributed to the Call Out Culture Toxic Behaviors?

Call out culture toxic behaviors often begin in the home, but not in the ways we suspect.

When I do coaching with couples, we often talk about one specific scenario because one fight about who does the dishes is often going to hold within it, all of the pieces that are true for them on the macro level. 

How we wake up in the morning, how we greet our children, how we manage our time,  how we spend our money, how we use our words… all of this ultimately builds together and creates how we are, what we do, what our whole life is comprised of.


A quote relating to call out culture that says "How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives."


What’s True in the Micro is Typically True in the Macro

If we look down to the micro-level, we can see that how we talk to ourselves in our own head can influence:

…how we talk to our partners

…how we talk to our children

…how we then approach neighbors, friends, extended family, community, country, the universe,  and strangers on the internet.


Let’s Specify the Call Out Culture Definition

The call out culture definition, the way I see it, is when people call someone out. You’ve heard this term – calling someone out for something that they’ve said or done (basically telling them that they’re wrong, telling them they’ve made a mistake and doing so in front of others where others can see, participate and join in.)

We see it on Twitter, on Facebook, on blogs, people making videos…

And it goes to really strange extents where people actually think that they are doing some kind of favor for this person. They’re enacting emotional labor on this person’s behalf. They feel they should be thanked. They are somehow being of service.


What Child Psychology Tells Us About Public Shaming

Why do some believe you shouldn’t yell, shame, and punish children, but have no problem doing it to adults?


If we don’t think that shaming and humiliation is a good tactic to use for behavior change in children, I’m not sure where we get the idea that that’s a good tactic to use for behavior change in adults.


What child psychology tells us about using shaming tactics is that when we call out a child in front of others for doing something, no matter how calm and polite we are, it triggers the shame mechanism.

When we call out a child in front of others, typically they won’t be able to listen to the actual message of, say, “hitting hurts, it is not okay to hit.” 

When a child feels ashamed, what they hear is, “You’re bad. I don’t like you. Nobody likes you. Something is wrong with you.”


The Unrealistic Expectations of Call-Out Culture

What I see online is people call out someone and have this unrealistic expectation that the person should listen, should take it all in, reflect on what they’re saying, and should even thank them for it.

That’s just not how human brains work!

None of us are quite that evolved and mature. If you tell us, in the public arena, that there’s something wrong with us, we will feel hard done by because that is a shaming tactic and shame doesn’t help in eliciting behavior change in the way that we want.

Shame only creates distance, defense, and revenge mechanisms. It doesn’t create introspection and reflection and someone saying, “You know what? This is so interesting. Thank you for helping me. I’d like to grow.”


So What Should We Do When We See or Hear Something We Don’t Like?  

A lot of people think they’re coming from a place of love, caring, and respect. Thinking they are somehow bettering the world. But that’s not usually true.

Remember, there’s a difference between criticism and critique.

When someone is doing something to truly help you because they care and they think the feedback will be helpful, it won’t come from a place of self-righteousness. There’s no smug satisfaction in seeing you suffer.

Here’s what we can do when we see or hear something we don’t like:


1. Often, Inaction is the Higher Road to Take

Just as we back off to let our children solve their own problems during sibling rivalry, we can do the same when an adult makes a mistake.  Sometimes we need to say, “I trust them. They’ll figure this out. I can see that they’re behaving in a way that might be really imperfect and flawed, but I need to trust them. They have their own path.”

Certainly, with children, I think we need to back off a lot, but with other people, we also need to back off because:

  • We don’t know what’s going on with them.
  • We don’t want to assume that we know better than them.
  • We are not in a position to demand things from other people.
  • Everybody is flawed and makes mistakes and does better when they know better.


Instead of calling someone out, let’s:

  • offer the benefit of the doubt
  • assume that maybe that person is on their own journey
  • consider that their mistakes are theirs to make
  • see it from a different perspective,  but remember that I’m not here to educate them – they are their own sovereign individual beings and I can agree or disagree


This way of thinking has gotten completely lost from our public conversations but it is also getting lost in our parenting education as well.


2. Allow a Margin for Error

In today’s callout culture, we’re taking on this burden of responsibility that isn’t ours to bear. There’s too much correction, too much control, too many feedback loops on how our children and our peers behave.

It’s okay to make some mistakes, to test things out, to be awkward and say or do something mean from time to time, and have our social circles teach us whether that gains us favorability or not.

I think it would behoove us to make a culture and a society that allows for a frame of human error.

To allow ourselves a chance to be lifelong learners, lifelong evolvers, people who change and grow.

3. Call People In

Sometimes we’ve got to say something, right? We feel compelled. We feel moved. We feel that this is important (and I think with other people, we very, very rarely need to say something. Very rarely. Very carefully.)


Instead of calling people out, what would happen if we decided to call them in?


What would happen if we decided to help them, to save face, and to not humiliate them? 

Just like with our children – what if instead of yelling and telling, I say, “Please, can you come with me for a minute? I want to talk privately.” We go to a corner, I whisper, and I think about what I’m going to say and how I’m going to say it.


This is the act of calling someone in, rather than calling someone out.

It’s privately addressing something from a place of generosity…

…from a place of critique, not criticism

…from a place of love

…from a place that holds their highest good to light

… from a place to genuinely enlighten them, and help them notice something that might be of service in their development and in their growth.


I know that this is how I would like to be treated when I make mistakes.


We Can’t Influence Through Attacks and Shame

I am dismayed and perplexed to see that people think that calling others out is a viable, ethical, and effective tactic for influencing others for inspiring change.

And I am equally perplexed and dismayed to think that that is a tactic that we might be using in our own families.

I would like to encourage us all to step way back from the brink of call-out culture, not participate in it, not endorse it, not encourage it, not think that this is some kind of effective way of moving forward.

It’s deeply unkind.

It’s arrogant.

It’s ignorant and it doesn’t work.

It simply shoves people further away from us, from our point of view, and actually closes their mind to anything of value that we may have had to offer them.


When calling others out, our message goes completely unheard, but the message that comes through loud and clear is a message of hatred and division.


I Am Taking a Stand Against Call Out Culture – Here’s How

I’m seeing more, more messages of hatred and division. It worries me and I feel compelled to act.

I have put together a mini-course and mini coaching experience called DePolarize.


DePolarize is a course that will help you harmonize, communicate, and connect, even with people you completely disagree with.

If you’re feeling the extremities of polarization, the pulling and tugging at the fabric of society, you are not alone. It is real. It is happening. And it’s actually tearing families apart.


As someone who stands firmly for unity, harmony, and the ability to hold space for each other and to coexist peacefully… this is going to be a mini-course where you will learn the 10 switches that you’ve got to flip in your conversations with people that you very much disagree with.

It will not only help you to be more influential and more persuasive in your opinions but also help you to save your relationships with the people that you love, even if you completely disagree with them.

I don’t have any particular horse in any particular race on these subjects – I have very complex and nuanced opinions on all of them.

But I do have a very clear horse in the race of keeping families, relationships and friendships united, harmonized, happy, connected, and communicative. 

I look forward to seeing you on the inside >> check out DePolarize here


Conclusion: Call Out Culture is Toxic For Us

Call out culture is unhealthy for us.  What does help, however, is connected conversations that come from a place of curiosity, of service, of mutual humanity and humility.

I want to make a strong case and endorsement for calling people in, if and when the situation is truly warranted, but being extremely cautious about calling people out.


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