When there is any conflict between or among people, it generally stems from a kind of behavior that “turns off” someone else. (Adults label it a personality conflict, which is simply a fancy title describing a situation in which two or more people don’t agree.) Often, the term insecure is used as the reason for certain behaviors. “He acts like that because he is insecure.” “She talks about other people because she is insecure about herself.” “John isn’t going to try out for drum major because he feels very insecure about his chances.”
The truth is we are all insecure. We can’t be experts on everything, and each day of our lives we are faced with problems that involve taking some risks to solve them so we can move on. (Of course, when we risk, we also set ourselves up for failure—and many people simply cannot face failure.) Therefore, if we understand our own insecurities and how we treat them, it will allow us to see why other people behave as they do, and, through this understanding, we can effectively eliminate most (if not all) personality conflicts. Who wouldn’t want that? Let’s see how people deal with these common feelings and how we can learn to use them to our advantage.
There are six basic reactions to feelings of insecurity. As they are described, you will probably be able to recognize someone in your classroom who fits into this category. The important thing is that we learn to positively use the information to help the person grow.
Individuals who react to insecurity through withdrawal simply hide within a shell of silence. They will never volunteer to step forward on any project. They are living in constant fear of being picked out of the crowd. (The thought of embarrassment is unbearable.)
To communicate effectively with these individuals, be very gentle in your approach. Harshness and criticism will drive them further back into their shells to the point that they may eventually drop the class rather that face the fear of failing.
We all recognize the person who always has to make a comment and put others down. The only way the individual can make him- or herself look good is by making others look bad.
The most productive way to deal with this kind of insecurity is to communicate with this person on a one-on-one basis. Never deal with the aggressiveness in front of the group. It only reinforces this behavior as an attention-getter and does nothing to curb the insecurity.
Do you have a class clown? This person has to make a joke about everything and is always good for a laugh, even in the most serious moments.
A “true friend” will address the clown and let him or her know the humor is appreciated, but it is not necessary to insure the person’s worth. In other words, there is a time and place for everything. (Remember, some people laugh to keep from crying or act silly in order to avoid painful seriousness.)
These people are the few who never seem to care about anything. They don’t have moments of joy or sadness—they just go through the motions, never demonstrating any readable emotions.
These are very difficult individuals to understand because there appears to be nothing to discuss. Often this reaction of indifference is a result of being hurt in a past experience, so these people feel that if they don’t care, then they won’t be hurt. Unfortunately this behavior is self-destructive and keeps the individual from enjoying the class. Patience is of primary importance in handling this individual. Take your time. Progress will be slow.
Here we have the people who stay in the middle of the road on everything. If everyone else votes yes, they will vote yes also—even if they disagree with the concept. These people focus all their energy on not being different. They feel as long as they are in the middle of the pack, nobody will pick them out, and they won’t have to confront their insecurity.
We must remind these people that they are easy prey for everyone. (As long as we have huge numbers in this category, fads will reign supreme, and people will devote their efforts to being just like everyone else instead of themselves.) Usually you can reason with these people; unfortunately, their understanding may be just another form of conformity. Lots of time and energy is necessary here!
Here is the person who recognizes the insecurity and decides to do something about it, rather than choose one of the other five non-productive options. These people have the same fears, the same considerations, the same feelings of failure, and the same desires to quit that anyone else may have. The difference is, they don’t quit. Instead, they risk, knowing that every success usually has six to eight failures as a prior investment.
How many times have you heard the clever little sayings such as “No pain, no gain” or “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The truth is these all describe the compensator, the individual who realizes a weakness and goes about solving it through study, practice, extra hours, volunteer duty, courtesy, and lots of blood, sweat, and tears.
A very wise young lady put it quite simply in one of my workshops. She said, “The only difference between a successful person and one who is not is the successful person decides to go for it in spite of their fears.” Profound!
As you head into tomorrow, how are you going to deal with your sense of insecurity? Perhaps the most helpful thing we can all do is join together in helping one another conquer our fears and support those around us in taking the risk, by being the first ones on hand to help them if they fail.
We quickly see insecurity is a given in this thing called growing. The choice of how we deal with it is the key to our success.
This article is adapted from the book “Everyday Wisdom for Inspired Teaching” by GIA Publications, and reproduced with permission from Tim Lautzenheiser.