Modern Family is one of my favourite sit-coms on TV right now. It’s one of the few shows that makes me laugh out loud many times each episode. I find it to be the perfect blend of humour and heart warm, and every time I try to choose a favourite character, I really can’t. I love them all!
But just recently I was watching one of the latest episodes where at the end, the character Jay who is the hard-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside patriarch of the whole family, did something I fundamentally disagree with.
In his attempt to motivate both his son and his wife into making separate career moves they were both feeling apprehensive about, he employed a little reverse psychology and basically told them they didn’t have what it takes to be successful, and should not even bother trying because they were each likely to fail.
Of course, because it was TV, they both took on the I’ll show you attitude and proceeded to pursue and be successful in reaching their goals. This whole thing was played off as a touching moment. A moment that showed how Jay really did care about his loved ones in his own tough love type of way. And for a moment my heart was warmed.
And then a couple of seconds later I thought, wait a second, that’s not right at all! I hate to say it, but in this episode Modern Family failed us.
And here’s why:
Tough love does not work. Telling people why they suck does not propel them in to action. Calling someone down and criticising their ability and their character does not inspire anyone to be great.
Study after study and social experiment after social experiment has been done to prove this point over and over again.
If people are treated like they are no good, chances are they will either grow up to amount to no good, or, if, they do manage to find some sense of motivation and determination despite being told they are useless, they will likely always struggle with their sense of self-worth – no matter what they do or how much they accomplish.
You likely know this to be true. Think about all the people who made fun of you, called you down, criticised you, doubted your abilities and capabilities.
Even if you think you’ve been able to just let it all go, or have left that all in the past, unless you’ve done intentional therapeutic or self-development work to actually heal and get past them, those negative, self-doubting and self-critical thoughts and beliefs probably go through your head far more often than you’re comfortable with.
We don’t need people to doubt us, call us down, or tell us what we can’t do. Most of us are good at filling that role for ourselves, thank you very much.
What we need more of is people who believe in us. People who encourage us. People who remind us about how great, competent, determined, strong, hardworking, intelligent, and capable we are.
But to be fair, some do genuinely believe their criticism will help motivate and inspire growth in others. But nonetheless they are wrong.
And if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of such treatment, don’t get all angry and defensive right away. They may not even realize the err of their ways.
Instead, just take a sec and say “Hey, you may be trying to help, but I’m not interested in being challenged or questioned or criticised in this moment (or ever). What would be helpful and really mean a lot to me is hearing some words of encouragement and support right now.”
And do you know what? Most people won’t be too put off by you saying that. And they may actually really appreciate being shown how they can help and support you so they don’t have to try to read your mind.
There’s a reason we are all shocked and amazed when someone beats the odds or rises up from the ashes. It’s because it’s pretty unlikely someone will amount to something great when they’ve been told and thus learned to believe they won’t.
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I specializes in working with and treating successful professionals who find themselves feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or even depressed and don’t want to be feeling that way. I help people find balance and happiness in their lives, and meaningful connection in their relationships. I’m also available for speaking engagements and workshop facilitation. To add to it all, I blog, I scope and I watch “Friends” re-reruns while I’m making supper. You can read and see more from me on my Good For Me Blog