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Pointing Fingers

Have you pointed your finger at someone?  NO – not that finger. Your pointer finger. Have you pointed at someone, whether it be literally or figuratively?

Have you caught yourself having real or “mirror” conversations with yourself where you are pointing?       pointing fingers

Were you trying to work out a conflict with a colleague in the mirror? Were you practising what to say? What you str going to do? How you are going to say it?   Do you find yourself pointing as you imagine yourself saying, “You are not.….”           

Do you find yourself, during those transitions that we dread (see last week’s blog), pointing at the room or a corner and saying, “Clean up the blocks over there.”  Or “What about that car under the table? “

WELL, here is something worth noting.

Did you know that when you point a finger, three fingers point back at yourself? Yup! It’s true. Try it. See? Three fingers are pointing at you, but we often only focus on our pointer finger.

Pointing fingers is what we do when we want to shift blame or responsibility to others. Pointing fingers is equal to saying, “You are not…

  • Doing what I have asked
  • Doing what I want
  • Listening to me
  • Honouring me
  • Focusing on what I am focusing on

We point to blame, accuse, and point out what is not being done.  It is our way of signalling, to a colleague, to a child, to a family member, that we are not happy with their behaviour or efforts. But, what about our behaviour? Our efforts?  This is where those three fingers come into the picture.

Since more fingers are pointing at you - the pointer – we need to look more closely at them.  Why? Because they indicate that YOU need to look at a few things first before starting to point the finger at others.   

Think of those three fingers – that are pointing back at you – as the three E’s: expectations, environment, and effort.  This is what you need to evaluate when you find yourself pointing that finger – whether it be real or figuratively – because this is what needs to be changed or addressed first and, guess what, they are YOUR fingers, and they are pointing at YOU. So, one guess, who has to re-evaluate? Yup.  YOU.

You read that right. You need to look at yourself and what you can do to change the situation.  The answers lie in those three fingers – the Es – that are pointing back at you, telling you what you need to examine. Let’s start with:

E = Expectations 

Are your ideas realistic? Have you communicated your wants and needs appropriately?  Have you set yourself and others up for success, or have you assumed?  You know what they say when you assume – dissect the word – you make an ass-u-me – it is a lose-lose situation. Assuming others know what you want or need is akin to mind reading.  What may be apparent to us may not be clear to others. Why? Because they have their own fingers to worry about. They have their own expectations. They have their own wants and needs.

So, take a look at your expectations.   Are they realistic? Are they appropriate?  Pointing your finger at a three-year-old who is not listening at circle time means you have to look at those fingers pointing back at you and ask yourself, “Is it appropriate to ask a three-year-old to sit for 15 minutes without moving? “ Where does the responsibility lie to ensure that the circle is appropriate in length?  With YOU. Where does the responsibility lie to ensure the circle is engaging? With YOU. Where does the responsibility lie when a co-worker talks over you while you are giving instructions to your little ones?  With YOU.  See that finger? Yep – it is pointing back at you.

Okay, what about finger #2 looking back at you.  It stands for:

E = Environment

Take an objective look at your environment. What does it say?  Have you created runways for chaos in the way you have organized your room? Do you have visuals that indicate the class routines? When you point that finger and tell a child to clean up, have you made it clear where to put the items? Is the bin marked? Did you move it closer, so they understand where the items are to go?   Did you give enough transition warnings?  Did you assume? (There is that word again!)

How is your environment promoting positive behaviours? How is it enabling challenging behaviours? If the children are running around the room, it is up to YOU to rearrange the furniture to make it less easy to navigate around.  If the children are bored and acting out, it is up to YOU to make the environment more stimulating. Do you need more toys? Less toys? New toys? Loose parts?   You need to reflect on the environment.

This brings us to that third finger that points at us when we are pointing at others. It represents:

E = Effort

Have you put in the effort that you expect others to?  Taking time to reflect and revisit our thoughts and assumptions is part of our best practice.  If we are too busy putting our effort into pointing or shifting blame, we are not doing what we can to make a situation better. We are diluting our efforts.  If you have a conflict with a colleague, have you put effort into trying to solve it?   Have you followed the steps of conflict resolution?  Have you looked at your expectations and environment to see how they may be contributing to this misunderstanding?

Now, you may have read this and thought, “But I don’t point fingers.”  It is rude to do so. For you, this may be true, but we can point fingers  - with our words  - without realizing it.

Pointing finger statements can include:  

  • How many times have I told you…
  • What part of no don’t you understand?
  • You are not listening to me.
  • Stop it!
  • That’s not my problem. It is your problem.

These statements are a way of verbally shifting responsibility to the other person, whether it be a child or colleague. The best way to stop that verbal finger-pointing is to use I-messages.

Some good I-message starters are:

  • I see…
  • I hear…
  • I need…
  • I prefer…

Instead of saying, “How many times have I told you…” you say, “I get upset when I have to remind you to pick up your shoes because I keep tripping over them.”   You can follow this with: “I want you to help me pick them up.” 

I-messages allow you to be responsible for your expectations, environment and effort by acknowledging your response and commenting from your perspective.  I-messages let you take responsibility for YOU and your feelings without the finger-pointing. 

SO – take a step back when you want to point the finger and look at those fingers pointing back at you.

Remember: The power is in your hands to be anything you want to become.   ~Thabisile Ledwaba

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