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How to relate to people who practice double standards

Updated on July 5, 2013
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By Michelle Liew

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“[O]ne person's 'barbarian' is another person's 'just doing what everybody else is doing.”

Intellectual cultural celebrity, activist, American writer and esteemed professor Susan Sontag described the nature of double standards to a fitting T when she summarized it in this sentence.

A double standard, by definition, is the application of different principles in similar situations, and often leaves a feeling of dissatisfaction because of lack of fair treatment. In the realm of office politics, a boss applies different forms of treatment to similarly ranked subordinates. In the home, a parent may discipline a set of twins with completely different rules for each.

Granted, there are some situations where different sets of standards have to be applied, depending on the situation in question, and on an individual’s sometimes compelling need.

In general, people apply double standards without being aware of this sometimes rather grating action. Why does this happen? Which double standards are we unconsciously guilty of? How do we relate to those who are often practicing them and when does it sometimes become necessary to apply different sets of standards?

The double standard of beauty

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Why double standards are practiced


Double standards in many societal situations are unfortunately practiced and have, many a time, been seen as unnecessary, harsh and offensive. The reason why it happens is elusive, framed in one way and mollifying in another.

Societal norms

Social norms regarding the treatment of gender, race or age have, often in history, caused dual sets of standards to emerge.

Norms, of course, evolve to become prevalent ways of thinking, deeply seeded in human subconscious such that people do not even realize that they have such patterns of thought. They then lead to different forms of treatment and applications of standards as a whole.

Individual relations

Our relationships with others are unique. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we see everyone in a different light the greater the depth of the relationship.

A case in point would be that of parents raising children. A parent may apply different sets of standards with the elder as opposed to the younger, either because his relations with each are special, or because of the lessons he has learned along the way viz parenting.

Personal paradigms

We have all been brought up having value judgements. Whether we like to admit it or not, these paradigms lead us to have personal preferences that causes us to approach different people, perhaps in the same situation, differently. We may not even realize this until it is pointed out.

A saleslady I was observing a few days ago showed this rather clearly. She was quite brusque with me, but more gentle with an elderly lady lining up behind me to pay for her groceries.

Unclear perspectives

There are times when people will sometimes find excuses to support their own beliefs. Perspectives become a little unclear, and different standards of practices emerge. It happens in matters of faith, politics and family.

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The double standards we are guilty of

Many of us are guilty of applying double standards, to a greater or lesser degree. These are some everyday situations, whether we are aware of them or not, where it does happen!

Queues

I will be the first to admit that I experience this every time I am lining up at the Automatic Teller Machine for a quick cash withdrawal (I wish for more deposits, yes.) I get very angsty and impatient with long queues, and grumble to my husband incessantly when the lady in front of me takes a longer than usual moment to transfer money into another account.

When the situation is reversed, my frame of mind changes. When I become the person who needs a longer moment at the machine, and those at the back of the queue start clicking their tongues and tapping their feet, I start nitpicking their impatient behavior.

There is a classic example of everyday double standards.

Driving

When driving, we might switch lanes and end up just next to a car that had just driven forward. The driver honks, and we get defensive.

In the reverse situation, someone abruptly switches lanes and ends up just in front of us. We honk and criticize the driver for bad driving!

There we have the double standards of motorists.

Jokes

Admit it - we are all guilty of having a laugh at another person’s expense, be it out of good nature or otherwise.

Yet, were the situation reversed and the joke is leveled against us, the reaction is not as positive, even if we claim not to mind the friendly insult.

Defensiveness rises when it is our own ego being challenged.

Toys

It has always been the norm for boys to play with toys like trucks, robots or the good old remote control car, while girls play with the ever present Barbie doll.

When I was younger, I used to like a range of Star Wars toys my parents insisted were for boys.

Thankfully, such mindsets are changing!

Parents and children

As I have mentioned before, some parents have different approaches to raising their children.

My husband used to complain that his younger brother used to be allowed to come home late without a curfew, while he, being the older son, was rather protected and not allowed to spend time with his friends as a teenager.

A double standard, certainly. Yet it could also be the result of a lesson learned along the way in having to release a few strings when raising children.

Unequal treatment in the workplace

A boss may make different allowances depending on his relationship with his subordinates, even if they are of the same rank.

As is the nature of politics, those who have that little leeway tend to get a little further ahead, even if abilities are on par.

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How do we relate to people who have double standards?

We will always come across those who implement different standards for us and others, and do so unfairly. Difficult as this may be, we will come across them frequently enough. How do we tread the difficult relationship paths with them?

Be discerning.

Have a listening ear to determine if you are being treated unfairly. Determine if it is an actual double standard before raising any complaint because jumping to conclusions might harm relations unnecessarily.

Ask questions

If we are fully aware that the other party is practicing a double standard, you can raise some pointed questions to make him or her aware that he is practicing unequal principles.

The other party may not actually be aware that he has divided beliefs. Being subtle when raising these questions so as not to challenge ego is extremely important. Asking questions is helpful if the party concerned can accept constructive criticism.

Have knowledge, and if necessary, documentation.

If we feel that our bosses have given us unfair evaluations, all is not lost. Companies often have systems in place to ensure proper assessment of staff members.

But this is where proper documentation of our accomplishments is necessary. If we feel that we have been given a wrong evaluation, have the documentation handy so that the issue can be raised with the relevant authorities. This is where many may fall short - keeping track of everything can be quite a task!

Be patient and sincere.

As with all mindsets, it takes a long time for a person with double standards to shift his paradigm.

It is patience, and sometimes great patience and showing him that you mean well and just ask for a little fairness in treatment.

Do not judge others for their beliefs.

We have our own too, so we should not practice double standards ourselves by passing what may be overly harsh judgement.

Remembering that we have our particular biases ourselves might help us cope when we come across someone who outwardly displays theirs.

Double standards at the workplace

When are double standards necessary

There are times when we are forced to implement dual standards for others, though this is not because of bias or preconceived notions. The trick is determining the right time!

Forming sports teams

Men and women do not share the same physical structure, so it will not be so equitable to let them compete with each other in a similar sporting arena. We have to score their performances on different standards, because of different physical strength. Why else would we have mens’ and womens’ sports teams?

Addressing special needs

As far as possible, those with special needs should be fully included in society. Someone who is wheelchair bound but who has every skill possible to perform at the workplace should be fully considered as a staff member.

The only difference is that there should be a provision for his needs, if he is on a wheelchair or if he suffers any other physical disability. I had an inclusive class with a few children with special needs, who required extra time for tests.Some of them did even better than their able bodied counterparts.

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The Senryu

The senryu is a Japanese form of poetry, very much like the haiku in structure. Unlike the haiku, which focuses on the beauty of nature, the senryu is written as a comment on human nature. It lends itself to being slightly poignant and satirical.

LIke its counterpart, the Haiku, it has five syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and another 5 in the third.

Enjoy the senryu i present in photographs I have placed throughout this article.

Conclusion

Double standards are not likeable by any means, though in certain situations necessary. I would like to thank those who answered the question “How do you deal with people who practice double standards?” Do spare some time to pay each of them a visit via the link provided.


Original work by Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

All rights reserved


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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      An article and senryu poem on dealing with double standards

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Michelle, couldn't agree with you more on double standards. And being the oldest and a girl in my family, I was definitely a bit more protected by my old fashioned dad growing up. But my brother got away with far more then I at times. Just was the way it was I suppose. Did it annoy me back in the day? Hell, yes. But now I do understand it a bit better, but try my hardest in raising my own children to treat them equally. Thank for sharing though and have voted up and shared, too!!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      I am smiling as I read Janine's comment Michelle - I am also the eldest and was constantly held up as an example by my mother - scolded whenever I stepped out of line etc whereas my sisters got a lot less aggro! I have also worked in places wgere some people seem to get away with murder whilst others are chastised for minor things. Interesting topic.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You bring up some excellent points, Michelle. To a certain extent we all do live by double standards, a fact I had not thought of until this hub.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      This is a very perceptive hub Michelle. We all do it, see it, sometimes resent it but in the end are not always aware it is a double standard. As you so aptly pointed out there are some, though infrequent, times when it is necessary to apply a double standard. Understanding it is the key.

      I really love the way you added the Senryu in the photos you chose. The photos alone are appropriate but your addition of those beautiful original poems adds even more dimension.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and shared.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 4 years ago from South Africa

      We can see our double standards also when it comes to loving our fellow-man. We love some more than others, showing more kindness to some than to others.

      Fascinating topic!

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 4 years ago

      I agree, double standards are sometimes necessary, altho - i believe that the majority demonstrated by today's society are either ignorance, hatred, or greed based.

      We all need to start with a good long look in the mirror, and try to minimize our double standards from that perspective..

      Very well done and thought provoking Michelle!

      sharing..

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 4 years ago from Georgia country

      I had not really thought of double standards until I read your hub. Most of the time we don't become aware of double standards. You found very good points and examples how we apply these double standards. Very interesting and fascinating hub and beautiful poems.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I liked the laughing at people part, lol. It is funny when people have accidents, as long as no one is hurt. I really don't mind if they laugh at me too!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      Michelle,

      I have heard about Susan Sontag but not read anything from her. The quote you use as the beginning of the article is so true. Even Plato said no one thinks falsely.

      People practice double standard because of their vested interest. Sometime I also practice double standard.LOL

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 4 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      "Mea Culpa" It is an awful position, and you have given light to this bad issue. I will be more aware of not falling into double standards. The Bible shows us this issue as double minded, one of the verses is: James 4:8 "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded."

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this valuable insight.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      As a society, whenever we say certain things or do certain things on a routinely basis, it causes us not to think but to simply act on instinct. Sometimes this is the case in life or even when it comes to double standards. Thanks for the read. Voted up.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, J9, we learn from experience! Thanks for sharing, my friend!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      That's true. If you are more esteemed in the workplace, you get away with more! Thanks, Jools!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      We all do...sometimes we are not conscious of it! Thanks for sharing, Bill!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Mary, afraid it is indeed our nature to practice double standards, albeit subconsciously.Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, unfortunately we do. A sad fact of life! Thanks, Martie!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, it's a good long look in the mirror, coz we all practice them to a greater or lesser degree! Thanks for sharing, Leslie!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Certainly happens when we act in the moment! Thanks, Torilynn!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, MHatter!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      It's a hard thing to discern! Thanks for sharing, Lastheart!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I remember playing with cars as a child. Funny, my mom didn't think twice about it being a boy's toy back then, glad she believed it was just another play item for me. Yes, double standards exist, I need to watch out for those I mistakenly make. Thanks for the thought.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I think that we are unaware most of the time, Dianna! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      No one does... and double standards exist because of vested interest, indeed. Thanks, Vinaya!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      This is true, Janet. We are not aware of it most of the time! Thanks for sharing!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      If it's done in good humor on all accounts, it's alright. Thanks Jackie!

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image

      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Very insightful...you illustrate a range of ethical questions and considerations. Great topic and well-done! ~Lurana

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thank you, Lurana, for the insightful share!!

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      This is so interesting. And I've been contemplating this same issue for the last week now. Holidays are difficult for me. I have extended family that bring double-standards to each holiday table. It's very hard to understand and it takes the enjoyment out of the holidays for me. I'd rather stay home and have a quiet meal than to be put in the middle of drama.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      I say, enjoy the food first! Thanks for sharing, craftytothecore!

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