28 February 2021
According to one dictionary, Snowflake is a word used as a political insult, and from our experience it is synonymous to, or used in conjunction with the phrase ‘Man up’ to describe a person (or a whole generation in the case of snowflakes) as weak or soft.
People labelled with the name snowflake in our experience, are usually those who have the courage to stand up and object to ill treatment of themselves or others. Woke people are people with a well developed knowledge.
What prompted me to write on the topic was some recent experiences on social media and in the news:
One where a military veteran who was suffering from PTSD, had posted sensitive information about his treatment at his civilian job, on a social media site used by military people. The other in the news, where we have been listening to the debate around aggression in the British Royal family and the so called “spats” being generated there.
Both threads highlight the stances taken by the different mindsets involved be they participants, social media users, the Tabloid Press, or TV and Radio presenters.
The view from here
The view from here is that the recipient(s) of unwanted behaviour know the intended use of intimidating and insulting language and has the say over whether any comments directed toward them are aggressive or not.
According to Ian Blackford MP, the leader of the Scottish National Party, talking on Radio 4 News this week “where sexual harassment, or bullying is concerned, putting the interest of complainers comes first and foremost.”
It’s a matter of Mindsets
The mindsets active in both of the threads mentioned above generated a number of common responses but only one would be appropriate under the circumstances
The hard line Approach
In both cases, responding to the need for support appropriately would have required empathy and compassion and while some would rally round, there is a noticeable deficit in these traits in certain mindsets. Where the characteristics typical of the “hardest” establishment (or military) mindset are present, there forms an immediate risk of an attack designed to expose the relative weakness of the aggrieved.
This hard line approach, itself unwanted, is not appropriate when all they did was point out they had an issue and stood up for themselves. The issue was in both cases, a serious drain on mental health, generated by a toxic work or family experience leading both recipients to have suicidal thoughts, while one had attempted suicide. (If you have suicidal thoughts then please call the Samaritans on 116123.)
The appropriate response to this or any other medical or mental health problem is not to label the aggrieved as a liar or soft, but to remove the source of the problem in a humane way. This is so that we all move on, preferably in such a way as nobody has to suffer the problem again.
The fact is, some people benefit from the hard line approach, some out of vested interests that maintain status quo. In this hard line approach nobody loses face or power over others. The mindset that uses this thrives on the power they feel in using the language and its impact on others.
What followed my veteran friends post led to his cause being deleted from the group inappropriately after snowflake behaviour became the dominant theme, when it was promoted by the hard line military mindsets and trolling behaviour.
Name calling, aka insulting someone is part of the bullies toolkit. “Snowflake” is a particularly succinct and powerful insult. Like all forms of aggression, it generates a need to respond to a challenge. If you live in a world of micro-aggression it will make you ill (Piers).
Appropriate response – Dealing with it.
In times gone by, being insulted used to attract a desire for satisfaction, usually manifest in the form of revenge and\or some kind of counter attack. Often, in the extreme, insulting behaviour has been the catalyst to war, duelling, gunfighting and ‘fisticuffs’ of all types.
Nowadays, responses are limited by stricter laws and rules of proportionality. The survivors are those with the quickest most appropriate responses.
The emotional impact of insulting behaviour often remains ‘unaddressed’ and if you aren’t prepared, when the insult happens it could simply confound you, causing you to back down and\or kettle it up. (This is nothing new. It is a well-known life fact, demonstrated by the needs of parents to prepare their children for the world ahead. Depending on your mindset is how you use that information). (But that is beyond the scope of this article).
Usage and Impact
Intended or not, the snowflake insult when dropped into a conversation acts as a suppressant, overshadowing the voice of people who object, often to coercive, bullying and insulting behaviour. It is a classic “put down” aimed at shutting the recipient up by projecting an unwanted label onto his or her personal characteristics. Some people will find this behaviour not only intimidating, but will have no outlet to deal with it.
Invalidating the Argument – Impact on the Recipient
At the point of insult, the recipient may feel his or her fight or flight mechanism being triggered, causing an adrenalin release. In the heat of the moment this suppresses or “invalidates” any argument, especially if the target of the insult is not prepared for conflict. He or she may have had different expectations of the outcomes of the conversation. Continuous exposure to insulting behaviour will have an accumulative impact on the recipient’s mental health.
For the perpetrator there is instant gratification. The wider the audience the better. This allows him or her to dominate all those in earshot and to identify people who will be intimidated by the behaviour and those who won’t. Bystanders who don’t want the same treatment will be dissuaded from supporting the target, furthering their psychosocial interests.
Intimidating and Insulting behaviour are not always appropriate or dignified in the family, community or workplace. What follows name calling, labelling and micro-aggression is unjust loss of status, being demeaned and poorer life chances. Recipients may find themselves belittled, rejected, sabotaged or snubbed.
Insulting someone can provoke an instant or delayed reaction, invoke feelings of resentment. It causes; mental and physical pain, low self-esteem, self-hatred and a desire to harm self or others. When disguised as jokes, with or without intended malice, insulting behaviour promotes itself as normal. Your mindset dictates how you will use the behaviour.
To avoid compromising people in a mentally diverse community, teachers, managers, leaders, class and team mates require skills, respect and dignity. Without these, toxins can develop requiring specialist intervention.
Stuart Dixon FRSA