A Life Lesson From Computers

“Don’t put the bags on the bed. They have germs,” she said. The couple had just returned home from the mall. “I don’t get it,” he said, “the dogs spend the day running around in the garden and then they sleep on the bed. But the bags…?!”

Most computers run a single operating system. Most computers have bugs. Human brains run on three operating systems: reason, emotion, and instinct. Is it too big a surprise that we have bugs?

To nurture relationships in all areas of life we will want to embrace the occasional bug in people’s behaviour.

Don’t look for reason in what is emotional.

A Big Heart, Do You Have One?

Every Wednesday evening two friends, Alex and Florian, and I meet for our stammtisch, a German tradition where friends regularly get together to hang out and drink. We do it via Zoom and we’ve been at it for months. We sometimes have a guest, and we always end up having interesting conversations. Last week’s topic was — you guessed it — big-heartedness.

In good philosophical tradition, we started by defining what we consider to be a big heart:

Big hearts have an irresistible passion to serve others regardless of their status, without expecting any reward.

Then we asked ourselves whether people are born with a big heart. Though genes may play a role, we had no doubt that life is the great creator of big hearts.

We are not born with a big heart. We grow into it.

The next step was then to explore factors that make us grow into big hearts and to identify what is it about these factors that help the heart grow. This is what we uncovered:

  • Role models with big hearts
  • Environments of friendship
  • Experiences of service
  • Downfalls in life that we breakthrough

The final question we addressed was whether there is a point in life after which we can no longer grow the heart. We searched our “big heart database” and concluded that, provided the above factors, it is never too late.

There is no deadline to grow our heart.

So where are you on your big heart journey?
Can you identify your big heart role models and environments?
What experiences and breakthroughs have helped you grow into a bigger heart?

Join the LinkedIn conversation here.

Deeply Loved?

Loved in the inflexibility of my ideas,
Loved in the unlikelihood of my wildest dreams,
And loved in the repetition of my everyday stupidities?

Loved in the glare of my greatness,
Loved in the impoliteness of my impulses,
And loved in the scars of my fuckups?

Loved in the sweat of my sacrifices,
Loved in the song of my pathetic moments,
And loved in the smell of my self-judgment?

With whom do I feel deeply loved?

The Golden Rule is Making the World Worse

The Golden Rule — treat others as you would like others to treat you — is well intentioned in that it asks us to extend fairness and respect to others. But the outcomes are not necessarily good.

The problem is that it is based on a fundamentally flawed assumption.

The assumption that you want what I want, that fairness and respect mean for you what they mean for me. And this is rarely true. This is particularly relevant given the evils caused by the racism and the violence we’re seeing these days.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of assuming my way is the right way, and then to treat others as I think I should, without taking into account what they want. This is dangerous because it can make them feel disrespected and I might end up resenting the fact that they are being unappreciative of my efforts.

And we don’t have to go halfway across the world to make a difference. This applies to how we treat people at work, at home, on the streets, and in social media. Lest we come across as jerks, we want to be careful NOT to treat others like we would like them to treat us, unless we’re sure that is what they really want.

Never assume you know what others want. The alternative is to practice empathy.

The golden art of putting ourselves in their shoes to figure out how they would like to be treated. And we will probably be surprised by how much that can differ from what we expected to be appropriate.

If we are going to build a more fair, generous and compassionate world, we’re going to need a better rule. Here’s an iteration:

THE GOLDEN RULE 2.0

Treat others as THEY would like to be treated.

#BlackLivesMatter

Feedback Part II: How to Encourage the Listener

Humans need feedback to grow, which make giving feedback the gift of growth. While positive feedback gives us the energy to grow, constructive feedback — when done well — shows us the path for growth, that is, what we can improve and how.

This series focusses on how we can make our constructive feedback more effective.

In part II, I share three ways to encourage the listener when we give constructive criticism.

What techniques do you use to encourage your listener?

How to Leave A First Good Impression

Darrell is a polite, handsome man, who had little luck meeting people and making friends. He didn’t get why and it was frustrating. I first met Darrell during his final months in prison — a few of robberies and a bad temper had got him into trouble.

But Darrell is one of the few who manage to overcome the nasty effects of jail time. He decided to change. And he did. What didn’t change was the way people reacted to him. It seemed as though everyone knew his past. Then he figured out why.

And it had nothing to do with his past.

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People won’t figure out your past by looking at you.

But they’ll read your present in just a glance.

 

People won’t figure out your past by looking at you.But they’ll read your present in just a glance.It was actually quite obvious and he felt stupid for not figuring it out earlier. Back in the day, Darrell had the side of his neck tattooed with the universal “F*** YOU”. It was small but nonetheless LOUD!

He had it for so long, he no longer noticed it — Gosh, I no longer noticed it and I hadn’t known him for that long. But for people who didn’t know him it was a big thing. Obviously! It automatically kept everyone away, giving him no chance to interact.

So Darrell covered it with a new tattoo. And the next time we met… he was smiling.

 

Don’t be surprised at the way people react to you

when your face is telling them just how you feel.

 

We might not have tattoos on our neck, but our facial expression and body language are tattoos we carry around always. They provide universal information before we speak. The way you look, move and talk are the first signals other people pick up.

In the art of human relations, this is nothing new. However, we’re not always aware of how we read these signs automatically (and sometimes unconsciously) and how others do too.

 

There’s never a second chance to leave a first good impression.

 

Do you sometimes feel a bit concerned about leaving the right impression or little uneasy when meeting people for the first time? I do. But think about it: other people do too. Chances are they’re busy thinking about themselves, not about you!

So before I step in, I make a conscious decision to step away from this trap, and think: These are people, not monsters. And they’re in the same situation as me.

If you’d like people to walk away thinking: “Well, that was pleasant. Seems like a nice person. What conviction!” here’s a tip:

Your best business card is YOU. Make sure you look the way you want others to see you. Stand tall. Radiate determination and serenity with every step. Smile. Make eye contact. Smile. Speak with a clear, confident voice. Smile.

Love to hear what you do to leave a lasting first good impression?

The Difference Between Sympathy And Empathy

Today I read a post on LinkedIn written by John Ford about the difference between sympathy and empathy. I decided to comment on it, but the amount of text seems to be limited. So I wrote this post instead.

 

Words matter. Agreeing on what words mean matters more.

 

The Ancient Greek words for sympathy and empathy (which then found their way into Latin) can provide insight into to their meaning today.

They have a common root, the “pathy” part. It derives from the Greek word “pathos” (πάθος), which means “pain, suffering, passion”.
Prefixed to the root are conjunctions: “sym” meaning “with” (from “sun”, σύν) and “em” meaning “in” (from “en”, ἐν). This adds up to:

 

Sympathy is “pain with”: to feel the pain with someone.

Empathy is “pain in”: to feel the pain in someone.

 

Sympathy, in its positive understanding, means we identify with the person’s pain because we’ve experienced the same or a similar situation.

Empathy takes it up a notch: we feel the person’s pain, even though we do not personally relate to their situation. In other words:

 

Sympathy is putting yourself in someone’s shoes and feeling:

“I know what it’s like, mine feel the same.”

 

Empathy is putting yourself in someone’s shoes and feeling:

“I don’t know what it’s like, mine feel nothing like that. But I relate to how they make you feel.

 

Empathy is priceless when we’re incapable of identifying with the person, for instance, when people do things we could never picture ourselves doing.

Empathy allows us to connect with them by identifying with their feelings and emotions, even though we consider their actions and behavior unacceptable.

To give an extreme example, we might identify with someone’s overwhelming feelings of fear, intimidation and threat to their safety, but still feel incapable of committing the homicide they committed.
Sympathy is easy. For life’s challenges, like John, I prefer empathy.