Entitlement, Irresponsibility, and Trying to Stay Nonjudgmental.
In mediation the other day, I began to think to myself that the so-called “Culture of Entitlement” (so easily defined by Googling that phrase) was at the heart of the conflict.
Very simply, I perceived that a defendant (likely without legal justification) felt entitled not to do something he had promised to do; he felt entitled to change his mind just because he didn’t want to do it anymore.
For privacy reasons, I won’t write more about the mediation, except briefly at the end of this piece to talk about how I handled my reaction to this sense of entitlement and how ultimately I was able, I think, to stay nonjudgmental notwithstanding.
For now, I will write about a video I saw on Facebook recently about this same sense of entitlement in some young adults.
In the video, several college undergraduates were asked if they felt entitled to a guaranteed high paying job when they graduate.
All of them said yes; they all felt entitled. Unequivocally.
Why? The answer was not stated.
Supplying the answer myself as if from them, and admittedly sarcastically, I think they felt entitled because the interviewees believed that society owes them a good job because of their sacrifices – for putting up with all that was demanded of them over four years of college and suffering the inconvenience of it all – the imposition on their time, how “not fun” studying was, and so forth.
It was not necessarily because of the financial sacrifices of going to college – that is probably their parents’ sacrifice anyway, in whole or in large part.
And probably not because of their level of preparedness or work-readiness, because many liberal arts college graduates are neither prepared nor work-ready for a high paying job.
I must say that I was perturbed by those responses. I was angry at these students, angry at their parents who instilled this entitlement sense in them, even angry at our society for fostering such a culture of entitlement – i.e., reward without responsibility for earning it.
Thankfully, my children never really exhibited such a sense of entitlement – except maybe when they were very little, as when, at a store, they would say, “I want this,” “Can I have this?” “buy it for me.”
But they were four or so years old.
And the answer was usually, “no.”
As young adults and college undergraduates, my children worked for everything they received. They had jobs in college and earned their pocket money. They worked very hard to get good grades. They even invested their future earnings in their education via student loans. They had and have a sense of responsibility.
My children’s rewards – good jobs, graduate programs, competence in life – all reflected this.
They earned their rewards … and my respect.
So, what did I do in mediation to avoid being judgmental when faced with my own reaction to the sense of entitlement I perceived?
First, I had to realize that I was reacting, which I did.
Then, I had to find the source of my reaction, which I also did (see above).
Then, thanks to good training, I gave my reaction a name.
Then, completely conscious of what was going on inside me, I turned away from these internal feelings (I neutralized them) so that I was able to continue, as nonjudgmentally as possible.
I went on with the mediation. I helped both sides neutrally and fairly, I believe. I gave them the opportunity to find common ground, which they did. I congratulated them on the compromise that they eventually achieved and accepted.
And after the settlement agreement was prepared and signed, I went home, hugged my wife, enjoyed some fine wine with a meal, and put our society’s culture of entitlement aside for someone else to figure out.
Fortunately, that part is not my job.