Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Look of Shame - Spitzer


An incredible study of nonverbal behavior. Notice even the 'uniforms' down to the pearls, and the lapels pins.

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The Look of Shame ... Or is it the Look of Guilt?
In a law firm where I consulted, when someone made a mistake, they or the others would say "the walk of shame." Meant to kind of lighten the situation. Granted "shaming and blaming" is not suitable behavior for an office - but that's why I was there. That having been said, there are times when one should should feel shame and/or guilt.

Shaming phrases, for instance, are, "You should have known better," and "How could you do something so stupid?" They are designed to make the person feel shame.

Is this the look of shame - or guilt? And what's the difference between the two?
In our language, there is no clearcut distinction better "shame" and "guilt." Cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict describes shame as "a violation of cultural or social values" while feelings of guilt "arise from violations of internal values."

In their book, "Facing Shame," Fossum and Mason state "While guilt is a painful feeling of regret and responsibility for one's actions, shame is a painful feeling about oneself as a person."

As we grow from childhood into adulthood, and become better able to judge our own actions, guilt becomes the conscience former. Although, in general, guilt guides adult consciences, intrinsic shame is often present in adults too.

Facing up to shameful behavior in public (and I'm sure this is defined culturally - what's "shameful") is especially difficult.

Take a look at the faces of these people. How do these men look? Look especially at the mouths. Hard to describe - but we know it when we see it. The eyes tell a lot too. Often people will shut their eyes while clamping their mouths tightly as well.

The general impression is - I don't want to do this and I hope it will be over with soon.

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