Good leaders build a powerful team by sharing power, not by building themselves up (falsely) by imagining they can hoard power personally.I see leaders who imagine that they have more power than they actually do, and don’t really distinguish...
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I’m sad about last night for a lot of reasons. And if you are human, and allow yourself to be so, then you probably are too. Maybe it’s the verdict that upset you, or the destruction afterwards, or the long and difficult path that has led us here and has shown us we have so much further to go before we get to the place where we want to be…a place where kindness and compassion and vulnerability are the things which can be lauded and seen and encouraged and felt. Or maybe, like me, you’re upset about all of those things and you feel too defeated to want to care anymore.
But if you’re like me, you can’t switch those emotions off. It’s so much easier to turn those feelings of vulnerability and hurt into a shield of rage. Rage feels powerful and strong. It feels good. And rage isimportant. But not at the cost of compassion. If, like me, today you woke up weary and wanting to become numb, or turn away, or lash out angrily at everyone involved then I feel you. But I encourage you to keep compassion at the forefront. Remember humanity. Remember that your words and actions make a difference. Remember that the majority of us are so much better than the worse things we see in the news, and that so many of us are leading a quiet revolution to be kind, and compassionate, and to listen to the hurt, and amplify the things that will make a positive difference in our world. It’s a quiet revolution that will never be covered on CNN. It’s a movement of people who redirect anger to kindness. Who listen even when it’s painful. Who take the hurt of others on ourselves and feel it so that we can become better people. Who wade into horrible online threads and inject compassion and reason because we know that it can become contagious if done the right way. Who hope that reason and empathy will somehow lead to a place which is safer for our children and grandchildren.
Jim Manske's insight:
May we all listen and respond to the alarm bells ringing. May we all wake up and treat each other as one.
As Marshall reminded us, "Independence is an illusion."
News, World News: Residents of Wunsiedel, where Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess is buried, are tired of yearly invasion of neo Nazis to their village, so they decide neo-Nazis can march for a good cause.
Jim Manske's insight:
Sounds like stealthy social change. ;)
Filmmaker Ana Joanes talks about her new film, Taking Our Places
Jim Manske's insight:
Yay! Celebrating some global coverage of NVC-based parenting! Looking forward to reconnecting with the parents of Maui on Tuesday, November 11 at 6 pm at Kalama School!
Jim Manske's insight:
I am happy to share a common address (Laniakea) with you!
The part of the brain that is involved in empathising with the pain of others is more highly activated by seeing the suffering of hateful people than those we like, a recent study finds.
While we might imagine we would empathise more with the suffering of those we like, we may focus on the hateful person’s pain because we need to monitor our enemies carefully.
Dr. Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, who led the study, said:
“When you watch an action movie and the bad guy appears to be defeated, the moment of his demise draws our focus intensely.
We watch him closely to see whether he’s really down for the count, because it’s critical for predicting his potential for retribution in the future.”
The brain imaging study examined how the brain’s ‘pain matrix’ reacts to seeing people’s suffering (Fox et al., 2013).
The ‘pain matrix’ refers to a network of structures in the brain — including the insula cortex and the anterior cingulate — which activate when we see another person suffer.
It is thought that the pain matrix relates to how we empathise with others.
For the study, the researchers specifically chose Jewish participants and showed them videos of anti-Semitic individuals in pain, as well as videos of non-racist, more likeable individuals in pain.
Their brains were scanned using fMRI to measure the activity of the pain matrix.
The results revealed that the Jewish participants’ pain matrices were activated more when they saw the anti-Semitic individuals in pain.
At the same time, however, the reward centres of the brain were more active for participants when they saw the anti-Semites in pain.
This suggests they were probably experiencing a little schadenfreude(pleasure derived from the pain of others).
The study’s authors conclude:
“These results highlight a deep and disquieting aspect of the human experience…we see evidence supporting the notion that viewing threatening, hateful people in pain elicits elevated attention to the person in pain in addition to an element of pleasure which keeps your friend’s pain close, but your enemy’s closer.”
There seems to be wide support for the idea that we are living in an “age of complexity”, which implies that the world has never been more intricate. This idea is based on the rapid pace of technological changes, and the vast amount of information that we are generating (the two are related). Yet consider that philosophers like Leibniz (17th century) and Diderot (18th century) were already complaining about information overload. The “horrible mass of books” they referred to may have represented only a tiny portion of what we know today, but much of what we know today will be equally insignificant to future generations.
In any event, the relative complexity of different eras is of little matter to the person who is simply struggling to cope with it in everyday life. So perhaps the right question is not “Is this era more complex?” but “Why are some people more able to manage complexity?” Although complexity is context-dependent, it is also determined by a person’s disposition. In particular, there are three key psychological qualities that enhance our ability to manage complexity:
1. IQ: As most people know, IQ stands for intellectual quotient and refers to mental ability. What fewer people know, or like to accept, is that IQ does affect a wide range of real-world outcomes, such as job performance and objective career success. The main reason is that higher levels of IQ enable people to learn and solve novel problems faster.
At face value, IQ tests seem quite abstract, mathematical, and disconnected from everyday life problems, yet they are a powerful tool to predict our ability to manage complexity. In fact, IQ is a much stronger predictor of performance on complex tasks than on simple ones.
Complex environments are richer in information, which creates more cognitive load and demands more brainpower or deliberate thinking from us; we cannot navigate them in autopilot (or Kahneman’s system 1 thinking). IQ is a measure of that brainpower, just like megabytes or processing speed are a measure of the operations a computer can perform, and at what speed. Unsurprisingly, there is a substantial correlation between IQ and working memory, our mental capacity for handling multiple pieces of temporary information at once. Try memorizing a phone number while asking someone for directions and remembering your shopping list, and you will get a good sense of your IQ. (Unfortunately, research shows that working memory training does not enhance our long-term ability to deal with complexity, though some evidence suggests that it delays mental decline in older people, as per the “use it or lose it” theory.)
2) EQ: EQ stands for emotional quotient and concerns our ability to perceive, control, and express emotions. EQ relates to complexity management in three main ways. First, individuals with higher EQ are less susceptible to stress and anxiety. Since complex situations are resourceful and demanding, they are likely to induce pressure and stress, but high EQ acts as a buffer. Second, EQ is a key ingredient of interpersonal skills, which means that people with higher EQ are better equipped to navigate complex organizational politics and advance in their careers. Indeed, even in today’s hyper-connected world what most employers look for is not technical expertise, but soft skills, especially when it comes to management and leadership roles. Third, people with higher EQ tend to be more entrepreneurial, so they are more proactive at exploiting opportunities, taking risks, and turning creative ideas into actual innovations. All this makes EQ an important quality for adapting to uncertain, unpredictable, and complex environments.
3) CQ: CQ stands for curiosity quotient and concerns having a hungry mind. People with higher CQ are more inquisitive and open to new experiences. They find novelty exciting and are quickly bored with routine. They tend to generate many original ideas and are counter-conformist. It has not been as deeply studied as EQ and IQ, but there’s some evidence to suggest it is just as important when it comes to managing complexity in two major ways. First, individuals with higher CQ are generally more tolerant of ambiguity. This nuanced, sophisticated, subtle thinking style defines the very essence of complexity. Second, CQ leads to higher levels of intellectual investment and knowledge acquisition over time, especially in formal domains of education, such as science and art (note: this is of course different from IQ’s measurement of raw intellectual horsepower). Knowledge and expertise, much like experience, translate complex situations into familiar ones, so CQ is the ultimate tool to produce simple solutions for complex problems.
Although IQ is hard to coach, EQ and CQ can be developed. As Albert Einstein famously said: ““I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
The only thing important in my imagined land is a person's heart. And his empathy. And his ability to find wonder....
Jim Manske's insight:
Please consider joining us on Saturday, 4 pm PT for a Taste of Compassionate Leadership, our free monthly teleclass
We will focus on "Be the Change!".
Precisely 200 years ago, on August 15th, 1814, Sweden entered a new era of peace. The last battle took its final breath on August 14th after the signing of the Convention of Moss, ending a brief war with Norway sparked by the nation declaring its independence.
The war would be Sweden's last.
"Sweden as a nation has not participated in war for 200 years," Peter Wallensteen, senior professor of peace and conflict research at Uppsala University, told The Local.
How has Sweden managed to stayed out of war for two entire centuries?
"Primarily by luck," Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told The Local on Friday. Wallensteen pointed out that Sweden has contributed forces to UN peacekeeping operations, has an active military and a thriving arms industry, and that the definition of peace is debatable.
Nor does avoiding war mean that Sweden is officially neutral. Sweden left its policy of neutrality when it joined the EU in 1995, opting instead for "non-alignment".
"But there is an absence of the use of political violence in the country, no international wars, no civil wars, and no military coups," Wallensteen explained. Due to Switzerland's unfortunate civil war in 1847, Wallensteen said, Sweden's tally even beats the capital of neutrality.
All of the Scandinavian nations had a chance at taking the prize longest reign of peace, Wallensteen said, since they stayed out of the first world war. It was during World War II that things started falling apart. Sweden never officially took a side in World War II - but the nation has received harsh international criticism for letting the Nazis use Swedish railways to travel to and from Germany and Finland from invaded neighbour Norway, questioning the image of neutrality and indeed casting a light of shame and cowardice upon the country.
But historians say Sweden did not favour Germany. Rather, Sweden took the most non-confrontational stance it could. During the war posters were hung on building walls with a yellow and blue tiger, and the words "en svensk tiger" - translating both as "a Swedish tiger" and "a Swede keeps his mouth shut". According to Wallensteen, this attitude is not native, but learned. "Politicians realized as far back as 1905, after the treaty with Norway, that war creates lasting animosity. But solutions create lasting cooperation where everybody benefits."
Today Swedes have a reputation for being reserved and non-confrontational. How did the war-faring Vikings and mighty kings of the late Empire of Sweden transform into humble striped cats? "I think that Swedes have learned it doesn't pay to engage in violent conflict," Wallensteen told The Local. "There is an attitude of strong conflict awareness. There is a willingness to find solutions that work, solutions that are pragmatic, practical, and rational."
The Swedish climate of compromise, Wallensteen said, grew from experience. "People do take a stand, but they do not take a stand so incompatible with others that discussion becomes impossible. Due to long historical experience, Swedes are willing to open up to negotiation." Wallensteen said that the paradigm shift made a difference not just on the international scale and in peace-keeping issues, but also on the domestic front. "I think there was a cultural shift away from viewing war as honourable and great to a much more civilian understanding of what is good in society," Wallensteen said. "And in the Swedish case that means work hard, develop new industries, build welfare, be involved in national affairs... These kinds of values have gradually become more important than being engaged in military operations."
But will the "peace" - or simply war avoidance - continue? "Peace must be created, secured, and continuously nurtured by dialogue and diplomacy," Bildt told The Local. "Prediction is difficult," Wallensteen said after brief hesitation. "But I hope so. There is an atmosphere of inclusivity, a willingness in Sweden to integrate everyone and build a tolerant society."
Sweden's terror threat level has remained "high" since a botched suicide bombing in Stockholm in 2010. Reverberations from the riots of 2013 are still being felt. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, and an increasing number of Swedes are engaging in violent extremism abroad. "All that was happening before as well," Wallensteen remarked. "The important thing is how society as a whole reacts to it - and society is clearly against it and tries to make counter moves. In the riots, for instance, counter moves include integration projects instead of sending in police. It's a classical Swedish way of dealing with things." Wallensteen said it would be interesting to see how the extremist Swedes fighting abroad would be handled. "But again, I think the solution is to think about it in terms of prevention, what went wrong, and what we need to do better."
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt stressed that peace in Sweden is not the only priority in the globalized society of today, however - and Sweden cannot float on the status quo, but must engage actively to continue peace."Let's not forget that peace is far away in many places," Bildt told The Local. "Europe is in the most difficult strategic times that I can remember. The situation is extremely fragile to the east and to the south. The Syrian war has created a massive humanitarian disaster, and the recent developments in Iraq are also alarming." "In this respect, let's hope the coming 200 years will be more successful for the world than the previous ones."
Eighteen hours ago, I gave a presentation at the national convention of the American Psychological Association here in Washington DC. It was on the results from the newest study from my Science of Honesty project with co-author Lijuan Wang. She too is a professor at the University of Notre Dame.
"Throughout every day of the next 5 weeks, you must speak honestly, truthfully, and sincerely -- not only about the big things, but also about the small things, such as why you were late. You must always mean what you say in situations where your statements are to be taken seriously, as opposed to when joking or obviously exaggerating. While you certainly can choose not to answer questions, you must always mean what you say.”
What was so amazing is that in the 5th and final week, the Sincerity group reported significantly fewer physical health complaints than did the Control group. Specifically, they had experienced 7 fewer symptoms such as sore throats, headaches, nausea that week. Because the only difference between the two groups was the sincerity instructions, we can conclude that these instructions actually caused the health benefit.
Ever since the fall, I too have been following these instructions. Normally get 8 hours of sleep and have 5-7 colds in a winter. Now at only 3 hours of sleep, I have been sick zero times since the fall. Thus, I could not hold off on telling you about the results. The impact is so compelling that I urge you to try it.
It might not be easy to “always mean what you say”. You might find that you have to go back and correct some of the things that pop out of your mouth. But don’t let that discourage you. Being sincere is a process. You will get there with some practice. And when you do, you will see that you are becoming more humble, more open to learning, and less sensitive to rejection. Being sincere brings you closer to the decent people you know, pushes away the nay sayers, and allows you to feel a certain hopefulness about the world. To the extent that you experience these, I believe you too will have profound health benefits. You are more than welcome to post your progress in the comments here. I would love to read them; and I believe it will help inspire other readers to stay the course with you.
Jim Manske's insight:
Telling the truth frees me from having to keep track of deceptions! IT frees my heart from the thought that there is an "other" to hide from. I also enjoy the acknowledgment of autonomy...I do not "have to" tell anybody anything, AND I can cultivate openness and willingness to say the truth, choosing to speak the truth in the service of connection and love.
By studying how people respond to recent events in their lives, researchers have developed a mathematical formula that can predict individuals' happiness.
Jim Manske's insight:
Amazing how we humans love to quantify even the unQuantifiable!
Aren’t they awful? Aren’t they appalling? How could they? They must be monstrous, evil, inhuman. The only way to deal with such people is to stand up to them, destroy them, send them a message, take a stand, deter them, show them it isn’t acceptable, hold them to account. Any other response is soft, weak, naïve.
How many times have we heard this narrative repeated? A horrible event occurs: the downing of a jetliner, the murder of three Israeli teenagers, the destruction of the twin towers, gas attacks in Syria… and immediately the press and political classes pump up the narrative that whoever committed this atrocity did so because they are bad people – bad people who implicate a whole class of bad people that must be overcome with force.
The diagnosis is simple – evil – and the solution is straightforward – force and the threat of force.
In the case of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, we see the usual formula in action. They shot down a jetliner! They knew what they were doing! Then they covered it up! And they’ve taken the flight recorders! The rebels are destroying the evidence! Putin bears direct responsibility! One gets the impression of a band of gibbering fiends, rubbing their hands together in glee as they celebrate mass murder.
That the MH17 narrative outlined above suits U.S. geopolitical ambitions is no secret (see Patrick Smith’s forthright and brave article for a taste, as well as this item-by-item account of the propaganda efforts to construct that narrative). Beyond that, it also conforms to a deeper, less obvious mythology that divides the world into good and evil (always putting oneself and one’s in-group on the side of good) and that seeks to improve the world by conquering evil. This is a kind of empire-justifying meta-narrative that we see all the time, for example in the War on Terror and the War on Drugs, in discourse about criminal justice and immigration, in the militarization of police, in the justification for mass surveillance… the world is a place of danger and threat, and that security and well-being comes through being in control. (We see it as well, for that matter, in our dominant systems of medicine, education, and agriculture.)
Fail to go along with that view, and you are named soft, naïve, unrealistic, a liberal, a dupe. Should you question it publicly, you are also an impediment to a foreign policy that sees America as Good and any opposition to “U.S. interests” as proof of evil.
There is an alternative view that doesn’t dehumanize the perpetrators of atrocities and render them into cartoonish villains of the type that appear in James Bond movies. It says that evil is not an elemental aspect of the human psyche, but is the product of context. It therefore seeks first to understand. What is the context? What were the circumstances from which it seemed right for a human being to launch the missile?
Ultimately it comes down to the question, “What would it take for me to have made the same choice, were I in that person’s shoes?” That is what I mean by understanding, or compassion. Of course, sometimes it may elude us, and sometimes even achieving it, we may not see the possibility of anything but a force-based response. Nonetheless, to see violence as arising from context invites a different first reaction: rather than to find the one to blame, it is to seek understanding.
Barely mentioned in most of the articles in the mainstream media is the information that the missile crew thought they were downing a Ukranian military transport plane. It was similar to the American downing of Iranian Airlines Flight 655 in 1988, resulting in nearly identical loss of life.
That incident was “deeply regretted” by the United States, but nowhere was it treated as a casus belli or cause for sanctions against the U.S. It was understood that in tense military situations, horrible things happen.
Does it sound like I am excusing the act? Am I saying we should do nothing about it? Only if one equates “doing something” with punishment. Ah, but if we don’t punish, then nothing will deter such acts in the future, right? Well, that is true if the reason for such acts is that the perpetrators are just evil. But if they are not, if in fact they are acting as human beings in such circumstances act, then another kind of response might be warranted.
After all, the dehumanization of the perpetrator is of a kind with the dehumanization of the enemy, of the Other, that motivates and justifies war in the first place. We have been fighting wars to overcome evil for a very long time. This year is the 100th anniversary of World War One, the “war to end all wars.” Given the legacy of that failure, by now one would think we would try another approach.
In that spirit, let me offer a modest proposal for how to deal with the MH17 tragedy. First, announce that those responsible for launching the missile will be immune to any prosecution or punishment if they agree to participate in a Restorative Circle process. Then, gather them together with families of the victims, representatives of the warring sides, and observers from around the world. In the Restorative Circle, each involved party tells his or her story, and agrees to listen to the stories of everyone else. Each has a chance to show their feelings and have their feelings witnessed.
This proposal applies equally if the airliner downing were the doing of elements in the Ukrainian government (while there are some indications of this, I am skeptical – most conspiracy theories underestimate the power of human bureaucratic incompetence and folly.) If that is the case, we might be tempted to turn the same tactics of demonization toward the perpetrators of the tragedy, and not see that they, too, were acting from a story in which what they did seemed justified for the sake of a greater good.
Ancient circle practices for addressing conflict, revived today by people like Dominic Barter, breaks the cycle of violence, judgement, dehumanization, and retribution. It is a very powerful experience. Wait, you might say, the perpetrators haven’t been punished! True, they have not. But what is the goal of punishment? One is to stop them from doing it again, but confronting the agony of the victims’ families in a circle held with non-judgmental compassion is life-changing. The second goal of punishment is to deter others from committing similar crimes. But that goal depends mostly on the supposed evil of the criminal, who is assumed to be making some kind of self-interested calculation before committing the crime. Come on, really? Is anyone going to think, “Well, I’d sure like to shoot down this jetliner, but I might get executed so I’d better not?” I think a far better deterrent to violence is to see, up close, the humanity of those we have dehumanized. Witnessing a Restorative Circle accomplishes that.
If you discard this proposal as naïve, you are surely in good company. Consider though: what have been the results of thousands of years of war and punishment? Have we ever tried this before for an incident of geopolitical importance? Imagine the effect on the world if we paused from battle and,with the whole world watching, created a space for shared grief, forgiveness, and repentance? It would be an audacious experiment. I can’t guarantee it would “work,” but we’ve been trying the alternative – the war on evil – for thousands of years.
The hope is that someday we might win the war on evil and the world will finally be a better place. To do that, we have to be more vigilant, more efficient… for example, we can collect data on every human being on the planet, constantly monitor their whereabouts, and develop the capacity to kill them with the press of a button. That way, evil will have no chance. At the same time, we can educate evil out of people as much as possible and lock up the incorrigible.
A good plan. Unfortunately, as even those who implement it know, the war on evil will never succeed. We soldier on with the weary knowledge that the best we can do is stem the tide through a ceaseless and unwinnable struggle. This is just the way the world is; it is the human condition.
Is it though? Occasionally we catch glimpses of a different possibility: moments of unexpected forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, or a change of heart in situations where no one could reasonably expect anything but the same old cycles of violence. Are we to dismiss these as anomalies?
Exceptions to human nature? Or could it be that they point to something real, a more beautiful world, if only we would accept their invitation?
There is no formula for how to do that, or rather, there are many formulas, processes, and practices. All of them start with a perception: that we all share fundamental needs; that evil is a product of circumstances; that if I were in the totality of your circumstances, my brother, I would do as you do; that we are all in this together.
I do not, of course, expect any government leader to read this article and say, Hey, let’s give it a try. My purpose is to insinuate this way of thinking a little more deeply into the minds of whoever reads it, because its time will come. After thousands of years, we are growing tired of the war on the Other in all its permutations. The time of no enemies is coming, when we realize that we are all in this together and that each one of us is capable of any act.
In a recent study, researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of Surrey have attempted to find out whether patients suffering from narcissism can learn to show empathy for another person’s suffering.
Their study, which is being published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, has shown that it may be possible.
One of the main hallmarks of narcissism is a lack of empathy for others. This has a negative effect on their personal relationships, social interaction, and social behaviors. In most cases, this is because their lack of empathy means that they are unconcerned with the effect their actions have on others.
For this study, researchers chose to focus on patients who exhibit subclinical narcissism. This diagnosis is given to patients who are psychologically healthy while still exhibiting some narcissistic traits. This form of narcissism is more common than narcissistic personality disorder.
To examine whether narcissists could be capable of empathizing with another person’s suffering, they asked study participants to read an excerpt describing the break up of a relationship. No matter how severe the hypothetical scenario was, high-narcissists did not show any empathy for the subject. This was true even in situations where the subject of the excerpt suffered overwhelming depression.
Researchers then asked study participants to take the perspective of the target person. For example, female participants were shown a short documentary that described another woman’s experience with domestic violence. The participants were asked to imagine feeling the emotions of the woman while watching the video. In this case, high-narcissists reported much higher empathy for the woman.
Finally, participants were tested to see if they could be moved physiologically as well as emotionally. In previous studies it has been noted that increases in heart rate indicate an empathic response.
Researchers found that while high-narcissists usually showed a significantly lower heart rate when exposed to another person’s distress, during the perspective-taking exercise they responded with the same level of increased heart rate as low-narcissists.
This indicates that it may be possible for narcissists to empathize with others in the correct circumstances. They key is encouraging them to consider the situations from another point of view.
Are you living with a narcissist?
If so, it is important to encourage him or her to adopt a different perspective before expecting empathy. Within his or her default point of view, empathy cannot flow. The challenge is how to get the narcissistic individual to adopt a new perspective.
Yet, you can help any self-centered individual to imagine another person in his or her mind’s eye. Then ask the subject to imagine becoming that other person, feeling what you imagine they are feeling. These kinds of direct interventions have been common in NLP training for decades.
If you cannot encourage your narcissistic partner to take a new perspective, but demand empathy anyway, then you can count on feeling dismissed or rejected. We learn from the above-mentioned study that consciously identifying with another person is the critical key to empathy.
And this is true for all of us. Many people identify with the perspective of others naturally. Narcissistic individuals do not do it at all. It’s a tool that they probably don’t even know they have.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Jim Manske's insight:
How can we use the power of our mind to support our well-being?
As the United States charges once more into war, little debate has centered on the actual utility of war. Instead, policymakers and pundits have focused their comments on combating the latest danger to our nation and its interests as posed by Islamic State militants.
Jim Manske's insight:
Ever since childhood, the "utility" of war has puzzled me. It seemed to me that every war we studied in school eventually subsided into relative peace. I wondered, given that, why not go for the peace sooner rather than later...
Now, we have become conditioned to accept a constant war-footing...sending young men and women into harm's way at great expense of individual and collective well-being...
In the world I want to live in, the military would be solely for implementing the protective use of force, and used only after all attempts at connection, understanding and mutuality have been exhausted.
Today, as I do on most mornings, I pop my earbuds in and take a brisk walk along a route in my neighborhood. I’m moving to the beat of an excellent playlist of my own choosing. The stiff damp wind is out of the east. Though I live more than fifteen miles from the nearest beach, from the scent of the blowing mist I can imagine that the surf is crashing in just a few blocks away. It is still early, and the lead-gray sky is made darker in the places where the fog is still thick. By most people’s standards it is not a beautiful day.
None of the other walkers, runners or bike riders greets me with, “Gorgeous day, isn’t it?” Even the usually perky Puggle dog on my block sits quietly on his front steps among the first colored leaves that have fallen from a hundred year-old maple tree. Its ancient roots push up through the stone fence at the edge of the property. Just the same, I feel pleasantly filled up by the beautiful things I see, hear, smell, and feel around me.
Appreciation of Beauty in Action
It may be possible to take this same walk every day and not experience anything new and uplifting. But because I have the strength of Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, I cannot help but notice everything from the bees buzzing in to find their place in the huge flowers of the butterfly bush to the smell of fall on the breeze to the easiness of the stride of the runner who has just passed me. In the now overgrown front garden of the next house along my walk is a tall stalk with several green milkweed pods not yet ready to pop open. Food for next year’s gorgeous Monarch butterflies, I imagine.
Continuing along my usual route I come to the bank parking lot where the damp wind is blowing the scent of “eau de dumpster” my way. I pick my pace up to a jog. Another quarter of a mile down the road an antique house has the windows boarded up. A developer has uprooted all of the trees and scraped off the grass and topsoil from the property. Not long ago two families lived here with their small children and dogs. I watched them water the potted plants on stone front steps that are now missing.
Who let them do this?
“Who let them do this?” I ask myself with my beauty and excellence voice.
As with all strengths, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence feels natural and right to the person who has it. I know that I have this strength because things that are not either beautiful or excellent (admittedly to me) push this strengths button. I remember to say to myself, “I’m having a B and E moment” when I start to feel the “ick” of disgust (the opposite of elevation) rising within me. I even have a friend who shares the strength with me, and we regularly text each other with pictures or commentary about our moments.
Sources of Awe and Wonder
As a strength, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence is more than just our preferences in dumpster location or local property development.
According to Peterson and Seligman’s Character Strengths and Virtues, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence is “the human tendency to feel powerful self-transcendent emotions.” Awe, wonder, and elevation are elicited by the perception and contemplation of beauty and excellence.
An additional way to consider Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence is to think of the pleasurable openness and awe we feel when enjoying the highly developed skills and virtues of others. This awe may be experienced in the incredible “Wow!” of watching a basketball free-throw shot go through the net without even touching the rim or the seemingly impossible leap of the soccer goalkeeper making a save.
It could be the almost dumbstruck quality we feel after watching a film that has elicited so much emotion that we have nothing to say about it at first.
It could be the wonder we feel when reading an author’s clarity of thought presented in a few artfully chosen words.
It could be the deep admiration we feel when hearing someone thank the firefighter who rescued people and pets from a brightly burning building.
A Heart Strength
Unlike a more cognitive strength like curiosity, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence has a strong set of emotions connected to it. You know that you have this strength because you feel it strongly, not just because you think, “Isn’t that lovely? I wonder who created it?” It is more than astonishment.
Researchers including Ekman and Keltner have identified certain bodily responses and facial expressions such as wide-open eyes, an open mouth, goose bumps, tears, and a lump in the throat that typically accompany beauty and excellence experiences. Emmons and McCullough have found that after an elevating experience of beauty and excellence, a sense of grateful admiration wells up.
In addition to things like music, art, architecture, sport, and nature, religious and spiritual experiences are often connected to Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence. This strength is a pathway for moral and spiritual advancement. A sense of the power of the divine is intimately connected with awe. The profound gratitude one feels for both the beauties of creation and the powers of the natural world are evidence of this strength.
Transcending Fear and Other Benefits
How do you respond to a thunderstorm?
Some people might be scared by a thunderstorm while others might be awed. In those moments, the person with the strength of Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence is able to transcend ego and instead be moved to an awareness of the vastness and amazement that the world has to offer. Time slows down. In such moments a person may feel drawn to future opportunities for using the strength.
Developing the strength of Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence gives us some added bonuses. We are more likely to feel expansive, positive, and grateful. We can savor enjoyment without feeling a need to do anything right then. Any compelling action tendencies may be delayed. As we know from Fredrickson, positive emotions broaden the possible scope of action. Those positive emotions also build a range of psychological resources. In addition, Haidt has found that elevation mediates ethical behavior. When we demonstrate elevating behavior, people that follow our actions are more likely to exhibit interpersonal fairness and self-sacrifice.
An Example of Beauty and Excellence
I believe that the late Chris Peterson had the strength of Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence. When I was a graduate student at Penn he was my teacher and advisor. I remember hearing about the city’s Mural Arts Program from him on a chilly walk through Philadelphia while he pointed out his favorite paintings. This is their mission statement:
WE BELIEVE ART IGNITES CHANGE.
We create art with others to transform places, individuals, communities and institutions. Through this work, we establish new standards of excellence in the practice of public and contemporary art.
Our process empowers artists to be change agents, stimulates dialogue about critical issues, and builds bridges of connection and understanding.
Our work is created in service of a larger movement that values equity, fairness and progress across all of society.
We listen with empathetic ears to understand the aspirations of our partners and participants. And through beautiful collaborative art, we provide people with the inspiration and tools to seize their own future.
That feeling you now have? It is elevation, courtesy of Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence.
Jim Manske's insight:
Aloha, I regret not publishing to Scoop.it lately! I've been focusing on preparations for our upcoming trip to Asia, teaching NVC in Korea and Japan for the month of October. May your day be filled with Awe and Wonder!
Bacteria within you — which outnumber your own cells about 100 times — may be affecting both your cravings and moods to get you to eat what they want, and may be driving you toward obesity.
That’s the conclusion of an article published this week in the journal BioEssays by researchers from UC San Francisco,Arizona State University and University of New Mexico from a review of the recent scientific literature.
How your gut microbiome may control you
The diverse community of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiome, influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.Some bacterial species prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. They vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem — your digestive tract — and they also often have different aims than you do when it comes to your own actions.Bacteria may influence your decisions by releasing signaling molecules into your gut. Because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system, and the nervous system, those signals could influence your physiologic and behavioral responses — and health.Bacteria may be acting through the vagus nerve, which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make you feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make you feel good.Certain strains of bacteria increase anxious behavior (in mice).Some strains of bacteria cause stomach cancer and perhaps other cancers.
What you can do (with medical guidance)
Make changes in what you eat. There are measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change, evolving on the time scale of minutes.Take appropriate probiotics. One study showed a drink containing Lactobacillus casei improved mood in those who were feeling the lowest.Kill targeted species with specific antibiotics.Acquire specialized bacteria that digest your favorite foods. (Bacteria that digest seaweed are found in humans in Japan, where seaweed is popular in the diet.)See previous KurzweilAI posts on gut bacteria
The co-authors’ study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the Bonnie D. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin.
Jim Manske's insight:
On our trip to Korea two years ago, I started eating Kimchi regularly. (There are hundreds of varieties of Kimchi consumed there other than the cabbage Kimchi commonly found in some US grocery stores.)
I noticed an almost immediate positive effect on my digestive process as I increased the probiotic supply. Now, I wonder what other effects the members of my "biome" may be influencing. And I am grateful that we have learned to make our own kimchi, and our refrigerator has an abundance in the moment!
Emotional Intelligence is a larger factor in adult life success than general intelligence. Here are three clear guidelines for raising a child with high EI.
Three Parenting Tips to Maximize Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence:
Pay attention. Work hard to see your child’s true nature. What does your child like, dislike, get angry about, feel afraid of, or struggle with? Feed these observations back to your child in a non-judgmental way so that your child can see herself through your eyes, and so that she can feel how well you know her.
Life Advantage: Your child will see herself reflected in your eyes, and she will know who she is. This will give her confidence in her life choices and will make her resilient to life’s challenges.
Feel an emotional connection to your child. Strive to feel what your child is feeling (empathy), whether you agree with it or not. When you feel your child’s emotion, he will feel an instant bond with you.
Life Advantage: Your child will learn empathy and will have healthier relationships throughout his life.
Respond competently to your child’s emotional need. Do not judge your child’s feeling as right or wrong. Look beyond the feeling, to the source. Help your child name her emotion. Help her manage the emotion.
Life Advantage: Your child will have a healthy relationship with his own emotions. He will naturally know that his feelings are important and how to put them into words and manage them.
No parent can follow these tips perfectly, of course. This is not about perfection; it’s about making the effort. Effort in itself shows love and care. When your child sees you trying to understand his feelings or feel his feelings, whether you succeed or not, he receives a powerful message:
Your feelings matter to me.
And what your child will hear:
Play among children is vital for their social development. So what's in it for adults?
Jim Manske's insight:
Marshall once said something like, "Don't do it if it isn't play." And as Wes Taylor says, "Play on!"
The vital role expectations play in our happiness is revealed by data collected from 18,420 people worldwide.
Jim Manske's insight:
This confirms my direct experience...my expectations matter! Furthermore, my happiness can be enhance when I am willing to reveal my expectations in a vulnerable way AND empathize with the unexpressed expectations of others!
Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
At some point in our development we learn to see others through a lens of fear and hate. Because the brain is so malleable in our younger years these beliefs become that much more ingrained and as we grow older the skew of our lens becomes hardened. When it comes to the Middle East, it seems there is a collective lens that’s been hardened through history that Arabs and Jews have an irreconcilable relationship.
There seems to be a social construction of hopelessness that we’re all entranced in. But if hate and ignorance are learned, is it possible they can be unlearned?
The reality is nobody has “the answer” to this conflict and the historical trauma on both sides runs deep. When safety feels threatened, as is a continual reality there, it’s a natural survival reaction to close down the mind and heart in order to protect against vulnerability and default to a fight or flight response. If someone was shooting arrows at you, you’d put up your shield and either run or eventually shoot back. At the same time, I know there are many people on both sides, if not the majority, that see the common humanity between each other, want deeply to feel safe and protected, and long to live in peace.
From thoughts come actions and from actions comes consequences.
Read through the intentions below in the following “Compassionate Peace Practice.”
Set your judgments aside for a moment and see if you can bring them into your heart and mind when considering all those who are suffering in this war.
A Compassionate Peace Practice (Share Generously):
“May all those who have suffered violence and all those who have committed violence feel safe and protected from inner and outer harm (because if they did feel safe they’d be less like to commit violent acts).”
“May all those in conflict be awakened to their common humanity.”
“May all those in conflict be free from hatred and the delusion of separateness.”
“May all people with hate in their hearts release this burden and learn to forgive.”
“May we all be free from the fear that keeps us stuck in destructive cycles of conflict.”
“May we all live in peace.”
Almost everyone is touched by this conflict and it is often and emotionally stirring subject to even bring up. Please share your intentions, thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
One of the single greatest advances in the evolutionary behavioral sciences in the past several decades can be described as the intellectual bursting of the “selfishness” dam. In 1976, renowned biologist, thinker, and writer, Richard Dawkins published The Selfish Gene (by Oxford University Press). This book is, essentially, a highly accessible and powerful summary of Darwin’s ideas on evolution — applied largely (but not fully) to several classes of animal behavior (such as the mating habits of the praying mantis, the murderous nature of emperor penguins, and the helpful nature of vampire bats). This book is truly awesome and you should put it near the top of your list if you have any interest in the world around you and haven’t yet read this significant work.
One intellectual consequence of Dawkins’ provocative title was a focus on the many connotations of the term selfish. Dawkins meant this term in a very specific sense, literally meaning that a “selfish gene” is a gene that codes for qualities of an organism that increase the likelihood of survival and/or reproductive success. In short, replicating genes out-exist non-replicating (or poorly replicating) genes in the future of a species. This is really all he meant. But folks who followed his work elaborated. It made sense to many to think of an animal such as a human, then, as a primarily selfish being. After all, the reasoning goes, if genes that exist are selfish, then products of genes, such as humans, must be too. And this fallacious reasoning drove much in the way of (a) how evolutionary science has progressed since the publication of The Selfish Gene and (b) how evolution (now seen by many as espousing a “red in tooth and claw” take on our kind), has taken on something of a cold angle on what it means to be any kind of organism, including a human.
There is good news and bad news that follow up on The Selfish Gene. The bad news is that this misinterpretation (or overly applied extension) of Darwin’s metaphor has not helped work in the evolutionary sciences with PR issues. People from the outside looking in often think, “Oh, that evolution stuff, isn’t that the stuff that says we are animals and that we all want to kill each other for our own selfish gain?” Not so pleasant a portrait. I can see why someone might not like that!
The good news follows: An amazing thing about this field in the past several decades has been the landslide of research that sheds light on the positives of human nature from an evolutionary perspective (SeeGeher, 2014). We can almost think of this as the dawn of a potential field we could call Positive Evolutionary Psychology (yup, PEP!). Here are just a few directions that the science in evolutionary psychology has taken which paints humans as loving, helpful, and self-sacrificing:
1. Paying It Back: Or giving back to others who have given to you in some important way, is hugely significant from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. Trivers’ (1971) landmark work on the topic of reciprocal altruism demonstrated in relatively long-lived species such as our own, the tendency for altruism among-non kin may evolve, such as people helping others, even strangers. Sometimes this kind of help is “paying it back,” or reciprocating altruistic acts that have come to new altruists in a small-social community. Not paying back altruism is socially dangerous — in your social ecosystem, my social ecosystem, and in the social ecosystems of pre-agrarian humans all around the globe. We’ve evolved to pay it back.
2. Paying It Forward: This is a term that’s been thrown around a lot in recent years, and I love it! It essentially says to give to others — not to reciprocate them for having helped you in the past, but to help them proactively so that they are on good footing moving forward. Maybe they will help you in the future. Maybe they will help others close to you (kin, friends, etc.), in the future. Maybe they will help the broader community in the future. Your helping them proactively sets the stage for any of these outcomes, all of which have potential to positively influence you and your kin and your social network. Paying it forward is seen positively in social communities; it helps people develop reputations as altruists or helpers or, more simply, as folks whom can be relied upon. And, without question, such a reputation is adaptive and leads to be positive outcomes (even if indirectly) for the individual who chooses to pay it forward.
Think of joining a Big Brother, Big Sister program when you’re in your mid-20s (as I did when I was a graduate student in NH). In these kinds of programs, you find a young child (usually around 7 years old) who just needs a little boost, a little help, some older figure to lean on and talk to. For instance, when I lived in NH in the 1990s, I met regularly with 7-year-old Jacob. Great kid, dad not so much in the picture, benefited from having some kind of young adult male role model.
We did what he wanted to do — movies, sledding, mini-golf, swimming, etc. We talked and we’ve stay in touch still. He’s now a graduate of the University of Vermont and is an ace at computers; for him, the sky is the limit. My helping him when he was young was paying it forward; and when I see how well he’s done, I’m pretty darn glad that I put my time in to get to know Jacob.
3. Loving Selflessly: An enormous body of work on the evolutionary psychology of love that has recently come out (e.g., Fisher, 1993) has demonstrated how strong our love for another can be. And this kind of love can be selfless. Further, this kind of love is an important part of our evolutionary heritage.
Human offspring are altricial (helpless), and acquiring help from multiple adults (think monogamous pair of adults) is hugely beneficial to successful development. And when the adults in that pair are fully aligned in their vision of family, which benefits from them being truly in love with one another, parenting will thrive. Love, an inherently selfless act, is a foundational part of the human evolutionary story.
Did Dawkin’s juggernaut of a term, Selfish Gene, imply that all features of all organisms are selfish in the colloquial sense? Absolutely not. He simply meant that qualities of organisms that lead to gene replication are likely, mathematically, to out-exist qualities that do not facilitate such replication. In complex, socially oriented, and long-lived critters like us, it’s very often the case that selfless, other-oriented behaviors (such as paying it back, paying it forward, or loving another in a selfless manner) are exactly the highly evolved things that make us human and these are the qualities we share with humans in all corners of the globe.
To some extent, selfish genes have, in the case of humans, created altruistic apes who focus largely on what they can do to help others and to build strong and positive communities. This sounds a little like positive evolutionary psychology* to me!
Study after study has shown that listening is critical to leadership effectiveness. So, why are so few leaders good at it?
Too often, leaders seek to take command,
The ability and willingness to listen with empathy is often what sets a leader apart. Hearing words is not adequate; the leader truly needs to work at understanding the position and perspective of the others involved in the conversation.
In a recent interview, Paul Bennett, Chief Creative Officer at IDEO, advises leaders to listen more and ask the right question. Bennett shared that “for most of my twenties I assumed that the world was more interested in me than I was in it, so I spent most of my time talking, usually in a quite uninformed way, about whatever I thought, rushing to be clever, thinking about what I was going to say to someone rather than listening to what they were saying to me.”
by John Coleman
Via Edwin Rutsch