Gain Respect and Personal Power
By Miriam Hertz
I’ll guess that there has been a time or two when you tried to say something that you felt was important. And nobody listened. Or a time that you had an answer to a problem someone else was facing. And they didn’t care.
Ouch. These kinds of situations can really hurt! They might make us feel not so good about ourselves. What could help us feel better about how we interact and communicate?
Could it help if we know why people sometimes treat us in a way that we would not like to be treated? Maybe then we can do something about it. We deserve to be treated well. Knowledge is power!
One reason some people may not want to hear us out is because of how they view or perceive us. Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) is regarded as the twentieth century’s most influential American sociologist. He played a major role in developing medical sociology and had a theory that begins to explain why some people with disabilities are dismissed.
According to Parsons, people who are ill or sick live in, or occupy, a “sick role.” These individuals make a pact that until they are well they can stay home and will not go to work or school again. In return, however, for being relieved of this everyday responsibility to participate and be heard in society, they’ll see the doctor and then rest at home with a bowl of chicken soup until they are well.
For example, if you don’t show up for school, teachers and administrators will see this as deviant behavior, but if it is because you are sick in bed, then they allow your absence.
Sick role theory makes some sense if folks have an acute illness, say, an illness caused by bacteria or a virus. They probably will be cured. They are automatically given rights and responsibilities: the right not to be blamed for the illness and given leeway in regards to normal obligations and the responsibility to seek treatment and get well. For this a medical expert or doctor is usually part of the process that legitimates the illness.
A person with a disability cannot fulfill that responsibility to get well. The very word “disability” implies that you and I are not going to get “cured.” Should you be excused from the typical expectations of society?
Today we no longer view people with disabilities as relatively helpless. Society can provide reasonable accommodations so people with a disability can be included as much as possible. We can live independently and happily with our disabilities! I think this means that people should listen to us. We should be heard right now. What do you think?
And in next month’s newsletter – How can we politely assert that everyone treats us well?