As it turns out, rude speech such as we witnessed last week in the presidential campaign is nothing new. Over one hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt and Howard Taft slugged it out during the 1912 presidential campaign. Roosevelt described Taft as a "puzzlewit," while Taft labeled Roosevelt a "honeyfugler." Taft resented the blows and stated that "I was a man of straw; but I have been a man of straw long enough; every man who has blood in his body and who has been misrepresented as I have is forced to fight." A Roosevelt supporter swung back by commenting that "Taft certainly made a great mistake when he began to 'fight back.' He has too big a paunch to have much of a punch, while a free-for-all, slap-bang, kick-him-in-the-belly, is just nuts for the chief."
Doctors later determined that the bullet had been slowed by Roosevelt's dense overcoat, steel-reinforced eyeglass case and mostly, his 50-page speech squeezed into his inner right jacket pocket. When he started his speech, he asked the crowd to be quiet deadpanning: "I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot." The ever energetic Roosevelt proceeded to use his full 90 minutes and asserted: "I give you my word, I do not care a rap about being shot; not a rap."
While history has never straightened out why the shooter did what he did - other than an incomprehensible and rambling note the man left, and his guilty plea leading to him being confined for life in a Wisconsin state asylum - Roosevelt told the audience that he thought the rhetoric had contributed to the shooting. "It is a very natural thing," he said, "that weak and vicious minds should be inflamed to acts of violence by the kind of awful mendacity and abuse that have been heaped upon me for the last three months by the papers."
Did You Know?
When we do training and consulting focusing on preventing harassment, discrimination and violence in the workplace, we focus on stopping the escalation of rhetoric. While we hope that you never have an active shooter, there's no question that the research shows that words can move people along the path towards violence. Words have consequences. The way we talk to one another matters. While we all should have learned in kindergarten that we can disagree without being disagreeable, every day we get calls and see examples in the news that some people missed that particular memo. Make sure that your workplace reviews the basics and doesn't end up in the media for the wrong reasons.
"We Need to Talk - Tough Conversations With Your Employee" and "We Need to Talk - Tough Conversations With Your Boss".