Learning Mind: Deep vs. shallow people

From the Learning Mind site comes this neat little piece about the traits that distinguish deep from shallow people:

We talk about deep people and shallow people all the time, but what does it really mean to be deep and how can we cultivate this depth?

The article cites five primary traits of deep people:

  • “Deep people see beyond appearances”
  • “Deep people don’t believe everything they hear or read”
  • “Deep people listen more than they speak”
  • “Deep people think through the consequences of their behavior”
  • “Deep people try to get past their egos”

The piece goes into greater detail on each of these five traits. It’s well worth a click and a quick read.

Applied to organizational leaders

Think about the leaders at workplaces that you’ve experienced. Take some close looks at our civic and political leaders. How do they stack up against these five traits?

I think it’s pretty obvious that quality leaders have these traits in abundance. The not-so-good leaders come up short.

Of course, these are great qualities for all of us to emulate, both at work and in our personal lives. Sometimes simple lists like this one offer some big lessons.

***

Hat tip to Del Carmen for the Learning Mind piece.

Toxic workplace cultures and bullying at work

Those who have studied workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse know very well that these behaviors are often stoked by toxic organizational cultures. Today I emphasized that theme in a presentation at a workplace mental health seminar hosted by The Conference Board (TCB), “a global, independent business membership and research association working in the public interest.”

I built my remarks around the concept of relational workplace cultures so brilliantly developed by Drs. Linda Hartling and Elizabeth Sparks in their 2002 paper, “Relational-Cultural Practice: Working in a Nonrelational World” (2002), which I’ve referenced on numerous occasions on this blog.  (Linda Hartling is the current director of the Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies network.)

According to Hartling and Sparks, a “relational” culture is one that values “growth-fostering relationships, mutual empathy, mutuality, [and] authenticity,” creating qualities of “zest, empowerment, clarity, sense of worth, and a desire for more connection.”

By contrast, three types of “non-relational cultures” hurt morale and productivity:

  • “traditional hierarchical” cultures that emphasize top-down power;
  • “pseudo-relational” cultures that value superficial “niceness” over constructive change; and,
  • brute “survival” cultures that pit everyone against one another in the quest for status and institutional spoils.

These three types of non-relational workplace cultures, I suggested, are likely to enable bullying and related behaviors at work. “Traditional hierarchical” cultures especially promote direct, top-down bullying. “Pseudo-relational” cultures especially enable indirect, passive-aggressive forms of bullying. “Survival” cultures fuel all types of bullying and mobbing behaviors.

Ideally, the best way to prevent and discourage work abuse is to create a relational culture. That includes nurturing civility, encouraging responsible speech, and applying the Golden Rule. However, when workplace behavior becomes targeted and abusive, firm interventions are necessary.

Of course, I also mentioned the need for stronger legal protections for bullied workers, in the form of the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill.

Many thanks to TCB program director John Brewer and event coordinator Amanda Edmonds for the kind invitation to participate in this event. I’ll have more to say about this excellent seminar in a future post.

 

Creating a society grounded in human dignity

A Sunday morning contemplation from Boston: How can we envision a society that embraces human dignity? I’ve gathered some wise words from four individuals, all of whom have been featured on this blog before, to help fuel our thoughts on this question.

Evelin Lindner

Evelin Lindner is the founder of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS), a global, transdisciplinary, non-profit network of scholars, practitioners, artists, activists, and students who are committed to advancing human dignity and reducing the experience of humiliation in society. (Note: I serve on the HumanDHS board of directors.) A self-styled global citizen who writes, lectures, and engages in dialogues around the world, Lindner urges us to start with the principle of equal dignity for all. In her latest book, Honor, Humiliation, and Terror: An Explosive Mix And How We Can Diffuse It with Dignity (2017), she writes:

I have coined the term egalization to match the word globalization and at the same time differentiate it from terms such as equality or equity. …The term egalization is short for equal dignity for all. It does not claim that everybody should become equal and that there should be no differences between people. Equal dignity can coexist with functional hierarchy as long as it regards all participants as equal in dignity; it cannot coexist, though, with a hierarchy that defines some people as lesser beings and others as higher beings.

Robert Fuller

Robert Fuller, a physicist, human rights advocate, and former Oberlin College president, calls for the building of a “dignitarian” society that embraces individual dignity. In his 2006 book All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity, Fuller writes that the main obstacle to creating a dignitarian society is the ongoing presence of “rankism,” which he defines as “abuses of power associated with rank.”

Rankism may grounded in demographic constructs such as race, sex, or age, as well as general hierarchies in “schools, businesses, health care organizations, religious institutions, the military, and government bureaucracies.” Fuller asserts that reducing rankism and unnecessary hierarchy will help to create a society that values human dignity.

Bertram Gross

Especially because of current political conditions in the U.S., the late Bertram Gross’s book, Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America (1982), is attracting a lot of attention for its assessment of how political and economic forces have created a form of “friendly fascism” in America. As a contrast, Gross also identified a secondary social and political movement grounded in community and service:

The other is a slower and less powerful tendency for individuals and groups to seek greater participation in decisions affecting themselves and others. This trend goes beyond mere reaction to authoritarianism. It transcends the activities of progressive groups or movements and their use of formal democratic machinery. It is nourished by establishment promises – too often rendered false – of more human rights, civil rights and civil liberties. It is embodied in larger values of community, sharing, cooperation, service to others and basic morality as contrasted with crass materialism and dog-eat-dog competition. It affects power relations in the household, workplace, community, school, church, synagogue, and even the labyrinths of private and public bureaucracies.

John Ohliger

Finally, for a slightly more impressionistic view, I appeal to the work of a dear late friend, John Ohliger, co-founder of a small, community-based think tank in Madison, Wisconsin called Basic Choices in the mid-1970s. In a  1982 essay, “Adult Education in a World of Excessive riches/Excessive Poverty,” John shared a vision of society that ran counter to the technocratic, materialistic forces that were garnering power:

My picture is of a future where we live more relaxed and more modest lives with an abundance of unmeasurable and infinitely available non-material (or better, trans-material) resources. All the travail and pressure we’re going through right now may be paving the way for that future. This future could be one where we will have a choice of “goodies”; not ones requiring scarce energy, minerals, or dollars; or ones permitting some people to get rich while others go hungry, but choices that we create with our own hearts and heads and hands among people we know and care for.

Ohliger’s essay preceded the advent of the digital age by roughly a decade and thus may sound positively Luddite in light of today’s gadgeted and wired world. Nevertheless, his core vision of a less materialistic society where we lead “more relaxed and modest lives” is enormously appealing.

***

The main focus of much of my work is on how to use law and public policy to advance human dignity. Of course, there are limits to how the law may shape a society committed to affirming human dignity. The state of having one’s dignity, and the act of conferring dignity upon another, require human interactions that go far beyond public mandates. However, it is also the case that our laws reflect our core values as a society, and to that extent our legal and policymaking systems can play their respective roles in advancing dignity and reducing denials of the same.

***

This post is an edited passage from my forthcoming journal article, “On Anger, Shock, Fear, and Trauma: Therapeutic Jurisprudence as a Response to Dignity Denials in Public Policy,” to be published in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. You may freely download my author’s draft of the piece here.

Roundup on gaslighting

(Drawing copyright Aaron Maeda)

Among the most popular posts on this blog are those dealing with gaslighting. I’ve gathered a cluster of past blog entries on gaslighting at work and related topics.

On gaslighting specifically

Institutional gaslighting of whistleblowers (2018)

Reissued for 2018: Robin Stern’s “The Gaslight Effect” (2018)

Gaslighting at work (2017, rev. 2018)

Inauguration Week special: “Gaslighting” goes mainstream (2017)

Is gaslighting a gendered form of workplace bullying? (2013)

Gaslighting as a workplace bullying tactic (2012, rev. 2017)

Related posts (most mention gaslighting)

Workplace bullying: Blitzkrieg edition (2017)

Workplace bullying and mobbing: Toxic systems and the eliminationist mindset (2017)

Workplace bullying and mobbing stories: “Do you have a few hours?” (2017)

How insights on abusive relationships inform our understanding of workplace bullying and mobbing (2017)

Workplace mobbing: Understanding the maelstrom (2016)

Workplace bullying as crazy making abuse (2014)

The bullied and the button pushers (2014)

When superficial civility supports workplace abusers (and their enablers) (2014)

Targets of workplace bullying: The stress and anxiety of figuring out what the h**l is going on (2014)

Charles Hayes on unfinished business

My favorite Hayes book

Recently author and philosopher Charles D. Hayes shared these thoughts on his Facebook page:

Have you ever wondered what could, should, or might have been? Or, if perhaps, the best book ever written was not published, the best orator never made a speech, the best voice never sang, the best athlete never played sports, and so on down the road of life experience? I think it’s more likely than not, that all these examples are plausible.

And just as feasible, is the likelihood that the unfinished business of every person who dies unexpectedly could represent an aspirational loss, amounting to an existential deficit for the living, on par with books never published. Something to think about in keeping one’s affairs in order.

Charles is one of my favorite authors and thinkers, and in recent years we’ve become friends via Facebook. I’ve touted his writings on this blog many times. He often goes deep in his thinking and writing. This was one of his simpler “ponder this” thoughts that invites deeper contemplation.

The term unfinished business resonates strongly with me, as I’m sure it does with many folks of middle age and beyond. It becomes especially relevant when you realize that the clock is ticking, that you no longer have seemingly endless amounts of time to do what you’d like to do.

So what’s your unfinished business?

Are you sitting on a great idea for a book or collection of short stories? Maybe becoming the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King is a long shot, but you could publish your work and build a neat little (or not so little) readership for your work.

Do you have dreams of running up and down the court as part of a championship basketball team? OK, you probably won’t be playing with or against LeBron James, but you just might find an adult hoops league that is right for your athletic aspirations.

Would you like to play the piano like this guy? Well, that might be a stretch — performers like the remarkable Jack Gibbons are rare — but perhaps a few piano lessons might reveal more talent at the keyboard than you ever imagined you possessed.

Yup, Charles’s words have once again given me an excuse to be a shameless hawker of avocations and hobbies, which I think can be among the joys and good havens of our lives. They can be gift to you and to others, and in some cases be positively life-changing.

Related posts

“Let’s leave it all out on the field”: A Gen Joneser rallying cry? (2018)

The importance of hobbies and avocations during stressful and anxious times (2016)

What’s your hobby? (2015)

Embracing Creative Dreams at Midlife (2010, rev. 2018)

 

Notes on law, psychology, and therapeutic jurisprudence

Image courtesy of clipart panda.com

Dear readers, I’m pulling together a few items related to law and psychology: 

Trauma and mental disability law online course

I’m taking an online continuing education course, Trauma and Mental Disability Law, taught by Michael Perlin and Heather Ellis Cucolo, two leading experts in mental health law and fellow trustees of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence. It’s a 10-week course designed for anyone who is interested in learning more about how psychological trauma and the law intersect. Michael and Heather are mixing a webinar format with slides and assigned readings, and it can be accessed at any time convenient to the enrollee. They estimate a time investment of about 2 hours per week. The course just started this week, so there’s still time to sign up!

International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence

If you’re interested in how the law can advance psychological health (rather than the other way around), please consider joining the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence (ISTJ). We officially launched the ISTJ this year, and we’ve got several hundred members from around the world. It’s not just for lawyers, either. Many of our members are trained in other academic and professional disciplines, such as psychology and social work. Membership dues are a very reasonable $25/year (free for students), and if you join now, your membership will be good through 2019. I’m serving as the first board chair of the ISTJ, and I’m happy to attest that this is a wonderful, intelligent, and caring group of scholars, practitioners, and students.

When policymaking stokes anger, fear, and trauma

Recent events have underscored my conviction that we need to be much more attentive to how policymaking processes (i.e., actions by legislatures, elected executives, and administrative agencies) can stoke fear, anxiety, and trauma among the populace. On that note, I’ve posted an author’s pre-publication draft of a forthcoming journal article, “On Anger, Shock, Fear, and Trauma: Therapeutic Jurisprudence as a Response to Dignity Denials in Public Policy,” to be published in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. You may freely download a copy here.

The Kavanaugh confirmation as a mirror onto America

(image courtesy of getdrawings.com)

Here in America, we have just endured an extraordinarily ugly and partisan confirmation process for a U.S. Supreme Court nominee. Events leading to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court now comprise a terrible episode in our political and legal history. This will reverberate on many levels for a long time.

Kavanaugh, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, was nominated by Donald Trump to fill a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Late in the confirmation process, several women accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when he was in high school and in college.

Psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford was the first and most prominent accuser, alleging that during high school, a drunken Kavanaugh and his friend attempted to rape her. She and Kavanaugh both testified about these allegations before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27. The debates over these allegations and Kavanaugh’s suitability for confirmation have dominated the national news coverage and everyday conversations across the country.

I make no claim to objectivity on this topic. I was among some 2,400 American law professors who signed a public letter expressing concerns about Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial temperament and urging the U.S. Senate to reject the appointment. However, my purpose here is to pull back on the camera a bit and examine the destructive impact of this episode on America’s civic, political, and legal culture. Here are some of the key dimensions:

A deeply divided country

If America needed yet another painful reminder of its deep political and ideological divisions, this was it. It’s too early to predict exactly how this will affect future national elections, but it will play a major role in shaping political discussions.

Trauma and abuse

For trauma survivors, especially women who have experienced sexual assault, these events may have been alternately re-traumatizing, empowering, sorrowful, clarifying, angering, depressing, and validating. It has been a very difficult and trying two week period for many. It remains to be seen whether this will galvanize a movement to call greater attention to sexual assault, psychological trauma, and the rights of abuse victims.

Toxic masculinity

The mocking and trashing of women who courageously gave credible accounts of sexual assault was horrific and outrageous, especially when it came from men in positions of power. It’s time to mainstream the term toxic masculinity and to understand that this behavioral dynamic is very much a part of American culture.

Getting to the truth

Thanks to boundaries set by the White House, the FBI’s investigation into allegations against Kavanaugh was grossly inadequate and gave all appearances of providing cover, rather than searching for the truth. Neither the accusers’ allegations nor Kavanaugh denials were subjected to a thorough vetting, and numerous possible witnesses were ignored.

High school

Believe me, a lot of people people experienced vivid flashbacks to high school during these events. For some this was accompanied by uncomfortable memories and contemplations about behavioral excesses during adolescence and early adulthood.

Class privilege

Matters of class privilege played out prominently. Media coverage of student life at elite private high schools and Ivy League career networks gave detailed, snapshot examples about how such advantages manifest themselves early in life and continue through adulthood.

Public job interview

My own impressions of Kavanaugh notwithstanding, I would not wish upon anyone this equivalent of a job interview in the form of a public ordeal, with millions of people watching the proceedings and discussing very personal and normally private aspects of an applicant’s life. It made for a tawdry spectacle.

Institutional credibility

The reputations of both Congress and the Supreme Court took well-deserved hits. And thanks to Kavanaugh’s highly partisan language and angry, threatening tones towards his opponents in his September 27 testimony, his credibility as an impartial judge is forever suspect. With that suffers the credibility of the Supreme Court as a judicial body.

Bullying behaviors

Accusations of bullying behaviors flew back and forth between both sides. While few incidents rose to the kind of virulent bullying discussed often on this blog, the proceedings were rife with incivility and name calling.

Conservative bloc

The Kavanaugh confirmation gives the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court the votes it needs to advance a sharply right-leaning legal agenda for years to come. We are very likely to see reversals in civil rights and workers’ rights as a result.

***

The events surrounding the Kavanaugh confirmation process will be studied and discussed for many years. Kavanaugh’s votes and judicial opinions will be scrutinized closely against the backdrop of how he was confirmed. I don’t have much optimism for the civic aftermath of what we’ve just experienced, but I hope that I’m wrong.

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