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Finding Words That Work In Business by Ike Lasater with Julie Stiles

We all face difficult conversations in the workplace: criticism from our boss, a conflict with a client, a co-worker we find irritating, a subordinate who submits incomplete work — all might entail a conversation we do not look forward to having. When we anticipate that an interaction might be complicated, there are steps we can take to engage with the other person in ways that are more likely to be satisfying.

Jim Manske's insight:

I enjoyed this excerpt from Ike and Julies NVC in Business book! Click through to read the article at Puddledancer Press. What comes up for you reading it?

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4 daily habits that will make you happier

4 daily habits that will make you happier | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Happiness comes from your own actions.
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How Fear Melts Away When We Stop Resisting the Present

How Fear Melts Away When We Stop Resisting the Present | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Fear triggers our fight or flight response and causes us to struggle and resist the present. What if, instead of running from fear, you stuck with it?
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Vulnerable honesty | Yoram Mosenzon | TEDxAmsterdamED - YouTube

In this funny, personal, and honest look at the way we as humans approach communication, Yoram Mosenzon teaches us the difference between true honesty, and w...
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Aung San Suu Kyi on What It Takes to Be Free from Fear

Aung San Suu Kyi on What It Takes to Be Free from Fear | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Fearlessness may be a gift, but perhaps most precious is the courage acquired through endeavor, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions, courage that could be described as ‘grace under pressure’ — grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure. Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man’s self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.
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Instilling empathy among doctors pays off for patient care - CNN.com

Instilling empathy among doctors pays off for patient care - CNN.com | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
This skill is increasingly considered essential to establishing trust, the foundation of a good doctor-patient relationship.
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The 5 Daily Rituals That Will Make You Happy

The 5 Daily Rituals That Will Make You Happy | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
You know what percentage of people are really happy? Not “oh, life is pretty good”, I mean people who are flourishing. They feel their lives are fulfilling, meaningful and brimming with potential.



Only 17 percent of the adult population is said to be flourishing, fulfilling their potential for happiness, success, and productivity. Less than one in five. And the question that follows is, of course: how do I become one of those people?

I’ve been accumulating the research on happiness for a while. Good news is: there’s a lot of it. Bad news is: who can remember to do all that stuff?
Well, one expert finally put it together into a simple 5-part formula.

Christine Carter is a sociologist at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center which studies the psychology and neuroscience of well-being. She looked at the research and exhaustively compiled it into her book, The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work.


So what’s this formula to find your “sweet spot” of happiness — without completely overhauling your life?

Take Recess + Switch Autopilot On + Unshackle Yourself + Cultivate Relationships + Tolerate Some Discomfort = The Sweet Spot


Okay, but what do we actually need to do?


Don’t worry; it’s pretty easy. Let’s break it down:
1) Take Recess

Most of what we do all day is “instrumental.” What’s that mean? It gets something done. It’s practical. It achieves a goal.


But these days we seem to be doing more and more that’s instrumental and a lot less that’s just fun. We forget to play. Is that so bad?


Actually, you have no idea how bad it is. Noted psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi tried an experiment: he told people to just do instrumental activities all day long. No fun allowed, literally.
The old saying is “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It’s more accurate to say, “All work and no play gives Jack a clinical anxiety disorder in under 48 hours.” Seriously.


Csikszentmihalyi unintentionally induced textbook cases of generalized anxiety disorder in people simply by instructing his subjects as follows: From the time you wake up until 9: 00 p.m., he explained, “We would like you to act in a normal way, doing all the things you have to do, but not doing anything that is ‘play’ or ‘non-instrumental.’” …Following these instructions for just forty-eight hours produced symptoms of serious anxiety in research subjects—restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension—all by eliminating flow and play from their lives. In other words, we get anxious when we aren’t having any fun.

After 2 days he ended the experiment because of the extreme negative effects it was having on the test subjects.

So by trying to be so productive and get so much done you’re probably stressing yourself out. What to do?

Schedule a little bit of fun every 90 minutes or so. Nothing productive allowed.

Via The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work:
Today, take a good old-fashioned recess in the middle of the day. Go ahead and do your hardest or most dreaded work— or whatever you need to do— but after about sixty to ninety minutes of focused attention, honor your ultradian rhythms and take a break. Rest… The only rule is that what you do during recess must be restful or playful; it can’t be “instrumental” in any way.

You can actually get more done sometimes by being a bit of a slacker. Vacations make you more productive.

By working 60 hour weeks you can get a lot done. But when you work that hard for too long, your productivity drops off. After 2 months of 60 hours a week you’ll actually accomplish less than if you’d only been working 40 hours a week.


One study, on construction projects, found that “where a work schedule of 60 or more hours per week is continued longer than about two months, the cumulative effect of decreased productivity will cause a delay in the completion date beyond that which could have been realized with the same crew size on a 40-hour week.”


You might be worried that taking breaks will mean you still get less done. But we’ve got a solution for that.
2) Switch Autopilot On

You spend 40% of the day on autopilot, engaging in habits, not actual decisions.

One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.

And we get more done when we’re on autopilot, actually. Not having to make decisions uses less willpower.

So start building better habits. You don’t “decide” to brush your teeth, it’s just something you do and it’s not a struggle. With more habits like this you can get a lot more done in less time with little stress.
At first, just try little habits. Connect them to things that are already part of your routine.

“After I start the dishwasher, I will read one sentence from a book.”
“After I walk in my door from work, I will get out my workout clothes.”
“After I put my head on the pillow, I will think of one good thing from my day.”
Another easy way to break in a new good habit is to use what happiness expert Shawn Achor calls the “20 second rule.”

Anything you want to accomplish, find a way to make it 20 seconds easier to get started on (like putting your workout clothes next to the bed). Anything you want to stop doing, make it 20 seconds harder to start (hide the candy where it’s hard to reach).

From my interview with Shawn:
If you can make the positive habit three to 20 seconds easier to start, you’re likelihood of doing it rises dramatically. And you can do the same thing by flipping it for negative habits. Watching too much television?


Merely take out the batteries of the remote control creating a 20 second delay and it dramatically decreases the amount of television people will watch.

You’re having more fun and becoming more efficient by turning routine tasks into habits. Great. What else will bring you more happiness. The answer is “less.”
3) Unshackle Yourself

Do less.


Really, you can. Christine puts it pretty simply:
Decide on your five top priorities and say “no” to everything else.
We spend so much time reacting rather than following through with our goals.

Whenever I tell people they need to do less the reaction is pretty much like I told them to grow wings and fly: “That’s impossible!”


But then I ask them 4 questions about a task and very, very rarely can they honestly answer “yes” to each one:
Does this thing really need to be done at all?
Do you absolutely have to be the one to do it?
Does it need to be done perfectly or will “pretty good” actually be enough?
Does it need to be done right now?

Like I said, very few tasks get a “yes” for all four. And that means you can either ignore it, delegate it, do it quickly or make it one of tomorrow’s top five.

You can do less. And less means less stress and more time for fun.

So that means less on your plate. So what should you fill your plate with?
4) Cultivate Relationships

Christine pulls a quote I love from the wonderful book Triumphs of Experience:
…there are two pillars of happiness revealed by the seventy-five-year-old Grant Study…. One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.

If you ask psychology researchers, economists, insurance adjusters and old people they will all agree on the single most important key to happiness: relationships.


That’s not hard to believe. What is surprising is just how far that truth extends.


Michael Norton and Elizabeth Dunn (authors of the book Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending showed that merely talking to the barista at Starbucks makes us happier.

Researchers sent people into a Starbucks with five dollars each to buy themselves a latte. Half were instructed to get their beverage as fast as they could, to “get in, get out, go on with the day.” The other half were instructed to “have a genuine interaction with the cashier ”— to smile and initiate a brief conversation. The folks who smiled at the barista left Starbucks feeling more cheerful. In the words of the study authors


Michael Norton and Elizabeth Dunn: “Efficiency, it seems, is overrated.”
So you can do that if you’re a daily Starbucks drinker but just like with networking, the easiest way to work on relationships is to first strengthen the ones you already have.


Little cracks appear in our relationships all the time, and while we can certainly spend a lot of time and energy examining fissures and assigning blame— or pretending they aren’t there or never happened—often the easiest thing is to just repair the crack. Without getting into it again, without raising past hurts, without projecting into the future. Often a hug and an “I love you”— or an apology and a heartfelt expression of gratitude— is all it takes.

You don’t need to buy gifts or go out of your way. Just give your attention. Listen. Ask about the good things that have happened to them lately and be happy for them. It’s that simple.

Okay, last one coming up. And it’s a bit ironic. Want life to happier? Then make it a little harder…
5) Tolerate Some Discomfort

Many of us come home from work and think, “I just want to sit down and do nothing.” 

And that’s understandable if you’re overworked and burned out. But “doing nothing” is really not what will make you happier.


Sitting on the couch watching TV does not make your life better:
…heavy TV viewers, and in particular those with significant opportunity cost of time, report lower life satisfaction. Long TV hours are also linked to higher material aspirations and anxiety.


Research shows we’re generally not inclined to do what makes us happiest, actually. We do what’s easy.

Studies have found that American teenagers are two and a half times more likely to experience elevated enjoyment when engaged in a hobby than when watching TV, and three times more likely when playing a sport.


And yet here’s the paradox: These same teenagers spend four times as many hours watching TV as they do engaging in sports or hobbies. So what gives? Or, as psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi put it more eloquently, “Why would we spend four times more time doing something that has less than half the chance of making us feel good?” The answer is that we are drawn—powerfully, magnetically—to those things that are easy, convenient, and habitual, and it is incredibly difficult to overcome this inertia. Active leisure is more enjoyable, but it almost always requires more initial effort—getting the bike out of the garage, driving to the museum, tuning the guitar, and so on.


One of the things research has consistently shown makes us happy is striving. Making progress in things we find meaningful is incredibly motivating.


Engaging in things you’re good at has been shown to powerfully boost happiness. People who deliberately exercised their “signature strengths” on a daily basis became significantly happier for months.
Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:
When 577 volunteers were encouraged to pick one of their signature strengths and use it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed than control groups. And these benefits lasted: Even after the experiment was over, their levels of happiness remained heightened a full month later. Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become.


But how do you prevent this from becoming yet another stressful chore?
This isn’t your boss forcing you to do something. This is you choosing to push yourself so you get better.


Navy SEALs treat problems like a game. Similarly, Shawn Achor says to see obstacles as a challenge, not a threat. And Christine agrees.


When we use our minds to “reappraise our stress response,” as scientists call it, from stress to challenge, we can actually change the typical physiological response itself from a stress response to a challenge response… Researchers have found that when people reframe the meaning of their physiological response to stress as something that is improving their performance, they feel more confident and less anxious.


Moreover, their physical response to the stress actually changes from one that is damaging to one that is helpful.

Let’s tie it all together into something simple that we can use.
Sum Up

Here’s Christine’s five step formula:
1. Take Recess: Going two days without anything fun creates anxiety. Take breaks.
2.  Switch Autopilot On: Make unpleasant tasks into habits. Tie them to things you already do.
3. Unshackle Yourself: Decide your five priorities for the day and say NO to everything else. Does it have to be done? Do you have to do it? Does it have to be done perfectly? Does it have to be done now? Probably not.
4. Cultivate Relationships: They are the single biggest happiness booster. Celebrate the successes of those you love.
5. Tolerate Some Discomfort: Push to keep getting better. Mastery brings joy. Striving creates smiles.


One of the secrets of the happiest people isn’t merely that their brains are wired that way, but they also engage in activities on a daily basis that keep them flourishing.


Try the above five things on a daily basis for a few weeks and see if they can make you happy. As Aristotle said:
!We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Jim Manske's insight:

May we all become the 17%...after all, it is one of the things that we all want!  To be happy, to be fulfilled, to flourish and thrive!!!

Nich Rogers's curator insight, March 18, 10:17 PM
Great simple insights anyone can do. Yes, that's YOU
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Understanding The Peace Code In The Human Brain

Understanding The Peace Code In The Human Brain | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
19 minutes | Ground-breaking discoveries about early childhood and the human brain have offered vital clues about the roots of human violence and social disharmony. Our brains’ empathy centres grow – or fail...
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No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos & Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos & Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

Parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, and anyone else in frequent contact with kids can all stand to learn more about how to stay calm. No-Drama Discipline offers example-backed tools to help us discipline children in a supportive and lasting way.


This is not the first book that Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson have written together. Their earlier book was the bestselling The Whole-Brain Child, and they use concepts from that first book in their second. About the brain, they write that in addition to it having a left and right side, the brain of a child also has a lower portion and upper portion. The “downstairs” brain is where children’s emotions, basic instincts, and basic functions are controlled. This part of the brain begins to work right at birth. The “upstairs” brain, meanwhile, is where reasoning, thought, conscience, and understanding develop.


This part is not very well developed at birth, and may not become fully developed until the person is in her mid-twenties. However, the upstairs brain is continually growing as the child grows, so it makes sense that we would try to influence it according to our values.


The book reminds us right at the beginning that the worddiscipline comes from the Latin disciplina, which means “teaching, learning, and giving instruction.” Often when we think of discipline we think of punishment. But this is the crux of the book: to get us to change behavior by teaching our children rather than punishing them.

In order to do this, the essential theme is to connect with a child, then redirect their thinking.


Connect here means to establish rapport, get on the kid’s level, understand their upset or motivation, and get them to communicate. Redirect, as the authors use it, ultimately means to help a child develop self-control and to have a moral compass that guides their decisions.

We have all likely experienced this: When someone is emotionally upset, it becomes hard to communicate with them. After we console and empathize with the person, it becomes much easier to talk about change or resolution.


We want our children to cooperate by changing bad behavior to good, and we might sometimes think that yelling at them, or putting them in a timeout, is the way to go. But what we want for the longer term is that they cooperate with our expectations, and do it because they understand why a certain behavior is desirable — not do it just because they want to avoid punishment.


One of the features I liked best about the book is that the authors freely admit to their own parenting mistakes, and with that admission, allow us the same privilege to make mistakes. We should accept our errors and then work to repair any damage we might have done. They acknowledge that there are just going to be circumstances in which we will not be able to control ourselves. In that sense the book gives something akin to dieting advice: It is normal to go off a diet on occasion, but we should get right back on it as soon as we can.


Another feature that appealed to me is the notion that we can confront a child’s misbehavior with an attempt to understand the motivation behind it — and get on the child’s level to establish together a better way to behave in that situation. Before we can do that, however, we must help the child become ready to talk about it. The authors point out that we, the adults, must also become ready, by being composed and calm.


The book is easy to read, stylistically. It is almost as if the authors are presenting a program to a large audience, complete with graphics, stories, and audience participation (that is where we, the readers, admit to all the mistakes we have made in parenting). There are funny moments, too, in the real-life examples throughout the text.


While the book is most helpful to dealing with younger children, and its emphasis is there, it also has applicability to older children and even adults. Picture, if you will, a couple about to get into a heated “discussion” about overspending, or about behavior at a party. Instead of allowing it to turn into a battle, a spouse with the skills from No-Drama Discipline can turn it into a calm and supportive — yet effective — conversation instead.


The book includes a so-called refrigerator sheet to keep the tips in front of you at home. The sheet alone will not teach what the entire book does, but it can help remind you of what you’ve learned from the stories and examples in the larger text.


There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the book. I enjoyed the writing style and found it easy to understand. Much of it “hit home” with situations I have faced — and I suspect most readers will have faced them as well.


After learning some ways to enhance your childcare skills and to keep things calm, not only will the kids in your life behave better, but you’ll be happier and less stressed, too.

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind
Bantam Books, September 2014
Hardcover, 288 pages

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A Mindful Minute: How to Observe a Train of Anxious Thoughts (Illustrated)

A Mindful Minute: How to Observe a Train of Anxious Thoughts (Illustrated) | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Kids have anxious thoughts all the time…

“I’m going to fail math and never get into college.”

“I’m totally screwing up this speech right now, and everyone knows it.”

“What if I don’t get asked to the dance? I’ll be humiliated for life.”

Research shows us that anxious thoughts are often blown out of proportion, skewed, or just plain wrong. Nonetheless, thoughts have power. Why? Because thoughts influence feelings and behaviors.

A simple thought passing through a child’s mind can cause them to feel scared, worried, or sad; it can cause them to sulk, withdraw, or act out. Here’s this point illustrated another way:

Thoughts → Feelings → Behavior

“No one likes me.” → Sadness and embarrassment → Skipping school

Anxious thoughts can also become habitual and tip kids into a downward spiral of negativity.

So, what if we could teach our kids to take some of that power back? What if we could teach them to pick and choose which thoughts they “listen” or react to? We can. The first step in this process is the focus of today’s mindful minute exercise on thought observation.

Why is mindfulness good?

In the late 1970s, developmental psychologist John Flavell gave a name to the idea that humans are aware of their own ability to think. Cognition about our own cognition (or thinking about thinking) was labeled metacognition.

As metacognitive beings, we have the capacity to disentangle ourselves from our own thinking with the use of mindfulness meditation. According to a pioneer in the field, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is a mental practice of remaining present in the moment in a nonjudgmental way. At the heart of this practice is the idea that you are not your thoughts.

With this in mind, the goal for our children is to learn to observe their thoughts as something separate from themselves. In this, it’s easier to see that thoughts are transient; children also learn they have a choice as to whether to act upon their thoughts.

A substantial body of research shows that mindfulness practices have incredible benefits for children. Here’s a small sample of findings:

Research shows that teaching children mindfulness skills leads to greater well-being and less stress.
Research shows that mindfulness improves children’s ability to bounce back from challenges.
Research shows that children enjoy learning mindfulness skills; in one study, 74% of kids said they would continue to practice mindfulness after their training was over.
How do you practice observing your own thoughts?

Teaching kids to disentangle themselves from their own cognition seems a bit complex, but let’s not underestimate our kids—they are extraordinarily sophisticated and self-aware. It’s our responsibility to tap into this self-awareness and leverage kids’ love of creativity to make lessons relevant. In other words, use language that makes sense and make it fun!

Try the GoZen! Train of Thoughts exercise:

Teach your child that thoughts are like trains that come and go through a busy station; we are simply standing on platform watching the trains go by. To practice, ask about a recent anxious thought your child had. Now, have your child visualize the train (thought) coming into the station.
Explain that when the train (thought) arrives, sometimes it just passes by and sometimes it stops for a while. When the train (thought) hangs out at the station for a while or remains in our mind, we can start to feel different emotions. It’s OK to feel things; that’s no problem. This is a good time to breathe in deeply and breathe out. Focus on the breath and not the train, because soon it is going to pass by.
Have your child “watch” as the train leaves. Explain that in time, just like the train, our thoughts move on and we stay behind.


This simple exercise can teach our kids we don’t have to react to every thought. We can simply observe them. In doing this, the goal is not to change our thoughts, but rather to change our relationship with them.
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The Opportunities For Empathy In The Classroom: Terry Hieck

The Opportunities For Empathy In The Classroom:  Terry Hieck | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it


So much talk about empathy in education recently. Why? What’s the big idea? 


In “The Role of Empathy in Learning,” I wrote:


“The role of empathy in learning has to do with the flow of both information and creativity. A dialogic interaction with the world around us requires us to understand ourselves by understanding the needs and condition of those around us. It also encourages us to take collective measurements rather than those singular, forcing us into an intellectual interdependence that catalyzes other subtle but powerful tools of learning.”


But where does it come from? What causes it? What are the authentic sources of empathy in a classroom?


Empathy Source: Analysis of “Other”


Whether by close academic examination, more personal “evaluation,” or some kind of analysis that’s in-between, “other” lays the groundwork for empathy.


The act of an infant reaching out for your face as you hold, or making eye contact with someone during a conference, or even reading literate all are framed by empathy–or suffer tremendously without it. There is a moment when one “thing” recognizes another, followed by some momentary burst of analysis. Who is this person? Are they a threat, an opportunity, or neither? What do I need from them, and them from me?


What social contracts or etiquette are at work here that I need to be aware of and honor?


Literary study is probably the most iconic case for empathy in traditional learning environment. A novel requires the reader see the world through one (or more) of the character’s eyes–to understand their motives, and draw close to their worldview so that can have a fictional-but-still-parallel experience.


Empathy Source: Your interactions with them


This is a powerful opportunity to model empathy. Reinforcement of desired behaviors. Socratic discussion. Grading writing. Evaluating projects. Missing homework. Behavior problems. All of the dozens of interactions you have with students on a daily basis are opportunities for them to see what empathy looks like. 


This doesn’t mean they necessarily will, in turn, use it with others, but there’s no chance at all for that to happen if they don’t even know what they’re looking for. Your empathy with them may be the only empathy they’ve ever seen.


Empathy Source: Their interactions with one another


Another opportunity to see empathy in action is in working with one another—quick elbow-partner activities, group projects, peer response, group discussions and more. Sharing sentence stems that promote empathetic dialogue can be helpful to students—like training whees so they know where to start.


“I can tell you’ve…that must have…” as in, “I can tell you’ve worked hard on this writing. That must’ve taken self-determination, and even some courage.”


Empathy Source: How content is framed


How content is framed is another opportunity for empathy. For example, using essential questions that require, reward, and promote empathy can turn a unit into a study on what other people think, why they think it, and what they feel? Grant Wiggins has held up “What’s wrong with Holden Caufield?” from The Catcher In The Rye as a powerful essential question, one that requires students to examine another person in an alien context, make deep inferences based on schema that is (obviously) personal, and then—hopefully—empathize with a fictional character not as a quick writing prompt or “higher-level question,” but a 6-week study.


Studying fiction—or studying fiction well is an exercise in empathy as well. Studying history without empathy is like turning our shared human legacy, full of wonderful nuance and narrative and scandal and hope—into a dry, chronologically-based FAQ. Which sucks.


Empathy Source: Where learning goals come from


The relationship between learning goals and empathy may not be clear, but what we choose to study and why we choose to study it are—ideally—primarily human pursuits. When these are handled outside of the classroom, e.g., in the form of a curriculum standards, scopes-and-sequences, maps, units, power standards and the lessons that promote their study, this places the institution immediately at odds with the student, and sterilizes the learning experience.


When students are able to look to other schools, other classrooms, their own lives, or even non-academic “fields” to see how experts and passionate creatives identify, value, and improve their own knowledge and skills, it can help to tilt the learning experience to something emotionally immediate and relevant and authentic—fertile ground for empathy.


Empathy Source: Transfer of knowledge

What do we do with what we know? What happens when I try to take what I learned here, and use it there? What are my thinking habits? What are the chances I’ll make this transfer unprompted, now and in the future?


These questions surrounding students’ transfer of knowledge can all benefit from empathy, and promote its growth. Understanding is a problematic word, but let’s consider for a moment two kinds of understanding—that which is demonstrated within the context of a lesson or unit, and that which is able to leave this fragile academic bubble and can survive on its own outside of it. This kind of movement isn’t simple, or necessarily natural when they learning content and goals are all academic.


In The Courage To Think Critically, I was theorized as much:

“To think critically about something is to claim to first circle its meaning entirely—to walk all the way around it so that you understand it in a way that’s uniquely you. That’s not academic vomit but fully human. After circling the meaning of whatever you’re thinking critically about—a navigation necessarily done with bravado and purpose—you then analyze the thing.


See its parts, its form, its function, and its context. After this kind of survey and analysis you can come to evaluate it–bring to bear your own distinctive cognition on the thing so that you can point out flaws, underscore bias, emphasize merit—to get inside the mind of the author, designer, creator, or clockmaker and critique his work.”

Empathy Source: Movement Within & Across Learning Taxonomies

Another example? Understanding by Design’s “6 Facets of Understanding.” Note the progression:


6 Facets of Understanding–Peaking With Empathy & Self-Knowledge


Facet 1: Explain

Provide thorough and justifiable accounts of phenomena, facts, and data.


Facet 2: Interpret

Examples: Tell meaningful stories, offer apt translations, provide a revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make subjects personal or accessible through images, anecdotes, analogies, and models.


Facet 3: Apply

Examples: Effectively use and adapt what they know in diverse contexts.



Facet 4: Have perspective

Examples: See and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture.


Facet 5: Empathize

Examples: Find value in what others might find odd, alien, or implausible; perceive sensitively on the basis of prior indirect experience.


Facet 6: Have self-knowledge

Examples: Perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections, and habits of mind that both shape and impede our own understanding; they are aware of what they do not understand and why understanding is so hard.”

The movement in the 6 Facets here is from outward patterns to inward patterns. Explaining, interpretation, and application are, in large part, outward. The facets then tend inward—perspective, empathize, and self-knowledge. The lesson here–or one lesson of many–is that understanding is a deeply personal process. It is a matter of knowledge, but also identity, perspective, and empathy.


Our TeachThought Learning Taxonomy includes domains of “Self,” “Interdependence,” “Function,” and “Abstraction,” implying the human, emotional, and connected nature of learning. Learning is about experimenting through, playing with, and otherwise coming to internalize new information and perspective. Knowledge-holding is only one part of “knowing.”


Empathy provides not only provides a common ground between people–and a human tone–but also an authentic need to know what we know, and use that knowledge to improve the interactions we value the most.

Jim Manske's insight:

My heart broke open when I read:  "This doesn’t mean they necessarily will, in turn, use it with others, but there’s no chance at all for that to happen if they don’t even know what they’re looking for. Your empathy with them may be the only empathy they’ve ever seen."

Megan Howe's curator insight, April 7, 10:32 PM

A teacher's knowledge of the six facets of understanding is necessary for a teacher to know that the student comprehends and understands.


If a teacher evaluates a student and finds that they need additional help, they can alter teaching to better relate to the student in need.

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Marshall B. Rosenberg - Sympathy vs Empathy

A method using compassion, understanding, empathy, to transform wars and conflicts, promoting Human Capacity to contribute to the well being of others. MARSH...


In a book a father's son dies and it's a painful time in his life. He says in the book. 


 "What was even more painful were the things that good people were saying to me to make me feel better, that made me feel worse. So they were saying to him advice, how sad they felt. Because a lot of people mix up sympathy with empathy. So they say things like 'I'm sorry you feel that way.'

They don't realize that when they say that they are taking the focus away from the other person and putting it on their feelings. It is real important that we see the difference that we see the difference between sympathy and empathy."


Empathy is like being fully engrossed in a book.. So being engrossed in the other person.


Martin Buber calls this presence. It's the most precious gift one person can give to another.. 

not judgementnot being self oriented and expressing our feelingsa precious gift Studying physiology makes empathy harder. This is a very powerful gift when we can give it.  Studies of healing show that it's primary factor in healing, the degree to which the listener can just empathically connect and not try to direct, or analyse, give advice." 
Via Edwin Rutsch
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Nonviolent Communication creator Marshall Rosenberg has died -...

Nonviolent Communication creator Marshall Rosenberg has died -... | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

Marshall Rosenberg died on Saturday, February 7th. Rosenberg was the creator of Nonviolent Communication and the founder and director of educational services for the Center for Nonviolent Communication, which announced his death on their website. Dominic Barter, board president of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, said that Rosenberg “brought an inestimable sense of meaning and the potential for transformation to every area of your world… with utmost simplicity, humility and humanness.”


Jim Manske's insight:

My life has been forever altered in the direction of profound well-being because of dear Marshall.  Although his body has died, his Spirit lives on in each of us who practice Nonviolent Communication.


Warm aloha, and a deep, deep bow of gratitude to my Friend and Teacher.

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Trying to Be Less Stupid: The Hard Work of Brain Science

Trying to Be Less Stupid: The Hard Work of Brain Science | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

Michael Gazzaniga was still a graduate student when he helped make one of the most intriguing discoveries of modern neuroscience: that the two hemispheres of the brain not only have different functions, but also operate independently—the so-called split-brain phenomenon.


A lover of fine wine and conversation, Gazzaniga, today a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is also that rarity: a scientist whose life and work cross over into the humanities.


From his home in Santa Barbara, the author of Tales From Both Sides of the Brain: A Life in Neuroscience talks about where the next big breakthroughs in our understanding of the brain will come from, why a 14-day-old blastocyst isn't a human being, and how he came to meet Groucho Marx.


You are known for the discovery of the so-called "split brain." Remind us of the function of the brain's two hemispheres—and some of the popular misconceptions.

We worked on a number of patients with severe epilepsy. The surgery they underwent to control their epilepsy allowed us to study each half of the brain separately without one being influenced by the other. That was the advance. Classic neurology studied patients with holes in one side of their head from stroke or tumor or lesion and other kinds of traumas. Scientists knew that the left hemisphere was predominantly the verbal, analytic center, while the right hemisphere handled a constellation of things that were nonverbal.


But we were able to discover that the right hemisphere didn't know about the functions of the left hemisphere and the left hemisphere didn't have access to the information in the right hemisphere. Out of that came the left brain-right brain metaphor. It's been with our culture a long time and, of course, it got picked up and over-extended. I was skiing once in Colorado, struggling a bit, and some guy came zipping down the hill by me and he yelled: "Use your right brain!" [Laughs] Of course, it's a little more complex than that.


Your journey as a scientist began with an epiphany at Caltech 50 years ago. Take us back in time.

It was a wonderful experience. I was a new graduate student at Caltech at Roger Sperry's lab, and they were going to study this patient who was about to have his brain split. I was given the assignment of trying to figure out if there was going to be any impact on the behavior of the patient. There had been ten years of good animal research on both cats and monkeys, which showed the split-brain phenomenon. But people didn't think that could possibly be true in humans.


One of the reasons they didn't think so was that there had been a series of studies of patients in the 1940s who didn't really show anything after their callosum, the neural fibers connecting the two halves of the brain, was cut. This first patient who came to Caltech was going to give us another opportunity to look at that question. The reason a lowly grad student got the assignment was that no one thought that anything would happen. [Laughs]


We tested the patient preoperatively, showing that everything worked. If you put an object in one hand, the other hand knew about it. If you put an object in one visual field, the other visual field knew about it. Postoperatively, we rolled the patient back in for the exact same set of tests and, lo and behold! The patient could easily name objects put in his right hand, which projected to his left speaking hemisphere. But when the very same object was placed in the left hand, the patient said nothing was in his hand. The same was true for vision. It still takes my breath away.


Gazzaniga is clearly not an Irish name. Tell us about your family background and how it informs your life and work.

My heritage is Italian. My father's name was Dante Achilles Gazzaniga. His family was from a little town south of Pavia in Italy. In California, he became a physician and surgeon—a very dominant figure. He was very committed to education and educating his children. My mother loved social interaction, so there were always dinner parties at the house, friends over, and all that. There were five of us children, and we all went on to do good things. It was a no-nonsense sort of child raising. Lots of fun, but you worked all the time. You kept after whatever task you were doing. His children all reflected that, as do his grandchildren. [Laughs] I can't keep up with them.

You write that "the memorable peaks in life come scattered among the many hard and often dreary days of work." It's not a very American idea, where instant gratification is the watchword.


Almost every profession has a dreary component to it. Just dull, hard work. Then there are moments of great pleasure and insight and fulfillment. But it would be wrong for people to believe that a life in my profession—scientific research—is one happy party all day long. There's a lot of drudgery to it.


Steve Allen, the comedian, came over to Caltech one day. He was interested in these things. He said, "This work must be fascinating." I said, "Yeah, it is. But about 90 percent of it is just hard work." He recognized the same. And, of course, this is true for all of us.


You have rubbed elbows with some of the most famous scientists of the day, like Linus Pauling and Richard Feynman. You also became friends with a number of household names in the arts and journalism. Tell us about your friendships with the comedian Steve Allen and William F. Buckley, Jr., the conservative author and commentator.

When I was at Caltech, I got a job being a graduate student adviser. Part of my job was to run the student center, and I noticed the institution never invited conservative speakers to talk. There was this guy making his name at the time, William F. Buckley, Jr. So I invited him out to give a talk. It was a lot of fun, and that started a 50-year friendship.


Later, I put together a series of debates. I rented the Hollywood Palladium and had a debate on John F. Kennedy's foreign policy between Steve Allen and Bill Buckley. It was a 3,000-seat auditorium, but on the night of the performance only 200 tickets had been sold, so I was sweating bullets. Eventually, 3,000 people showed up.


It was a very lively debate and sitting in the front row was Groucho Marx. Buckley spots Marx and throws in a line. "Well, let's face it," he says. "John F. Kennedy's foreign policy might as well have been written by the Marx Brothers!" At which point, Groucho gets up and walks on stage, waving his hat. The place goes crazy!


Besides being a scientist, you are a lover of fine wine, music, and conversation.

One of my friends throughout the years was psychologist Leon Festinger. He was the person who discovered the concept of cognitive dissonance. He was one of the leading social psychologists in America and was a smart, smart, smart cowboy and a great conversationalist. He knew how to talk about all matters: political, social, scientific, the humanities. He could discourse on a pancake. [Laughs]


So, the love of conversation and discourse was pumped into my head early, and that just became part of my social life. You want that in your home; you want your kids exposed to that. You want to have conversations, and you want to have them with a wide spectrum of people. You don't want to get locked into one social view. Buckley was a conservative. Allen was very much a liberal. So having conversations with them was fascinating.

In a previous book, The Ethical Brain: The Science of Our Moral Dilemmas, you suggest that the brain may contain a built-in sense of ethics. Expand on that idea.


That's hard to believe with all the horrors of the current news. But there are seven billion people on Earth and, by and large, most of them get along. It's a very small percentage that is tearing each other up and making the world difficult for a lot of other people.


But how is it all these social interactions work? Are there built-in mechanisms of fairness and equality, trust and altruism? All these things that monitor our social response in a social world? The answer is: I think there are. The fields of moral psychology and moral neuropsychology are finding out which ones are part of our DNA. We are just beginning to unearth a lot of the underlying neurobiology for moral responses. What's emerging is how much can be constrained and overruled by social convention. That story is going to become a very large part of how we think of ourselves.

You have also written about the nature of consciousness as it affects the abortion debate. Talk about that.


I served on the President's Bioethics Council and a key question that comes up is whether a fertilized egg, a blastocyst, is a human. What we cherish, as human beings, are the memories and the things we can do that are managed by the brain. But there's no brain in the blastocyst. If you take a high-powered microscope and look at the blastocyst, you won't find a brain cell there. So, to give that a moral status as a functioning human being seems crazy.


Being human is the accumulation of life's experience and the management of your life. That's what's human. The issue we were approaching on the council was: Can a 14-day-old blastocyst be used for biomedical research? Is that an affront to the human condition? Ten out of seventeen experts did not have a moral problem with that.


Interestingly, you couldn't predict how people would come out based on their beliefs. There were Catholics who said, "The blastocyst is fine." There were secular Jews who said, "No, that's not fine."

You say that most of the major scientific discoveries have been made in the past 50 years. What are the big breakthroughs likely to be in the next 50?


There have been tremendous technological breakthroughs in the way we can look at the wiring of the brain in great detail. And we're going to get better and better at really defining what it is.


The second big question is: "Well, how does it work?" That's where the next big effort and understanding will come: how the mind is enabled by the brain and how it all interacts together through time. That's where the breakthroughs will come.


If your left brain were having a conversation with your right brain about your life's most important achievements, what would each side say?

The right side would just list the names of my six children; my left side would tell you their glorious life history. It's nothing unique. I'm just a person who loves life, loves the family and the people you brought into this world.


What are we all trying to do? We're all just trying to be less stupid, right? Being less stupid is the goal of our families, and I've managed to communicate that to all our kids. So, we have a good life because of that. [Laughs] We're all out there just trying to be less stupid.


To learn more about scientific breakthroughs on brain research, read "Secrets of the Brain" in the February 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine.

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The Link Between Exercise and Happiness [INFOGRAPHIC] - Goodnet

The Link Between Exercise and Happiness [INFOGRAPHIC] - Goodnet | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Happify delves into the science of how getting fit can boost your mood.
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2015’s Most Electrifying Emerging Tech? World Economic Forum Releases Annual List

2015’s Most Electrifying Emerging Tech? World Economic Forum Releases Annual List | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Writing lists forecasting technology is a bit like writing science fiction. Prerequisites include intimate knowledge of the bleeding edge...
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Restaurant Allows Customers to Wash Dishes for a Free Meal

At one restaurant in Pennsylvania, you don't need cash or a credit card to pay for your meal. According to Penn Live, Healthy World Cafe functions on a "pay-how-you-can" model which allows customers to eat for free "in exchange for volunteering their time." This means customers can sweep the floors, do dishes, or break down boxes for a hot plate of food.


Healthy World Cafe started out as a pop-up concept at a local church but will open in more permanent digs April 6. Manager Liza Naylor notes that the goal of the cafe is for every customer to eat and for them to eat healthy. She adds that not everyone volunteers their time for a meal.


Nearly 80 percent of customers pay for their meals, while 20 percent eat for free and volunteer. Diners can also "pay-it-foward and cover the cost of other diners' meals." As for the food, the cafe buys its ingredients from "local famers and purveyors." The menu itself tends to lean vegan and vegetarian because those dishes are the least expensive. However, there are meat options too. Diners can expect dishes like chicken salad sandwiches on foccacia, swiss chard quiches, and Middle Eastern bean salad.


Healthy World Cafe is far from the first restaurant to accept alternative forms of payment. In February, a pop-up cafe in London accepted hugs as payment for cookies and tea. McDonald's launched a promotion in January where customers can pay for meals with "lovin'" — such as giving someone a compliment or taking a selfie — in place of real money. cash or a credit card to pay for your meal.


According to Penn Live, Healthy World Cafe functions on a "pay-how-you-can" model which allows customers to eat for free "in exchange for volunteering their time." This means customers can sweep the floors, do dishes, or break down boxes for a hot plate of food. Healthy World Cafe started out as a pop-up concept at a local church but will open in more permanent digs April 6. Manager Liza Naylor notes that the goal of the cafe is for every customer to eat and for them to eat healthy. She adds that not everyone volunteers their time for a meal. Nearly 80 percent of customers pay for their meals, while 20 percent eat for free and volunteer.


Diners can also "pay-it-foward and cover the cost of other diners' meals." As for the food, the cafe buys its ingredients from "local famers and purveyors." The menu itself tends to lean vegan and vegetarian because those dishes are the least expensive. However, there are meat options too. Diners can expect dishes like chicken salad sandwiches on foccacia, swiss chard quiches, and Middle Eastern bean salad.


Healthy World Cafe is far from the first restaurant to accept alternative forms of payment. In February, a pop-up cafe in London accepted hugs as payment for cookies and tea. McDonald's launched a promotion in January where customers can pay for meals with "lovin'" — such as giving someone a compliment or taking a selfie — in place of real money.

Jim Manske's insight:

An experiment in compassionate economics...imagine a world based on an economy of needs!

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17 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself

17 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
It’s time to befriend yourself and start showing yourself kindness. Here are 17 ways to be kind to yourself.
Jim Manske's insight:
Favorite line: There’s only one person in the world you’ll always have a relationship with, and that’s yourself. Therefore, you better start making sure that you’re a good companion to yourself. Live your best life by being kind to yourself.
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Compassion Is A Strength, Not A Weakness

Compassion Is A Strength, Not A Weakness | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

We are all a part of a mindful revolution.

As a mind-body medicine physician, it fills me with hope to watch the “mindful revolution” occurring in the business world. In the last six months we have see the the theme of mindfulness on the cover of Time magazine and hearing about how numerous business schools are incorporating mindfulness based training programs into curriculum. You may even be a part of this mindful living community because you heard me speak at your company on the neuroscience behind mindfulness.Self-compassion and compassion towards others are two of the steps I discuss my mindful living program, “Mindset Matters”. The same question arises from corporate and coaching clients alike.

Via Edwin Rutsch
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Remembering Marshall Rosenberg | Mindful

Remembering Marshall Rosenberg | Mindful | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

On Saturday, February 7th, Marshall Rosenberg, a psychologist, founder of Nonviolent Communication(NVC), and a pioneer in the compassion movement, passed away. The impact Marshall had on our culture is immeasurable as the ripple effects continue to be felt moment-to-moment through thousands and thousands of people.


He has been a great influence on my personal and professional work, helping provide an essential framework for understanding our emotional needs and the needs of others. In a world that can often feel disconnected, he leaves us with a wholeheartedly effective path toward connection and healing.


One of many examples came from his work in the 1980s when Marshall taught NVC to Palestinian refugees. On his way to the camp he was greeted with people shouting at him: “Assassin! Murderer!” Although, naturally, he had the inkling to leave, he instead engaged compassion, focusing his attention on what the men were feeling in that moment, which opened the door for a compassionate dialogue to ensue. As the story goes, he was later invited to Ramadan dinner.


Marshall taught us the essential truth that underneath it all, we have the same needs: to feel cared about and understood. We all want to feel safe and have a sense of belonging. He helped us see the humanity behind each and every one of us no matter our background. Even with our enemies he calls for a radically different kind of communication: “Our best protection is to communicate with the people we’re most of afraid of. Nothing else will work.”


Thank you, Marshall, for the compassion you taught us, the lives you have touched and will continue to touch through the rest of us.

Jim Manske's insight:

Sweet to see this acknowledgement...


It leaves me wondering how many thousands of people continue to benefit from Marshall's gifts to the world...


I learned that there will be a memorial service soon:


From the President of the Board for CNVC:


Dear all,

On the 29th of this month a Celebration of Marshall Rosenberg’s life and teaching will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the United States.

Valentina, Marshall’s children and Rabbi Deborah Brin will be organising the gathering, which will begin at 4pm, local time.

We imagine many people would like to be a part of this event and invite you to find ways to do so where you live, as a form of strengthening your community ties and commitment to living nonviolently.

If you have a project activity, a community gathering or a training on that day, maybe you would like to incorporate this event in your day in some way. If you are free you might find this is a meaningful day to gather with community members and commemorate what we received from Marshall and it’s meaning in our lives.

This might also be an opportunity to invite donations to your work and projects locally. Donations to CNVC would also be warmly received, and can be made here: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/cnvc


The ceremony in Albuquerque will be live streamed, so that everyone who has access to the internet will be able to watch as it happens. 

I am touched once again by the desire of Marshall’s wife and family to seek ways to include the entire community in their mourning and commemorating a husband, father and friend. The 29th is an invitation for all those whose lives have been so enriched by his path and heart to gather in his memory and celebrate his spirit.

In gratitude,


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Peacemaker leaves lasting legacy of Nonviolent Communication

International peacemaker and founder of the Centre for Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg passed away last month. Daren De Witt recounts his remarkable life and how he helped spread Nonviolent Communication throughout the world
Jim Manske's insight:

Savoring that Marshall's legacy continues to be celebrated!

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Hawking: Our Aggression Will Destroy Humanity : DNews

Hawking: Our Aggression Will Destroy Humanity : DNews | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

When Stephen Hawking airs his opinion, whether it be about black holes, aliens, artificial intelligence or even Heaven, the world tends to take note. And this time the renowned British theoretical physics professor has gone on the record with a warning: if we, as a civilization, do not check our aggressive ways, we will be doomed.

During a tour around London’s Science Museum, Hawking responded to a question from 24-year-old teacher Adaeze Uyanwah from Palmdale, Calif. Uyanwah won an international contest to be his guest of honor.

During the tour, Uyanwah asked that if Hawking could change one shortcoming humanity has, what would it be?

“The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression,” said Hawking. “It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory or partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he focused on nuclear war being the trigger that “would be the end of civilization, and maybe the end of the human race.”

In an effort to counter human aggression, the 73-year-old said the quality he’d like to magnify is empathy, as “it brings us together in a peaceful, loving state.”

Hawking believes that, in addition to correcting this shortcoming, space exploration will ultimately save our species — it is our civilization’s "life insurance policy."

“I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be space and that it represents an important life insurance for our future survival, as it could prevent the disappearance of humanity by colonizing other planets,” he said.

The Daily Mail reports that Uyanwah entered the competition by producing a video describing her "perfect day" in London, beating 10,000 other contestants.

“It’s incredible to think that decades from now, when my grandchildren are learning Stephen Hawking’s theories in science class, I’ll be able to tell them I had a personal meeting with him and heard his views first hand. It’s something I’ll never forget,” she said.

Hawking is a bestselling author and currently has the position of Director of Research at the Center for Theoretical Cosmology, University of Cambridge, UK. He is famed for his theoretical work on black hole radiation and significant contributions to the fields of cosmology, general relativity and quantum physics.

The 2014 movie “The Theory of Everything,” which dramatically portrays the physicist’s life, his early work and diagnosis of motor neuron disease (ALS), was honored at the 87th Academy Awards on Sunday night. British actor Eddie Redmayne won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Hawking.

Sources: The Daily Mail, BBC News, CNET

Jim Manske's insight:

My favorite, and most hopeful lin:  "n an effort to counter human aggression, the 73-year-old said the quality he’d like to magnify is empathy, as “it brings us together in a peaceful, loving state.”

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More than 1,000 Muslims form 'peace ring' around Oslo synagogue - Jewish World News

More than 1,000 Muslims form 'peace ring' around Oslo synagogue - Jewish World News | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Norway's Muslims offer symbolic protection for the city's Jewish community while condemning synagogue attack in neighboring Denmark last weekend.
Julia Heisler's curator insight, February 22, 5:01 PM

This article depicts how more than 1,000 Muslims formed a human shield around Oslo's synagogue on Saturday, offering symbolic protection for the city's Jewish community and condemning an attack on a synagogue in neighboring Denmark last weekend. Chanting "No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia," Norway's Muslims formed what they called a ring of peace a week after Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, a Danish-born son of Palestinian immigrants, killed two people at a synagogue and an event promoting free speech in Copenhagen last weekend. Norway's Jewish community is one of Europe's smallest, numbering around 1,000, and the Muslim population, which has been growing steadily through immigration, is 150,000 to 200,000. Norway has a population of about 5.2 million. This relates to international relations because the article speaks of the relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities. 

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The Virtue of Civility - Lion's Roar An interview with Marshall Rosenberg and others from 2005

The Virtue of Civility - Lion's Roar                     An interview with Marshall Rosenberg and others from 2005 | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Attacks ads, Internet trolls, lies and appeals to the worst in people—how do we restore the virtue of civility? A panel, led by Melvin McLeod, on bringing depth, respectfulness and integrity back to our national discourse.

Melvin McLeod: How would you assess the state of public discourse in the United States today?

Jeffrey Dvorkin: I think that there is a level of health in the public debate that has been encouraged by the availability of technology. Last year I processed fifty thousand emails from NPR listeners about issues they had heard discussed on the radio. The Internet allows people to participate and make comment. Sometimes it’s thoughtful, sometimes not, but the engagement is there and it’s deep. I think it’s part of the inherent health of American democracy.

Mark Kingwell: I quite agree with that. I think it is misleading to suppose that what we see on the nightly network news or other high profile mainstream media represents the state of public discourse. Because much of this Internet discourse is, as it were, below the surface. The problem is that there are no standards for what is proper or appropriate commentary. I’m sure I’m not alone in this group in having received astonishingly rude and obscene letters directed at me personally for things that I have said or published. The writers feel entirely unfettered by rules of politeness or civility. Now that doesn’t strike me as good public discourse.

Patricia Schroeder: Having participated in the political arena for a very long time, I find the meanness is way over the top. One of things we track is the number of women going into politics, and in the last four years the number has been going down instead of up. When you ask women who are more than qualified why they won’t get into politics, they look at you as if to say, “What, do you think I’m nuts?”

Mark Kingwell: Not just women.

Patricia Schroeder: No, not just women, but I think women are particularly affected. I recently spent the weekend with Senator Olympia Snow from Maine and she has just been pilloried. You feel like a piñata if you’re in public service today: everybody’s got a stick and they feel entitled to hit you. I think a lot of it came out of talk radio, where people felt entitled to use the meanest possible language, and it got to be funny, you know. But I don’t think it’s funny anymore. It’s curbing people from saying what they really think, because they don’t want all that unleashed against them.

Maybe another reason for the meanness is all these little niches and pockets of discussion where people go. One of the problems with the Internet is that people are only communicating with people who agree with them. Then if they wander out and find someone who disagrees, they feel entitled to go crazy.

The problem from a policymaker’s standpoint is that we have all these different areas where debates are going on, but how do we ever get a consensus? The good news is there are more places where discussion is happening; the bad news is, how do you ever get everybody on the same page?

Marshall Rosenberg: I’m involved in citizens’ groups in different countries and in the United States. The people I’m organized with don’t worry much about the media. They feel that if we are really going to get the word out, it’s got to be word of mouth, because the public media are controlled by people who are only going to let out things they want let out. So I feel that we’re going to have to get the word around through personal connections, and not over the media.

Melvin McLeod: What about the depth of the public discourse? To what degree are important issues being discussed seriously and with nuance?

Mark Kingwell: It is very important to distinguish between volume of participation and depth. What is missing in a lot of the cases, no matter how active people are, is the commitment to a larger project—the virtue of civility.

The virtue of civility comes to us, in the Western tradition, from Aristotle and Cicero through the early modern thinkers. So although we may disagree, even vociferously disagree, we are together committed in this discursive project, and that constrains what we say. We are not going to say just anything at all; we are going to try to work out our disagreements in a democratic fashion that serves the ends of justice for everybody. That’s a commitment I don’t think we see on the part of average citizens. People who are involved in groups like Marshall’s may have an almost heightened version of that commitment, but they bear the burden of other citizens who don’t.

Patricia Schroeder: I think the depth of the discussion has been impeded by the meanness. When I came to Congress and we were discussing things like the Nixon impeachment and the Vietnam War, people had strong passions but the debate would be about the issues. Today, if you bring up an issue that someone thinks is controversial, they don’t come back at you with facts; they come back by attacking you personally. The whole debate shifts from the factual issue to defending your personal integrity. That makes for a very shallow debate.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: One of the things that has impeded the quality of the debate is the fact that money talks in a way that it didn’t a generation ago. As more and more media are compressed into fewer and fewer sources of ownership, that has an impact on the ability of local voices to express themselves, on people feeling like they have a say in events. I think that the rise of blogs and the movement towards independent media is a direct result of the fact that a lot of people feel that they have no place to go, other than someplace new.

I think we’re in an interesting place in the development of public discourse, because people are looking for places where they can express themselves and feel that they can be heard. So you have talk radio as a kind of corporate excuse for public discourse. It is an expression of the frustration that a lot of people have because other kinds of media seem so remote and inaccessible.

Patricia Schroeder: We noticed in this election year a huge surge in political books. When I took my current job at the Association of American Publishers, people said, “Political books? They don’t sell.” And I honestly think that after 9/11 the mainstream media got even more timid, more afraid to deviate from one generic message. But people knew something else was going on. They were looking for more in-depth discussion, and they turned to books. It’s amazing how many political books have come out and how well they have sold. So whether people are going on the Internet or reading books, they are out looking for more depth. Something’s wrong, and they don’t know where to go.

Mark Kingwell: Wouldn’t it be awful if that pathological corporate invasion of a genuine desire, namely talk radio, became what most people saw as exemplary political discourse. That’s the sort of state we are in right now and that’s really evil, frankly. But I agree with Ms. Schroeder that the success of political books has been astonishing. This takes us back to the eighteenth-century pamphleteering culture, where people go into print rather quickly, but not without argument or facts. It is astonishing that in the 21st century, this old-fashioned medium of communication is where all that action is.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: That’s why I’m slightly optimistic, even though there’s a lot to be pessimistic about. There is a vigorous debate that is very different from the kinds of debates we saw in the sixties and seventies, when the gatekeepers of information were places like The New York Times and CBS News, institutions that were considered beyond reproach. That trust has been eroded to such an extent that there are no elites whom people can turn to automatically. It’s become much more diffused.

Marshall Rosenberg: The discourse that I think is positive is among people who recognize that there is not much need for discourse, because of the way things are structured. The media will let you talk about things, but forces determine, for example, who you are going to get to vote for. So why talk about the present situation? We don’t have much voice anyway. What we have to have is discourse on how to change radically who controls the channels over which we have discourse.

Melvin McLeod: Are we really talking about a problem of discourse per se? Doesn’t the problem go deeper, to the belief that victory is all that really matters politically, and that the integrity of institutions and the rules of civilized discourse can be ignored in the search for tactical advantage? It seems to be a lack of concern for the common good.

Mark Kingwell: I would agree with that. We’ve already mentioned the preponderance of ad hominem argument. Ad hominem is one of the most obvious fallacies in the array of rhetorical strategies, yet it is the most toxic, because it takes issue with the very idea that your opponent has something to contribute. I think if one goes into any debate with that attitude, that is a disservice to the system.

Patricia Schroeder: Well, you lose if you’re nice right now. Let’s face it. Everybody says they hate negative campaigning, but time after time the guy who was most negative won. If people voted for the candidate who did the least negative campaigning, they could change it, but the attitude is, “I’ll show them, I won’t vote.” Therefore, the ones who really love the red meat are driving the process.

Also, we can’t say enough about the effect of money. We have got the best government money can buy. So much is at stake that people are willing to pay and say anything, and that becomes the new game plan. It’s very hard to defend yourself and your ideas in the kind of environment where there are no rules.

Melvin McLeod: And where powerful media outlets have an explicit partisan agenda.

Patricia Schroeder: I don’t even know that they have a partisan agenda. I worry that a lot of them just have no agenda. They treat everything like a street fight—Y hits X, X hits Y. They never fact-check anything. You can feed them stuff, and the more outrageous it is the more they want to print it. That’s because it’s more about selling newspapers than verifying the accuracy. I think that’s one of the things that the Internet has done. People think that the newspapers look pretty tame and boring compared to the Drudge Report. So then the newspapers try to be more like the Drudge Report, and then where do you go to find out the truth?

I notice that ABC news is doing some fact-checking on political commercials and I think that’s a good thing. That could help stop some of this, that you can go out and call anybody anything and if you get the most noise and buy the most airtime, you win.

Melvin McLeod: Surely the low state of public discussion is not all the responsibility of the press or political leaders. Surely the citizens, the consumers of information, are contributing by either not demanding better discourse or not being capable of it.

Mark Kingwell: It’s interesting that you used the words “citizen” and “consumer” so closely together in that statement. I think all of us gathered here would agree that citizenship has been truncated to a consumption model. The robust idea of the citizen as an active participant in his or her own self-determination has been attenuated, if not eliminated.

So I think it’s not a surprise that groups who can self-organize are talking off the grid of the standard media manipulation, or even the money-controlled elections. The question I have for them is: The policies are still being made by people in Washington and your state capital, and they affect our lives. So what can we do about that? I think changing from the inside—reinvigorating citizenship on a personal level—is absolutely essential, but I don’t think we should abandon the larger political discourse in the process.

Patricia Schroeder: I would concur with that. I think all of us do have the ideal of the town hall meeting, and how I wish there were more of them. But in a way, the citizen as consumer could be very powerful if citizens really said, “Instead of screaming and hollering, we want something that’s more profound, more in-depth, and more civilized.”

Part of what concerns me is that instead of looking for more mature citizens, the driving force for the mainstream media seems to be, “How do we attract 18- to 35-year-olds?” And somebody thinks that all-out verbal combat is the only way to attract 18 to 35 year olds—especially males—to talk radio and TV. So we have all of these strange reality shows, all of these strange new ways of communicating, and more and more people my age turning to the BBC. Someday the media is going to figure out that people my age also have money to buy the products they’re advertising.

Mark Kingwell: Absolutely right. All of us are suffering under this demographic tyranny. Why should this group of 18- to 35-year- olds, this perpetually renewed group, have such a sway over the kinds of movies we get to see or the kinds of television shows we get to watch, let alone the kinds of governments we live under. The notion of the market as the determinant of success is deeply ingrained, but this is a fundamental idea that needs itself to be challenged.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: I think one of the positive developments is that more and more American newspapers are adopting the ombudsman role, and a lot of media organizations also have proclaimed ethics guidelines. I think there is an increasing trend among media organizations to think about what our listeners, viewers and readers need as citizens first, and consumers of information second. And when a news organization thinks of the needs of its viewers and readers and listeners as citizens, they make different kinds of editorial choices than if they are simply delivering eyeballs to advertisers.

I think there is a necessity for public accountability in the media. The media must turn to their listeners, readers and viewers and ask, What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What do you want? How can we use our role as broadcasters and communicators in an educated way? And in turn the media has to raise the level of media literacy and public discourse. That’s the balancing act: public accountability in the media and media literacy in the public, so that people know when they are being manipulated and when they are being fooled.

Melvin McLeod: A great change in the public discourse took place in the sixties, when previous boundaries of courtesy and decorum were thrown off in what was seen as a crusade against hypocrisy, elitism and lack of public accountability. And although that was seen as a left-wing movement at the time, it’s interesting that some of today’s most vituperative voices on the right are also products of that 1960’s environment. My question is, did that search for more open and honest discourse in fact contribute to the unrestrained political speech we have today?

Mark Kingwell: This is something that I’ve discussed in my own work, and I think it’s very important to be clear on this point. There is often a confusion between civility, which is the virtue of citizens engaged in dialogue, and politeness, which is the social carapace of manners and particular ways of talking which may well be wedded to power structures. Genuine civility is about openness and the commitment to risk in order to preserve or create something bigger. Politeness is often used as a smokescreen or as hypocrisy. So if we can make this distinction—it’s not easy but it can be made—then we don’t face this problem you’re alluding to, which is that we think we’ve done something good if we get rid of all constraint, but all we might be doing is raising the volume.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: In the 1950’s, certain kinds of elites controlled the debate and now, fifty years later, other elites are controlling the debate. My observation is that in the fifties the elites were represented by a kind of Walter Lippman approach to journalism and foreign policy discourse, and by the kind of New England Republicans who believed that it was a good thing to help poor people. There was a belief in bipartisanship, and that was where the smoke-filled back rooms worked. They believed that there was a need for consensus politics and that various elements within a society had to have their concerns addressed—not to the extent that they wanted perhaps, but it did create a kind of a big tent philosophy.

That quality of civic dialogue has disappeared over the last forty years and has been replaced with a much more sharp-edged, robust, vulgar, if you will, kind of debate that is encapsulated not by Walter Lippman but by Rush Limbaugh. And that’s the shock that those of us who may have a secret sympathy for the old elites find so difficult to deal with.

Melvin McLeod: Ms. Schroeder, do you feel we have lost a sense of bipartisanship and mutual respect that was present when you began your career in Congress?

Patricia Schroeder: Oh, certainly. People will say, “Well, you didn’t have such strong issues then,” and I always say, “Excuse me? Impeachment of Richard Nixon? Vietnam War? I believe those were fairly strong issues.” Yet there was an understood agreement that you could debate each other like mad all day long on an issue, you could be on opposite sides, but you were still part of a brotherhood or sisterhood where you could be civil to each other.

That’s eroded now. All of a sudden it has changed into good guys versus bad guys, and if you are even seen talking on the floor to somebody who doesn’t vote the party line, you’re in real trouble.

An important part of this is the effect of reapportionment. Most of the seats in the House of Representatives are totally safe, which means that most representatives only worry about somebody in the extreme of their party taking them on in a primary. So they tend to vote more extremely than they would if they had to reach out and be concerned about a general election and not a primary election. I don’t think that’s been factored enough into how the political rhetoric has changed. It has changed it in a big way. It pays to be honoring the more extreme, and the more extreme see that as their biggest leverage. So people become more and more polarized.

Melvin McLeod: Having assessed the current state of discourse and some of the reasons we got here, how do we improve it?

Marshall Rosenberg: The kind of communication that I think is most powerful in political discourse is dialogue, not just people expressing an opinion and hearing others. It’s in dialogue where I think the real changes and real learning take place. What I would like to see is more room created in the total structure for sincere dialogue, where people have the power, by getting together with each other, to bring about the kind of changes they would like to see. As I see it, our nation is not a democracy. It’s an oligarchy, controlled by a few people. The last thing they want is dialogue. They want people to be able to express opinions, but there’s not really anywhere those opinions go, which would happen if we had true dialogue.

Melvin McLeod: How can face-to-face discourse have impact in a country of 250 million people?

Marshall Rosenberg: That’s what we are trying to figure out. How can we really have quality discourse? What kind of discourse do we need to have? We have all been educated to communicate in a way that satisfies domination structures. We have been taught to be obedient to authorities and not to think for ourselves much. So we’ve got to liberate ourselves from the way we have been educated, both in public schools and by the media. Once we have done that, we have to change the structures that are controlling most forms of public discourse.

Mark Kingwell: You know, the centerpiece of all liberal thinking in the past four hundred years has been that we can disagree on one level as long as we agree on another level. That other level is supposed to be a discursive space that we are willing to share, or at a minimum some kind of legal and electoral constraints that we all sign on for. I think the problem is that we don’t have any clear sense of what that second level is, or even whether there is one.

What I would suggest, and it’s not a total solution, is that we have to start thinking very carefully about finding what the philosopher John Rawls calls an “overlapping consensus.” It may involve only a narrow range of issues, but they are certainly present. Then this consensus becomes the focus for cultivating the virtues of the liberal citizen, including civility, and we can use it to educate future citizens as they enter the public realm.

I would like to see the kind of civics education that was present when I was in school but seems to be absent from the student’s education today. I don’t mean just learning how government works, but talking and learning about these virtues of citizenship—where they come from and what they mean. Because without them, really, all of this we have talked about today is likely to get worse.

Patricia Schroeder: It’s important to get our political system away from commercials and more into debates. In this past presidential election, after all the commercials screaming back and forth, the two men sat side-by-side and debated some serious questions, and that caused a huge change in the polls. That gives me great hope that if we could find a mechanism to emphasize that kind of discussion, instead of turning the political process over to people who sell toothpaste, we might do a lot to raise the national level of discourse. All the commercials did whipsaw people around, there’s no question about it, but when people tuned in and saw the two of them standing side by side, discussing some serious issues, it gave me great hope that at the end of the day the American people can come to their senses if they are approached in a sensible manner.

Marshall Rosenberg: I think there is an appetite for serious discussion, but I don’t think that will happen until the people get the media back under their control, like our founders wanted. The media is now in the hands of relatively few people who allow only the kind of discourse that they want to allow. It’s not of the quality and kind and amount that I think we would have if the public had the media back in their hands. I would like us to pass legislation to put the media back in the hands of the people, which prevents it from being controlled by a few corporations and people with the wealth to do it.

Patricia Schroeder: I think you’ve got a real point. When I came to Congress, the ideal was that the airwaves were owned by the public. So every one of the people who owned a broadcast license had to go through a public review: Were they serving the needs of the community? And in those days, if somebody went on the air and attacked me, I had the right to ask for equal time. That’s all gone—Ronald Reagan did away with it in a stroke of the pen.

Now the media is owned by whoever owns the media. There is no concept that the media should serve the greater community; it need only serve the commercial community.

Mark Kingwell: One thing we should remember is that citizenship is exercised primarily face to face. It’s exercised in the hundreds of daily interactions you have with the people who share physical proximity with you. That’s the bread and butter of citizenship, and I think that kind of personal orientation has to be foremost. I would never disagree with these points about the ownership of the media, but if people aren’t themselves willing to transform, none of this is going to happen. You know, genuine dialogue means putting your own beliefs at risk of change.

Melvin McLeod: So how can individual discourse be worked with in a comprehensive way, so that there is an effect on society as a whole?

Mark Kingwell: We have allowed, I think, the language of virtue to be co-opted by a moralistic and often right wing faction. The language of virtue has been much more robust in the past in our own political tradition and it can be reinvigorated. Virtue really means a disposition to act. It’s a character trait, which may or may not be moral in the narrow sense. In fact, I think there are such things as political virtues, which are distinctly not moral. They have a way of binding together people who may disagree at very fundamental levels but who still agree on the need and the good of living together, even with that disagreement. Cultivating that kind of understanding of virtue is a necessary first step.

Marshall Rosenberg: The people-to-people communication that I’m talking about could take place in many different forms. If we had, as I said before, public control of the media it would involve looking at some of the basic things that we don’t even get to talk about today, such as the degree to which wealth really controls what we call democracy in the United States. Only when we can have that kind of open discourse will the public be aware that it’s at this more radical level that we need the discourse, not over who these people allow us to vote for.

That’s what I would like to see, structural change that allows the people to talk about the real issues, and not just the ones that the people who control the media decide we can talk about.

Jeffrey Dvorkin: I think the secret to our success in public radio, which is of course under-reported by commercial media, is local control. There are 775 public radio stations in the United States. They are all operated by community organizations that are local in their outlook, which I think is the inherent strength of them. People are already voting with their remote controls. Fewer and fewer people are watching commercial television, the numbers for commercial radio keep going down, but the number of people who listen to community radio and other public radio keeps going up.

As media consolidation increases, the permission for cross ownership, which happened under the Clinton administration I hasten to add, has made the idea of localism less and less likely, in a country where there is a proud tradition of localism and local control. I think what we need to do as communicators is find a way to restore that localism, which is the mainstay of public discourse in this country.

Melvin McLeod: Is the problem then that the discourse is too national, that it’s taking place at a level where it can be controlled by a few very significant forces? Should we be talking about returning public discourse to the local, town hall level?

Jeffrey Dvorkin: Well, when you say local, it doesn’t mean that all people want is local information. They’re seeking a combination of local issues, rooted in the place where they live, and intelligent discussion of national and international issues as well.

Mark Kingwell: That’s an important point to keep in mind. I don’t think anybody wants a complete turning away from these responsibilities, which is sometimes what local focus can mean. It’s a cliché to say, “Think globally, act locally,” but it does remind us why all of these issues are so important to us. It’s not because we are citizens of this or that country, but that together we are all citizens of the planet. American policy has a disproportionate effect on what happens everywhere on the planet and that’s why those of us who don’t live there nevertheless are concerned with it. This is a classic case of concern, and the question then is, What can we do so we can actually make a difference as individuals?


Patricia Schroeder served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1972 to 1996. She is now President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers.

Mark Kingwell is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and author of eight books on political and cultural theory, including A Civil Tongue (1995), The World We Want (2000), and Practical Judgments (2003).

Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D., is founder and director of Educational services for the Center for Nonviolent Communication. He is the author of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life and Life-Enriching Education.

Jeffrey Dvorkin was vice-president of news for National Public Radio and is now NPR’s listeners’ ombudsman. He is a former managing editor of radio news of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Jim Manske's insight:

For me, this may be one of the more profound illustrations of the radical nature of NVC Consciousness as offered by Marshall.  The contrast between his view and the other panelists seems remarkable.

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Albuquerque Journal Obituaries

Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, age 80, passed away peacefully and surrounded by family, at his home in Albuquerque on February 7th, 2015, after a courageous battle with cancer.


Born in Canton, Ohio on October 6th, 1934, Marshall was raised in Detroit and completed his undergraduate education at the University of Michigan. He received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wisconsin in 1961, where he met his friend and mentor, psychologist Carl Rogers. He was awarded Diplomate status from the American Board of Examiners in Professional Psychology in 1966.


Marshall launched his professional career in St. Louis where he established a successful clinical practice. Marshall's desire to put people over profits, as well as his curiosity and desire to learn more about the causes of violence that had defined his early experiences living in inner city Detroit, soon inspired him to leave private practice. He took a job as a cab driver and used this time to explore new and meaningful ways he might apply his professional training to reduce various forms of violence and disseminate peacemaking skills.


Marshall's exploration quickly evolved into Nonviolent Communication (NVC), a process that facilitates stronger interpersonal communication and cultivates mutual recognition of deeper emotional needs, resulting in greater compassion and peaceful resolution between conflicted parties.


Marshall worked closely with civil rights activists in the 1960's, mediating between rioting students and college administrators and working to peacefully desegregate public schools in long-segregated regions.


Marshall's work in this capacity motivated him to found of the Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) for which he served as the Director of Educational Services. A dedicated teacher, peace-maker and visionary leader, Marshall led NVC workshops and international intensive trainings for thousands of people in over 60 countries across the world. Marshall was passionate about his work and traveled to war-torn areas and economically disadvantaged countries, offering NVC training to promote reconciliation and peaceful resolution of differences.


He worked tirelessly with such groups as educators, managers, mental health and health care providers, lawyers, military officers, prisoners, police and prison officials, clergy, government officials, and individual families. Marshall authored several books and received numerous awards throughout his career.


Marshall is survived by his beloved wife, Valentina Rosenberg, (a.k.a Kidini); children Rick Rosenberg, Dr. Marla Nosan; Dr. Brett Rosenberg, step-daughter Naila de Cruz-Dixon, granddaughter, Chloe Nosan; daughters-in-law, Olivia Ramos and Sonia Rosenberg; son-in-law, David Nosan MD; brother and sister-in-law, Calvin and Elma Rosenberg; colleagues and students from around the world; and his sweet four-legged companion Tiger-Lilly (named, by Marshall, in honor of the Detroit Tigers).


We would like to extend our gratitude to his longtime friend and Primary Care physician Dr. Patrick Rivera; his Presbyterian Hospice physician, Dr. Karen Adams; his Presbyterian Hospice Nurse, Collette Mahea Dodd; and his dedicated caregivers, Fawziya, Alma and Desmine.


In our great mourning, and with deep reverence and soaring gratitude for the spirit he released in us, we hope to carry our beloved Marshall's light forward. We find comfort in his profound sense of humor and grace, which continues to soothe our hearts with much laughter and love. We will miss you Dear One! In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Presbyterian Hospice Homecare (8300 Constitution Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM 87110) or a charity of one's choice.


An announcement regarding a memorial service to celebrate Marshall's life will follow. "Only from the Heart can you touch the Sky" -Rumi

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The Neuroscience of Empathy

The Neuroscience of Empathy | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

Are some people born with a brain that is wired to be more empathetic? Can compassion be learned? What daily habits or life experiences reinforce selfishness, narcissism, and at a far extreme psychopathy?


Last night, I listened to an interview(link is external) with Madonna and Anderson Cooper talking about the importance of teaching our children to be able to empathize and to not be complacent about fighting against oppression and inequality.


Two studies in the past month have identified specific brain regions linked to empathy and compassion.


This morning, a new study was released by the Max Planck Institute for Human and Cognitive Brain Sciences that revealed the neurobiological roots of how our own feelings and experiences can distort someone’s capacity for empathy. Last month, another study from the University of Chicago found the neurobiological roots of psychopathic behavior. Together, these studies offer valuable clues for ways we can fortify empathy at a neural level. Luckily, researchers have found that compassion can be trained.


The Neuroscience of Empathy


In a study(link is external) published in the Journal of Neuroscience on October 9, 2013, Max Planck researchers identified that the tendency to be egocentric is innate for human beings – but that a part of your brain recognizes a lack of empathy and autocorrects. This specific part of your brain is called the the right supramarginal gyrus. When this brain region doesn't function properly—or when we have to make particularly quick decisions—the researchers found one’s ability for empathy is dramatically reduced. This area of the brain helps us to distinguish our own emotional state from that of other people and is responsible for empathy and compassion.


The supramarginal gyrus is a part of the cerebral cortex and is approximately located at the junction of the parietal, temporal and frontal lobe. "This was unexpected, as we had the temporo-parietal junction in our sights. This is located more towards the front of the brain," explains Claus Lamm, one of the paper's authors.


The research team headed by Tania Singer said, “When assessing the world around us and our fellow humans, we use ourselves as a yardstick and tend to project our own emotional state onto others. While cognition research has already studied this phenomenon in detail, nothing is known about how it works on an emotional level. It was assumed that our own emotional state can distort our understanding of other people's emotions, in particular if these are completely different to our own. But this emotional egocentricity had not been measured before now.”


The right supramarginal gyrus ensures that we can decouple our perception of ourselves from that of others. When the neurons in this part of the brain were disrupted in the course of a research task, the participants found it difficult to stop from projecting their own feelings and circumstances onto others. The participants' assessments were also less accurate when they were forced to make particularly quick decisions.


The Lap of Luxury Can Make You Less Empathetic


When you are in an agreeable and comfortable situation it is more difficult to empathize with another person’s suffering. At a neurobiological level – without a properly functioning supramarginal gyrus – your brain has a tough time putting itself in someone else’s shoes. To test this in the laboratory the Max Planck researchers used a perception experiment in which participants, who worked in teams of two, were exposed to either pleasant or unpleasant simultaneous visual and tactile stimuli.


For example, while participant 1 was shown a picture of maggots and had slime placed on her hand, participant 2 saw a picture of a puppy and could feel soft, fleecy fur on her skin. "It was important to combine the two stimuli. Without the tactile stimulus, the participants would only have evaluated the situation 'with their heads' and their feelings would have been excluded," explains Claus Lamm. The participants could also see the stimulus that their team partners were exposed at the same time.


The two participants were then asked to evaluate either their own emotions compared to those of their partners. As long as both participants were exposed to the same type of positive or negative stimuli, they found it easy to assess their partner's emotions.


The participant who was confronted with an unpleasant or disagreeable experience could easily imagine how unpleasant the sight and feeling of slime and maggots must be for her partner. For more on the genetics of staying happily married please check out my recent Psychology Today blog: "Is the Secret to a Happy Marriage Held in Your DNA?"


Major differences arose during the test when one partner was confronted with pleasant stimuli and the other with unpleasant ones. In this scenario a person’s capacity for empathy plummeted. The participants' own emotions distorted their assessment of the other person's feelings. The participants who were feeling good themselves assessed their partners' negative experiences as less severe than they actually were. In contrast, those who had just had an unpleasant experience assessed their partners' good experiences less positively.


Until now, social neuroscience models have assumed that people simply rely on their own emotions as a reference for empathy. This only works, however, if we are in a neutral state or the same state as our counterpart. Otherwise, the brain must use the right supramarginal gyrus to counteract and correct a tendency for self-centered perceptions of another’s pain, suffering or discomfort.


The Neurological Basis for a Lack of Empathy


Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by ‘a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow affect, glibness, manipulation and callousness.’ When individuals with psychopathy imagine others in pain, researchers have found that brain areas necessary for feeling empathy and concern for others fail to become active and connected to other important regions involved in affective processing and compassionate decision-making.


A September 2013 study(link is external) from the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago published in journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found the neurobiological roots of psychopathic behavior.


When highly psychopathic participants imagined pain to themselves, they showed a typical neural response within the brain regions involved in empathy for pain, including the anterior insula, the anterior midcingulate cortex, somatosensory cortex, and the right amygdala. The increase in brain activity in these regions was unusually pronounced, suggesting that psychopathic people are sensitive to the thought of pain but are unable to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and feel that pain.


When participants imagined pain to others, these regions failed to become active in high psychopaths. In a sadistic twist, when imagining others in pain, psychopaths actually showed an increased response in the ventral striatum, an area known to be involved in pleasure. Participants were assessed with the widely used PCL-R, which is a diagnostic tool use to identify varying degrees of psychopathic tendencies. Based on this assessment, the participants were then divided in three groups of approximately 40 individuals each: highly, moderately, and weakly psychopathic.


Previous research rate of psychopathy in prisons is much higher than the average population. About 23% of prison inmates are thought to be psychopathic while the average population is around 1%. To better understand the neurological basis of empathy dysfunction in psychopaths, neuroscientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on the brains of 121 inmates of a medium-security prison.


In the study participants were shown a variety of visual scenarios illustrating physical pain, such as a finger caught between a door, or a toe caught under a heavy object. Then they were asked to imagine that this accident happened to themselves, or somebody else. They were also shown control images that did not depict any painful situation, for example a hand on a doorknob.


The researchers believe that finding the neurobiological roots of empathy vs. psychopathy may lead to intervention programs in a domain where therapeutic pessimism is running rampant. Honing in on neural networks needed to make people more empathetic may be the key to targeting psychopathic behavior and lower violent crime. “Imagining oneself in pain or in distress may trigger a stronger affective reaction than imagining what another person would feel, and this could be used with some psychopaths in cognitive-behavior therapies as a kick-starting technique,” the authors conclude.


Conclusion: Can meditation, daily physical activity, and volunteerism make your brain more empathetic?


Neuroscience allows us to see inside the human brain and better understand our minds. With this knowledge we can begin to make daily choices of mindset and behavior that not only reshape our neural circuitry but can alter the way human beings interact with one another.


Because our brain’s neural circuitry is malleable and can be rewired through neuroplasticity one's tendency for empathy and compassion is never fixed. We all need to practice putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes to reinforce the neural networks that allow us to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ and ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'


There are no easy answers for how to elevate people’s consciousness and empathetic response. I am optimistic that through daily choices of mindset and behavior that anyone can rewire his or her brain to be more empathetic. As with everything, we need to take a multi-pronged approach. Other research has shown that compassion can be trained through: rigorous mindfulness training and/or loving-kindness meditation; physical activity that puts your body and mind in touch with "disagreeable" experiences some would consider to be a “suffer-fest"; and giving back through prosocial behavior and volunteerism.


Many studies have shown that mindfulness meditation that includes LKM (loving-kindness meditation) can rewire your brain. Practicing LKM is easy. All you have to do is take a few minutes everyday to sit quietly and systematically send loving and compassionate thoughts to: 1) Family and friends. 2) Someone with whom you have tension or a conflict. 3) Strangers around the world who are suffering. 4)

Self-compassion, forgiveness and self-love to yourself.


Doing this simple 4-step LKM practice literally rewires your brain by engaging neural connections linked to empathy. You can literally feel the tumblers in your brain shift and open up to empathy by spending just a few minutes going through this systematic LKM practice.

I also believe that regular physical exercise and getting through a tough workout makes people more empathetic to human suffering.


Some people may think that pushing yourself through a workout is masochistic. It is. This is one reason why daily physical exercise might make anyone less sadistic or likely to be a psychopath at neurological level. 


Through the daily process of consciously seeking and experiencing something that is ‘disagreeable’ you become physically and mentally tough, but it makes you sensitive to what pain feels like. By leaving the comfort zone of modern American life – on a long run, bike ride or tough workout – you viscerally connect to the essence of human struggle experienced everyday by people around the world who are less fortunate than many of us. This is one of the founding principles of The Athlete's Way: Sweat and the Biology of Bliss(link is external).


Lastly, many studies have shown that volunteerism is good for your health. Dedicating some time each week to some type of charity work creates a win-win by reinforcing the empathetic wiring of your brain while making a contribution to reduce the suffering of someone less fortunate.


These are all small steps, but taken together they can fortify empathy and altruism at a neurobiological level for each individual. Collectively, these small steps can help make the world a better place.

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