Shah Afshar, a man I met several years ago and respect very highly, has posted an interesting and though provoking article on his relatively new blog – SHAHSHANKEDREDEMPTION. I will link to the article in a little bit, but first I want to establish and point out the particular portion that I am interested in discussing here.
Talking about Senator Obama, from the “If Elected” point of view and in reference to Obama’s promise to “sit down with the presidents of Iran and Syria”, he says,
“The first thing Senator Obama and his advisors need to understand is that when it comes to the Middle East they are dealing with a shame-based culture. In that culture, unlike most western cultures, the focus of one’s action is not on right versus wrong, but honor versus shame. What matters is whether an action brings one honor or shame. For example, a person from such a culture would be justified to lie, cheat, steal or kill in order to keep his honor.”
It is an interesting thing, and a concept that is difficult for those of us with a “western” mindset to grasp, this notion of deciding actions based on whether it would bring honor or shame rather than if it is right or wrong.
I would like to discuss this a little bit here. Take a moment to break out of everything that you know about right and wrong. Consider starting your own society. (Not so much a freakish, cult-like, compound-living society – more of a “new-world, like-minded, early settlers kind of society) Would you suppose that life would be better in a world where people decided how they were going to act based on if that act would bring honor or shame to themselves and/or their family? Or, would it be better to agree on a set of (“This is wrong” “This is right”) rules at the formation of this “society”?
On another note, there seems to be a declining sense of shame and honor in our society. Not to say that we were ever “shame-based” per se, but we certainly see people doing things today in broad daylight that would have been considered “shameful” twenty years ago. Have “we” as a society benefited from this? Or have we lost some moral footing because of it?
I would like to hear some of your thoughts on those questions. If you want to get a “big-picture” grasp of this concept go check out the full post (and the rest of Shah’s blog) here. You can do that before or after commenting. While you are over there, feel free to leave a comment and let him know that I sent you.
Now, I promised you that this would come around full circle to be relevant to Mary Kay. I suspect that one of the complaints of anyone that has been involved with Mary Kay may revolve around this concept of shame. Consider that voicing a negative opinion out loud at a meeting when everyone is trying to get pumped up and excited is extremely counter productive. If the “culture” of Mary Kay is to promote enthusiasm for the product and the opportunity, is it not “shameful” to introduce pessimism into that environment? And does it not bring “honor” to ones team to overcome someone’s dreary day with a little friendliness and enthusiasm?
Please understand, I am not endorsing silent, “lemming-like”, follow-the-leader-off-the-cliff behavior by any means. There is a time and a place to raise objections and concerns and if that is NOT provided by a director/recruiter than something is truly out of balance.
That being said, I have heard of people that were negative (or maybe even simply “not enthusiastic enough”) being forced to hold a rubber chicken in the middle of a meeting. In today’s “don’t hurt anyone’s feelings” mindset/culture, this apparently is unacceptable. What do you think? There are many other examples of this in the Mary Kay culture. I would not say that you only find these practices in Mary Kay though. I think if you look at some of the high performing sales organizations TODAY, you will find similar concepts being practiced. However, regardless of whether it is common practice or not, the question is, “Is it right or wrong?” And, if it gets results or fails to get results, does it matter if it is “right” or “wrong”?
I know I have given you a lot to talk about here – and since many of you have been relatively “silent” lately – I hope that you all can find SOMETHING here that you have enough of an opinion about to speak up!
Please don’t forget to visit my friend Shah – here – and say “hi” for me.