Archive for August, 2012

Are you Ethical?

Posted: August 6, 2012 in Standard


I’ve been thinking about communication a lot lately.  Without any formal training or education, I find it difficult to describe or put words to the thoughts in my head.  With the last month, I’ve found a couple of successes that I’d like to share with you now in the first half of this post and some discussion about the successes in the second half of this post.


My first success is related to how a person who desires to “call out” poor behavior should do so in an ethics framework.  I fully believe a person should never (and I do mean never) refer to another person as ethical or unethical.  It is impossible for a person to BE ethical or unethical because a person makes thousands of decisions a day, some of which are ethical and some of which are unethical.

So if you want to be the one who calls out another person for a perceived transgression, be respectful of the person and put your focus on the transgression.  By focusing on the transgression and putting labels to the action or decisions that led to the transgression, you avoid making a “personal attack” on the subject.

In words, my first success:  “Ethics is a description of a thing (Actions / Decisions).  A person cannot be ethical or unethical.  A person can only choose to ACT ethically or unethically.”


My second success is related to how one responds to being “called out”.  When commenting on your poor conduct, realize that your poor conduct is a result of your motivations.  Your motivations form the reason that you conduct your actions.  The reason for your actions might be justified by other reasonable people who would have acted similarly in a similar situation.  Regardless of the level of justification for your conduct, you may be excused from the expectations of others placed upon you.  However, this is not for you to decide.  Only those that hold expectations of you can decide if the reason for your conduct is justified enough to excuse your conduct of the expectations.

In words, my second success:  “Regardless if your action is ethical or unethical, it may be justifiable and even excusable by explaining the motivations behind the reason for your action.”


DISCUSSION:  There are a lot of comments to be made to further explain both of my successes.  For the 1st, while someone might say you have acted unethically in a certain situation, ethics are tied to Ethical Systems.  Everyone has an ethical system, but most people’s ethical system is different.  Each ethical system is based on a mix of morals, values, faith, religion, society, and laws and everyone’s inputs and mix of those inputs is different.

EXAMPLE:   If someone were to say to you: “It is an unethical action to consent to an abortion,” they mean in their ethical system the action is unethical.  In their system, they are right.  In your system, the statement might not be right.  Only you can know.

The next step in this exchange is to determine the following:  1) Does this action actually violate your ethical system, i.e. are they right?  2) Do you owe an explanation of your reason for this action to your critic, i.e. what are your motivations?  3) Beyond ethical systems, are there legal or quasi-legal systems that govern your actions?

If you feel the need to continue the exchange, your response should be to respond to the criticism, explaining your reason.  Some will agree it is justified (i.e. they might have done the same) and some will not.  Regardless of the explanation of your reason and whether your critic held your actions to be justified or not, the critic still decides with this information whether they will excuse your conduct.  Depending on your critic, this can be a big decision.  If your critic is an internet blogger, you might not care, but if it’s a person of authority applying your conduct to a legal or quasi-legal construct of rules, excusing your conduct might save you from penalties.

CONCLUSION:  We all make many decisions each day.  Some of those decisions are ethical and some are unethical, and the perception of those decisions can match or differ depending on the viewer.  Don’t take offense to being called out.  It simply means that the critic doesn’t understand how you justified the action.

As a critic of another’s actions, you must focus on the specific actions and not apply labels intended for the action upon the person.  (It only riles them up.)  When they respond to your criticism of their actions, keep an open mind that they might 1) agree with you, or 2) justify their action and deserve an excuse.

Finally, be prepared for the eventuality that they might not earn an excuse for their action or don’t care about consequences and leave it as an unethical action.  If you have a duty to do more, then do it.  If not, let it end.

[Apologies if my concepts are scatter-brained or inarticulate.  These are original personal views written by me, Tim LeVier.]