Use Insults as Opportunities to Unify Others Around a Noble Option

Kare Anderson
3 min readJun 2, 2020

During a packed stadium game, several spectators yelled racist insults down at the renowned, Brazilian footballer, Barcelona’s flying fullback, Dani Alves. Capping it off, an angry spectator who had been yelling epithets threw a banana down in front of Alves as he was walking back onto the field to play again.

Without a pause, Alves picked up the banana, peeled it back, ate a bite, casually threw the peels aside to then stroll back into the game. That spontaneous, super short, two-act playlet was captured on hundreds of smart phones in the stadium, then rapidly spread around the world. “Dani Alves owned him,” tweeted the Brazilian’s teammate Neymar. “Take That bunch of Racists. We are all Monkeys So What.”

It turned a potentially violent crowd situation into a unifying and celebratory scene for those who were outraged by the racist insult. In fact others in the stadium, proudly imitated his unfazed, positive response by standing up and throwing one arm up in an imitation of the banana toss.

Later the banana-thrower “reportedly” lost his job over the incident, and Alves said he should get it back, giving longer life to his mutuality-centric media story.

Alves’ droll, unflappable response elevated his stature and enabled him to be more widely known and admired, way beyond the legion of football fans in the stadium that day. One sign is the number of other people who posed for photos of their version of the banana incident.


• Provide an uplifting, unifying and vivid contrast to someone’s negative action.

• One nudge to enable you to stay cool when under fire is to remind yourself that one of your biggest opportunity to look noble in front of others is when you are around someone who is not.

• Turn actions of ill will into a healthy opportunity to glue others together around collective actions of goodwill, showing their unifying, better side. opportunities to glue us together around actions of goodwill. One way is to provide an uplifting, unifying and vivid contrast to someone’s negative action.

• The sweetest revenge is a well-lived life.

Lift Others Up To Be Positively Productive and Noble With You

As Adlai Stevenson said, “When you throw mud, you get dirty.” Our primitive “fight or flight” brain still reacts faster, more intensely and longer to negative actions than to positive. Thus even the unintentional appearance of criticism lasts longer than praise. If, for example, someone sees five things they like in what you say or do when first meeting you and then, just once, feels criticized, you’ve probably lost them. That one negative moment may be the most indelible memory and will most affect their future behavior toward you.

Before You Talk, Remember That Negative Feelings Outlast Positive

Criticizing others leaves an indelible stain on one’s reputation, especially in this increasingly connected world. Ironically, this effect increases the negative feelings more than the positive about a company survey. As we answer questions, we deepen our feelings about what we say or write. Because negative feelings outlast the positive, if just one question evokes a negative memory, the net effect is for you to feel even more negative about that subject.

When you start to feel irritated, think of Ian Percy’s insight: “We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.”

Tip: Shut people out and they shut up. Bring people in and they open up.

Boost Others’ Positive Feelings About Something That Matters to You
When surveying, in person, in print or virtually, ask the two questions that will reinforce the positive feelings of respondents while still enabling you to learn what most matters to them and how you can improve:

1.“What do you most like about (name the product, service or other topic of survey)?”

2.“What is one specific example that comes to mind?” (As they get specific in describing that positive attribute and/or experience, they not only believe it more deeply but they also hone their motivation and their capacity to be more credible and vivid in telling others their views.)



Kare Anderson

Emmy-winner, TED:OpportunityMakers/over 2.5 mil views, MutualityMatters+Be Connected & Quotable