What SHOULD You Do?


What should you do when faced with a dilemma that compels you to act?

Intervene, mind your own business, get involved or walk on by?

"Primetime" hired actors and staged scenarios to gauge how people would react when confronted with situations that tested their basic instincts.

The staged situations ranged from rowdy kids in a restaurant, elder abuse and a gay-bashing taxi driver to a couple getting a little too affectionate in a public place.

Here's how experts suggest you handle some of these situations:

"Kids From Hell" in a Restaurant

You're settling in for a relaxing dinner at a restaurant, and you find yourself seated near a table with a couple of rowdy, out-of-control kids.

Do you ignore them? Talk to the parents? Scold the kids?

Colgate University psychology professor Carrie Keating suggested finding someone in charge of the kids and approaching that person.

Behave in a friendly, nonthreatening manner, and use a soft but firm tone when talking.

For example, look the person in the eye and say, "It looks like you are having a nice family dinner, but I wonder if your child could be asked to settle down. I'm having a hard time hearing what my friends are trying to say."

If you have to approach the child, Keating says, stoop down to the child's level, make direct eye contact and use a firm but nonemotional voice.

"It's now time to eat your meal" is more effective than "Isn't it time to eat your meal?" And then, Keating adds, just wait. Children can take a few seconds to comply. If you don't get compliance after two or three attempts, drop it.

But what if the children are completely out of control?

"Focus elsewhere. Ignore it. … Or vote with your feet and leave," says Richard Gelles, dean of the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. "Trying to discipline other people's children is inappropriate and doesn't work, anyway."

Elder Abuse

It's something you hear about in the news, but no one expects to see it happen in front of them, especially in a public place.

An elderly man, verbally and physically abused by a caregiver in a park, cries out for relief.

Do you call 911? Confront the abuser? Hope for the best and walk away?

The experts agree: Do something. Anything.

"If you're uncomfortable, call police officers or get involved," Gelles says. "Go up to the person on the receiving end of the abuse and say, 'I'm uncomfortable with how you're being treated. … Can I help you?'"

If the victim responds, Gelles adds, follow his lead. If he's not capable of responding, turn to the caregiver. Tell the caregiver you're really uncomfortable with his or her behavior and ask for the name of the caregiver's employer.

The caregiver may not recognize that his or her behavior is abusive, Keating says. She suggests approaching the recipient of the abuse first.

"Smile and try to defuse the situation, or direct conversation toward the elderly person. Make the elderly person. … A person," she says.

"If you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem," Gelles says. "If you walk away from social injustice, you become part of the social injustice."

Gay Bashing

It's an awkward situation: You're in an unfamiliar town, and the cab driver you're relying on to get you to your destination goes off on a gay-bashing tirade.

Do you argue with him? Ask to be let out? Nod politely and tough it out?

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