What the Covington Catholic High School Fiasco Taught Us About Emotional Triggers – BtR 163
By Brandon Cunningham and Jerry Dugan
Brandon and Jerry discuss the impact that our unchecked emotional triggers in the world, in our relationships and in the workplace. Emotional Triggers Can Ignite a Furious Mob Mentality Jerry’s heart sank on January 19 when his wife shared with him a news story about a group of high school students who taunted a Native American at the Lincoln Memorial. The students were reported wearing that famous red “Make America Great Again” hat. The short clip showed white teens surrounding a smaller group of Native Americans, and everything about that clip was infuriating. An image circulated across social media like wildfire showing a MAGA-hat-wearing young man smirking in the face of chanting and drumming Nathan Phillips. It didn’t take long for the Twitter-verse to become angry, speak its mind, and call for the worst to happen to these students and their families. Outrage became calls to put pressure on the diocese in Kentucky and the superintendent of the school. People were calling for immediate action, and we mean at that moment, no due process. Celebrities like Kathy Griffin and GQ writer Nathaniel Friedman called for doxing of all the students involved. Those who were outraged demanded the jobs of the superintendent, the parents of the students and others began to cross the line. A store owner called for fans of his store to “fire on” any of these students if they were true fans. He even called for the school to be burned down. Former CNN host even commented how Nick Sandmann had a “punchable face.” Grown adults calling for harm to come to teenagers?! Where have we come as a society? What were all the emotional triggers examples here? What were they all triggered by? Some say it was the red “MAGA” hat. It’s like the new white hood to many. Others saw it as a racial issue with racial lenses on. Others saw it as liberals versus conservatives. Whatever the triggers were one thing was certain. Things certainly escalated quickly, and we remain in a rut of staying in our own echo chambers. Be Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, Slow to Anger As the Twitter-frenzy continued, more video clips, longer video clips began to surface. The original reports turned out to be false. People still looked for reasons to be angry at the teenagers and attacked the fact they were in Washington, D.C. for the March for Life event. The conversation was all about making these students look like obnoxious racists. Then, a video surfaced that was almost two hours in length posted by the Black Hebrew Israelites. That is when it became abundantly clear that the best approach was to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. (See USA Today story and full video here. Warning: this video is graphic for strong language.) Impact of Your Emotional Triggers in the Workplace We all have our pet peeves. We definitely have issues where we have deeply rooted passions for or against. Emotional triggers in the workplace for us can come from a phrase, a person, or an entire department. Imagine hearing about a viable solution to a problem that stumped your team. You find out that the idea came from Sue, and instantly it’s a bad idea in your mind. Why? You can’t stand Sue. Everything about her views flies in the face of what you believe. There’s no way she could have a good idea. Even if she did, you would never support it. This is how you know if you are following your emotions rather than logic and fact. Would you accept that same exact solution if it came from someone else, someone you liked? Would you even add to that solution to make it even better? Lacking self-awareness is a great way to isolate yourself from others at work. You are now the guy who goes off the deep-end when we need to collaborate. Your emotions betrayed you, and you’ve demonstrated an inability to build effective teams. Teamwork is all about having humility and working for a larger goal.