Why Don't You Answer Attacks?

Dear Harvey,

I have been in Co-Counseling for some time.

I know that you are periodically "attacked." Why don't you answer the attacks publicly? I'm not saying that I think it is a good idea, but I'm curious as to how you can resist "nailing" the attackers for the stupid things they say.

I have not been jarred by the things said, particularly because I know that you are respected by people who know you well and whose judgment I trust. I have seen people get over being upset with you when you open a new initiative once they've discharged about it and either come to agreement with you or decided they could be comfortable being in disagreement with you while they think about the subject more.

I'm just curious how you can stand not to blast the attackers.


Dear M.S.,

When I was young, a number of people around me gave me the impression that I must never make mistakes.

I now realize that making mistakes and correcting them is a crucial part of the learning process. Once I'd absorbed that, I tried various ways of dealing with other people's attitudes about my mistakes. I now think that the simplest way of handling a mistake is to admit it was a mistake, apologize for it, and if the person needs to complain about it a few more times, encourage him. When he's discharged his complaining (this may take a little counseling), I then promise never to make that mistake again. It is amazing how well that works where my mistake was a mistake, or even if he is projecting something from his past upon me. As long as the person criticizing me is doing so in an effort to improve our project or our relationship, apologizing helps things get better and better.

With "attacks," however, the motivation, patterned or deliberate, is to harm someone. With experience with attacks, one soon learns that counseling the attacker is not workable. I interrupt the attacks firmly and am final about it.

These "attacks" are close relatives of Hitler's "Big Lie," which Goebbels used to explain by saying it didn't matter how false the Big Lie was, if you kept repeating it enough some scared people and eventually the majority of scared people would believe it without any evidence at all.

My experience with the many attacks made on me as a labor leader and, later, as an RCer was that any answer to an attacker was used by the attacker as an opportunity to repeat the attack or some variation of it.

Attackers always accuse their targeted victim of something that is already restimulating to many people and try to take advantage of people's difficulty in thinking in these areas.

It was a great relief to me to finally realize that ignoring an attack was not only much less work than any other response, but was also the most effective.

Our greatest U.S. President once said, while he was in the midst of a storm of attacks while trying to lead the nation during the Civil War:

"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing it to the end. If the end brings me out alright, what is said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would not make any difference." - Abraham Lincoln

Harvey Jackins
Seattle, Washington

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00