Episode 65: Don’t Be a Bystander

I'm Shivani Gupta, and welcome to the Ask Shivani podcast. I believe that one of the best presents that you can give yourself is time to be able to sit down and ask yourself some questions. I believe that the quality of the question that you ask yourself will determine the quality of your life.

Hi everybody, and welcome to the AskShivani podcast. Today, I'm going to be focusing on being a on the sidelines and whether that's a great thing. And I wanted to talk about the pros and the not-so-great things about being on the sidelines. So firstly, let's look at the analogy of being on the sidelines, when your children are playing sport. The idea of a parent on the sidelines is to encourage your children. A lot of schools now and a lot of sports have code of conduct for parents, I've certainly been at those games were some very aggressive parents who are probably not very good at their child losing, and look at them as they're losing, and they yelling from the sidelines, but literally, hey, this isn't right.

And they yelling from the sidelines at the children. And often at the umpires and I have actually witnessed this on the sidelines where those parents have been asked and removed from the game, and have also been removed from attending any games. We've also seen this with people in who are celebrity sports stars, and whose parents are coming to different games and yelling, who've also been removed. So that sort of behavior is not great. And that sort of behavior is not what I really want to focus on. What I'm talking about on the sidelines is what about when you witness somebody being bullied? What if you see somebody being abused? What if you see an inappropriate behavior being conducted towards somebody who, for whatever reason, is coping bad physical violence, or emotional violence or maybe even financial, violence? Or you become aware of that this person has been sexually abusing somebody? What do you do when it's not really your business? It's not your child. It's not your friend. It's not your close family or any friend members. It's not your colleague. But you are on the sidelines. And you hear about this inappropriate behavior. Where do you stand with this? And recently, I was watching our former Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, and who has been speaking about very openly about her sexual abuse as a child by her teacher, and the laws and when you hear of somebody on the sideline, that happening to even if you don't have all the facts, what are your responsibilities? And it certainly made me started to think that we see that, I remember a couple of years ago, my young man who's 11 now, a couple of years ago, he saw one of the really big physical guys in his class, punch another kid. And he went up to this kid and said, don’t punch my friend. And this kid said to him, what are you going to do about it? And he said, just don't punch my friend as any nine-year-old who doesn't have the vocabulary or the probably or the emotional intelligence developed, says, and he stood between this fairly big physical bully and his friend.

And then this bully punched my son. And my son punched him back. And then I got an email from the school to say, well, look, this has happened. And I felt really conflicted. I felt really conflicted in that situation, because a part of me was going, hey, man, you can't use violence for violence. I, you know, I grew up in India with a fist with a fist, you know, is not the way that the answer was, but there's been a lot of issues and wars between India and Pakistan. There's been so many other wars, you know, this is where Gandhi emanated, and we, you know, so I've got this DNA almost around, not resorting violence with violence, which are so good. But in this case, it wasn't even something happening to him, but he was defending his friend. And on the other hand, I felt so proud of him. The fact that he was willing to stand up for his friend and say, to this bully that this behavior was not okay. And equally, I also get the school's perspective, which was, look, you can't resort this for the fist. And they understood that this boy was a bit of a bully, and bullied other kids. And you know, and then when my son asked me, why does this happen? I said to him, and I said, Look, I know I'm generalizing a little bit here. But what I know is hurt people hurt people. So, when people are really hurt, they hurt other people. So, we're not saying that we're not justifying this boy's behavior. towards you, towards your friend towards other kids in the class. But you know, usually there is something going on, people just don't become police for that reason, there's something that's happened while they're trying to exert power, or they don't really feel self-confident at a deep level, or maybe they're seeing it in the home for a variety of other reasons. But this question becomes that if a 11, nine-year-old child can do it, what are you perhaps going to do? If you hear about an injustice? If you see somebody bullying being bullied? What are you actually going to do about it, I recently experienced this where this person that I was dealing with was really aggressive towards me, really aggressive. Whereas I saw her being really charming towards everybody else. And initially, I thought, okay, must have been something I did. And I resorted to that, well, I must be responsible for this behavior. And then I recognize that it was actually quite a manipulative behavior. So, one of the things she would do is she would be really, really nice to the people that she needed to be nice to, who had a lot more power, but not so nice to other people that she either didn't think were very influential in what she was trying to achieve. And I've also seen this in the workplaces where sometimes, you know, I'll be mentoring somebody, and they'll talk about that their colleague managers up really well. But they don't manage this colleague very well. Or even the subordinates. I don't like that word subordinates, but people that report to them very well. So sometimes you get that person behaving exhibiting horrible behaviors to everybody. But other times they can, people can be quite manipulative, where they will do it to some people and not others. And when I very instead, I really felt that and I felt that some of the other people in this room was sitting on staff’s sideline.

And I decided, for better or worse, I decided to challenge that conversation. And I said, hey, you can see that this person is behaving like this towards me. And what will you do about it? Oh, no, this person's fine. Look, maybe it's an issue it’s something that you said, they said, they're really lovely to me, they're really lovely to other people. And then notice that the personal leadership was unwilling to do anything about it. And notice that this person was not willing to stand up around it. And so, I found this really challenging because this is a common leadership issue we have. And the leadership issue in this case is somebody we can be directly responsible. But I've also been on the sidelines where I've seen other people not behave very well towards others. And I think it's none of your business, you don't really know them. But if I see that, then it's not okay. And one of them, rightly or wrongly, was a woman that slapped her child very hard in the middle of coals, which is one of our supermarkets in Australia. And this child wasn't doing what the mother wanted, and she slapped her really hard. I happened to be in the aisle a few meters away. And I walked up and I said, Look, I know that this is your child, but resorting to violence is not okay. And I'm just challenging you to say that it's not okay. And she was very annoyed at me for raising that. And she said, look, it's none of your business. It's not your child, I'll do what I like. And, you know, everybody has a right to do that. And she's right, she does have a right as a parent to bring up her children the way that she wants. But I also on the sidelines, rather than be quiet, and then, it may have felt very strongly about raising that.

So, my challenge to you in this podcast is, is the things that are happening around where you're at. And you go, yeah, I know that that person is bullying such and such. I know that that person, the way that they spoke to him in that meeting was really inappropriate. I've heard that this abuse may be taking place in this person's home. And will you be the one that maybe not on every instance, but if something really breaks you something bothers you, and you know that it isn't right, for you to take the stand, and not be the bystander and not be on the sidelines, passive that you could be on the sidelines, but take a small amount of action. And that action, maybe bringing up the police if you think there's some violence happening in that home and reporting it anonymously. That action may be going and walking up to somebody and saying, hey, is that really necessary in that meeting? That action may be when somebody says, hey, believe me that this issue is occurring, that you will actually take the time to do that. And I think in our busy lives, and somebody said the other day to me that COVID is helping us realign our values. I agree, we've certainly made a lot of changes in our family and in our workplaces, around how we deal with certain things. And what we do. And so, yeah, it's absolutely challenging in terms of, you know, what we say and what we stick our noses into. But really by you doing that, it may not just be that person, it may be a whole heap of other ripple effect, in terms of what occurs as well. And when I speak to a lot of people running charities, one of the things that they speak about is, look, even if I could just help one person. That would be enough in terms of the vision for this charity, and if I can help more fantastic.

And so, I just want to challenge you, as you're listening to this podcast, if you're aware of behaviors that you know, are inappropriate, whether that's at a sporting field, whether that's in a supermarket, whether that's in a meeting you're attending, whether that's just something it's hearsay, but the consequences are big, like abuse happening in a home that you will actually do something about it. And Grace Tame, as I spoke about earlier, the former Australian of the Year from last year, certainly challenged me even more to think about where she said, If you don't even question it, and you don't even raise anything, maybe not as bad but you're pretty close to perhaps being the abuser or the perpetrator. And so as watching things and allowing them to hang in hang in society is not fantastic. And we need to stop and help those around us that need that support. Any questions? Any thoughts are always welcome.

I'm Shivani Gupta. And you've been listening to the Ask Shivani podcast where I'd like to ask some questions. Thank you so much for listening. Please follow Ask Shivani on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. And if you haven't done so, please go to the Apple podcasts and subscribe rate and review this podcast. It would mean a lot. Thank you.