In Payback: Why We Retaliate, Redirect Aggression and Take Revenge, authors Barash and Lipton, explore the role of violence in both human and animal societies. Barash is a professor of psychology and an evolutionary biologist. Lipton is a psychiatrist who has specialized in the biology of human behaviour.
One thing is clear from reading Payback: both animals and humans do all three of what the authors call the three R’s: Retaliation, Redirected Aggression and Revenge. Or, at least, humans do all three. Animals clearly do retaliate and exhibit redirected aggression. It’s less clear whether they take revenge. For humans it is clear that both justice (that is the perpetrator being found guilty and punished) and redirected aggression:
“re-establish the social status of, as well as the internal balance of, an offended party, diminishing the initial victim’s stress by subordinating someone else. This may help explain why so many crime victims respond to exculpatory evidence with outrage rather than gratitude that an innocent person has been spared. It also illuminates why forgiveness is so difficult, despite the ardent recommendations of the world’s greatest ethical and religious leaders.” (p. 19 Barash and Lipton)
Barash and Lipton then go on to site many examples of animals exhibiting retaliation and re-directed aggression.
So humans come by their tendency to retaliate, redirect aggression and take revenge from their, that is, our, animal antecedents. So, to what can we attribute the fact that we mostly control these three tendencies? I suggest that it is our ability to reason that helps us with this. Because of our ability to imagine the impact of different behaviours, we have learned to control our initial impulse to retaliate, redirect our aggression or take revenge. We understand that the three R’s as the authors dub them, can lead to negative consequences that in the long run are worse than acting in a more peaceful, controlled manner.
And yet, we are hard wired to retaliate, redirect our aggression or take revenge. That is why there is human on human violence in the world.
So is the glass half full or half empty? Should we be pleased that we humans are less violent than we might be, or should we be saddened that we have not used our reasoning ability and our ability to imagine the future more effectively to eliminate all violence?
Either way it is interesting to also look at ways that we humans have found to avoid violence.
In their last chapter, titled “Overcoming” the authors briefly describe eleven tools that we humans have invented to overcome our tendency to “pass pain on”.
Here’s their list:
Tool 1: Calls on the person who has been hurt to forgive. (The Jewish Bedtime Shema)
Tool 2::Love your enemies, refrain from retaliation, don’t pass the pain on. Forgive. (The Christian Sermon on the Plain)
Tool 3: The Twelve Steps (The Way of AA)
Tool 4 Ghandian Nonviolence
Tool 5: Buddhist Vows
Tool 6: Breathing Meditation
Tool 7a: Original Tit for Tat (The Game Theorist’s Way)
Tool 7b: Generous Tit for Tat
Tool 8: Passing Gain Along (The Economist’s Way)
Tool 9: Psychiatric Responses
Tool 10: Self Protection (Get out of abusive or corrupt relationships)
Tool 11: Forgiveness Protocol
Finally, the authors offer a Principle for Minimizing Pain
Here’s their shorter version:
“When evaluating alternative actions, I will ask myself whether each is likely to increase or decrease the total amount of pain in the world, and I will always choose the latter.” (Page 199 Barash and Lipton).
In order to explore this topic further, I’ve decided to do a full article on each of these tools as I find more material on each. This topic and these tools have captured my attention!!
If anyone wishes to provide input please feel free to do so. I’ll be most grateful!!
Reference for this article is:
Payback: Why we Retaliate, Redirect Aggression and Take Revenge, David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton, Oxford University Press, 2011.
As much as I love the idea of peace and know that I am in favour of peace, when asked to explain what I mean by peace I have trouble.
So, I have set myself the task of seeking a way to understand what “peace” means to me in the hope that I’ll be able to explain the concept of peace to others.
Positive and Negative Peace
One of the first distinctions I have discovered is the notion of positive and negative peace.
Negative peace is the lack of violence and war. This can be created through the use of force. Galtung, one of the leading peace scholars, suggests that the use of coercive power by, for example, the U.N. or one or more countries to support or enforce a cessation of violence, are examples of negative peace.
This type of power may be used as a step towards positive peace. But it is not creating positive peace in and of itself.
According to Galtung, positive peace is “the integration of society”. This requires improved understanding between humans, through communication, peace education, dispute resolution, conflict management and arbitration etc.
In an analogy to health: Curative Medicine is equivalent to negative peace and Preventive medicine is analogous to positive peace.
We need to look at the conditions for absence of violence as well as the conditions for positive peace. (Interesting that we don’t have another term for positive peace other than “peace”; while we do have the term “absence of violence” for negative peace.)
So we still have not said what positive peace is.
Positive peace is emancipatory (i.e. positive peace creates freedom).
A Culture of Peace:
1998 UN resolution on the culture of peace:
“A culture of peace is an integral approach to preventing violence and violent conflicts, and an alternative to the culture of war and violence based on:
- education for peace,
- the promotion of sustainable economic and social development,
- respect for human rights,
- equality between women and men,
- democratic participation,
- the free flow of information and
My definition of Peace:
Peace exists in a society or community when the members of the society are able to achieve healthy fulfillment in their personal and professional lives in ways that do not interfere with the healthy fulfillment of others in their society or community.
So, what is healthy fulfillment? Hmm…. By healthy fulfillment I mean achievements that add to the physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual health of the individual and/or the community or society.
Having struggled with these concepts for a while I am coming to the conclusion that positive peace cannot exist without the support of negative peace.
In other words, positive peace exists when trust, cooperation and adherence to a set of norms and behaviours that provide the opportunity for fulfillment have been agreed to by the society and are being respected by members of the society, country or, ideally, the whole world.
But, as far as I know there is no example where these conditions are not protected or enforced by a set of laws and enforcing bodies such as a police force or army to, in effect, enforce these norms.
So, while I and others work to create positive peace in my life and in the world in general. I need to acknowledge that we need some form of force to support the peace we all cherish. With good will and hard work, force will not need to be used. And importantly, when force is used it must be used according to rules agreed to by the society as a whole. If these societally endorsed rules (i.e. laws) are not respected and followed, we get violence.
Johan Galtung Positive and Negative Peace Baljit Singh Grewal Aug. 30 2003
One of the themes I’ve been working on lately is to cross-fertilize three communities that I feel have a great deal to learn from each other.
They are: The Creativity Community
The Personal Development/Spirituality Community and
The Conflict Resolution or Peace Community
I use the word “community” in the singular in each case but there are many versions of each of these community categories.
The Creativity Community for me includes:
The Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) http://www.cpsiconference.com/ (CPSI) and a whole range of other conferences that seem to all owe their beginnings to CPSI.
CPSI is a conference that has been running for close to 60 years now. It was started by an advertising executive Alex F. Osborn. Osborn developed a creative problem solving process using applied imagination and deferment of judgment enabling as many ideas as possible to be expressed (group use of this principle was called Brainstorming). Dr. Sidney J. Parnes further refined Osborn’s work, resulting in what is commonly referred to as the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving process (CPS).
A long list of conferences have followed in the footsteps of CPSI. One of my favourites is Mind Camp that happens north of Toronto every year. There are many others. See
for a list.
There are also a whole range of companies that specialize in providing services to help organizations increase their creativity.
The Personal Development Community for me includes:
Coaching and counselling practices of many types; personal development organizations like the ManKind Project,
; the Inner Journey
; The Oneness University; Yoga; Chi Gong and many others. In fact there is a huge variety of approaches to personal growth and healing.
The Conflict Resolution/Peace Community for me includes:
Mediation; Peace groups of many types, e.g. The Canadian Peace Initiative ; Civilian Peace Service Canada; USAID; many of the offices of the United Nations and so on.
What these three communities:
- The Creativity Community
- The Personal Development/Spirituality Community and
- The Conflict Resolution or Peace Community
have in common is that to be successful they need to help people develop new perspectives and behaviours. The growth is related to personal growth as distinct from growth of knowledge. It’s not book learning we’re speaking about here. It’s a change in how each person sees the world and his or her relationship to the world. These are profound changes people need to make.
I see these three communities as being mutually synergistic.
So, I like to challenge myself and those I interact with by asking:
1. Do you agree that these three “communities” have a lot to offer each other?
2. If yes, what can you and I do to make use of each others’ knowledge and activities?
If no, are you willing to learn more about one of the other two communities to see if there is a benefit?
I’m looking forward to your comments…..!
How Do We Really Find Happiness? A Critique of Martin Seligman’s Latest Book Flourish and Praise for Jeffery D. Sach’s The Price of Civilization
I was excited by Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness. It offered a theory of happiness that made sense to me. In Authentic Happiness Seligman identifies three key elements that contribute to happiness:
- Pleasant Experiences
- Engagement and
- A Meaningful Life
Of course we want to have fun just for the heck of it, that is, Pleasant Experiences. But that’s not enough to make a happy life. We also need one or more activities or endeavours that we can get totally engrossed in. That’s Engagement or Flow.
Finally, the ultimate element, or so I thought, is the notion that we need to have a project or series of projects, that are Meaningful to us. Something we’re doing where we feel we are contributing to others outside of ourselves. Seligman named this a Meaningful Life.
One of the reasons I liked this model was that it addresses the fact that as we in the so- called developed world have gained more and more material wealth and “stuff” we aren’t happier.
The theory in Authentic Happiness seemed to offer a really powerful explanation of this, at least by implication. I wrote an article on this (http://thismakesmehappy.wordpress.com/2009/09/08/why-do-we-consume-so-much-and-why-aren%E2%80%99t-we-happier/) in which I pointed out that accumulating more and more stuff does not lead to happiness. What does lead to happiness is contributing to the good of others. I saw this as a wonderful approach to changing our behaviour towards our environment. That is, it provides a rationale for using less stuff and spending more effort just being of assistance to others in ways that are engaging for us based on our particular strengths.
So, when I saw that, in his latest book, Flourish, Seligman had added Accomplishments to his list of elements that contribute to what he calls “well being” I was alarmed.
Then when I read his rationale for the addition I was even more concerned. He says that people’s report of their life satisfaction is 70 percent determined by the mood they are in and 30 % by how well they judge their life to be going at that moment.
I would suggest that a better way of measuring life satisfaction is to ask people how they judge the totality of their life. Not how they see their life going at the moment. Surely, a way can be found to measure this accurately.
A second concern or objection is that accomplishment is really part of the meaningful life element of Seligman’s original model. If I believe that I am doing things that contribute to something outside of myself that suggests that I am achieving accomplishments. What is more, placing accomplishment in the context of a meaningful life is a much more desirable way to frame accomplishment as an element of well being or happiness than, for example, just winning at bridge as he suggests, even if the winner does so by cheating as he also suggests (see page 18 of Flourish).
And this gets at the heart of my concerns about the inclusion of accomplishments as a free standing element in his theory. I fear it could lead to the type of meaningless and costly activities that create more “stuff” but don’t add to people’s sense of well being.
So when I opened Jeffery D. Sachs’ book The Price of Civilization, Economics and Ethics After the Fall and read:
“ Our greatest national illusion is that a healthy society can be organized around the single minded pursuit of wealth. The ferocity of the quest for wealth throughout society has left Americans exhausted and deprived of the benefits of social trust, honesty and compassion. Our society has turned harsh, with elites …. among the most irresponsible and selfish of all. ”
I felt I had found a voice for my misgivings about Seligman’s revision of his original theory.
Seligman’s new theory of happiness outlined in Flourish, seems to justify the pursuit of meaningless or even unethical so-called “accomplishments”.
THAT IS DANGEROUS! We’ve seen how the unthinking pursuit of profit (i.e. meaningless stuff) has created the recent economic meltdown which has led to high unemployment and economic hardship for many.
Sachs argues eloquently that it’s that value system that is leading us away from a caring, mindful and successful society.
So let’s focus on creating Pleasant, Engaged and Meaningful lives for ourselves and others as Seligman suggested in his book Authentic Happiness. That is an authentic path to happiness and well being!!
Career and Relationships Coach Bruce Rosove is certified as a Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming; is an Emotional Fitness Coach and Coach Instructor; has studied Non-Violent Communication under Marshall Rosenberg; has level one training in Inner Journey Facilitation and has studied many other modalities.
Contact him at: 613 233 8013 email: Bruce.Rosove@Rogers.com
I came across a great article in the New Yorker magazine on the value of coaching and how coaching can contribute to people getting better at what they are already good at doing.
Master surgeon Atul Gawande starts his article, Personal Best by saying:
“No matter how well trained people are, few can sustain their best performance on their own.
That’s where coaching comes in. (emphasis added).
He goes on to say:
“I’ve been a surgeon for eight years. For the past couple of them, my performance in the operating room has reached a plateau. I’d like to think it’s a good thing—I’ve arrived at my professional peak. But mainly it seems as if I’ve just stopped getting better.”
The article caught my eye because, of course, I’m a coach and one of my toughest challenges is helping people invest in themselves and a better, more satisfying life through a few coaching sessions.
Later in the article Gawande tells a story about how a tennis coach helped him improve his serve, then he goes on to realize that:
“Nearly every élite tennis player in the world…. uses a coach to make sure they are as good as they can be.
“But doctors don’t. I’d paid to have a kid just out of college look at my serve. So why did I find it inconceivable to pay someone to come into my operating room and coach me on my surgical technique?”
It’s a good question and in fact Gawande does hire a coach who provides guidance that allows him to continue improving the quality of his already very high quality surgical practice.
The point is that we all can do better with the help of a coach. The article speaks about teachers, musicians, opera singers, golfers, sports teams and executives using coaches to improve their performance and ultimately their satisfaction with their lives.
I offer coaching in career and relationship issues. What I find is that most issues that people come to see me about cross over into both their career and their relationships. So, I have specialized in helping people identify what they want to achieve in terms of both their career and the relationships they develop in their lives.
I start by helping people get in touch with what goals they really want to achieve. Surprisingly, perhaps, this can take some effort on their part. Once their goals are established, I support them in creating their action plans to achieve their goals. That leads to my providing support as they implement their plans. Often the clients revise their plans with my support as they move forward. Ultimately, they succeed in creating more vibrant and satisfying careers and relationships and that leads to much happier lives.
(The reason people call me the Happiness Coach is because they are happier after working with me on making their lives better.)
Steps in the Coaching Process:
Coach supports client with:
Goals –> Plans –>Implementation lead to–> A More Successful & Satisfying Life!
So, I invite you to invest in yourself by using a coach. To make it easier for you I’ll offer the first session at no charge.
Please give me a call so we can set up an appointment!
Bruce Rosove (613) 233 8013 Bruce.Rosove@Rogers.com
Career and Relationships Coach
(The Happiness Coach! )
P.S. If you’d like to read the full article by Atul Gawande, please drop me a line and I’ll send it to you.
Aristotle said “Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.”
I was having lunch with my best female friend. We were eating lunch talking about our respective personal growth when she said:
“I still get angry.”
Without really thinking about it I blurted out: “People are always afraid or ashamed of their anger. “Anger is a very helpful emotion. What’s not helpful is violence.”
To my surprise and pride, she pulled out her digital device and said. “I want to write that down. That’s important!”
What the hell was I speaking about?
Well, it’s true. God or Nature or whoever or whatever designed humans gave us the emotion of anger for a reason. Anger has the potential to help us function well in the world.
So what is anger’s function and how can I use it to my best advantage?
Anger is there to give us a warning that danger may be present. Notice I said it may be present. It’s a signal to check. That’s the key. We need to check as soon as the anger develops. And that’s where anger can be a problem. Often we are not as in touch with our emotions as is ideal. So by the time we become aware of our anger it has built to a point where it is very tough to control. And that’s when it can do great harm to ourselves and to others.
So, the key to using anger in a positive way is to be aware of our anger as soon as it starts to be present in our bodies. That way we can take action immediately to lower the danger or the pain that is causing the anger.
Anger is our early warning system that something is wrong and that we need to take actions to deal with the problem that has triggered the anger.
Actions to deal with our anger can be:
- Going inside and asking ourselves: “what is irritating about the present circumstance I’m in and then adjusting in some way.
- Moving away from a noise that is bothering me
- Asking our partner for clarification of some action that she or he is taking that is irritating us.
- Framing my judgment(s) about the irritating circumstance in a way that lowers my negative feelings about that circumstance.
That last bullet: Reframing my judgment(s) is tough.
The Dalai Lama has co-written a series of books called The Art of Happiness. In these, he stresses that anger is the enemy of happiness. So, it is important to minimize the negative aspect of anger by dealing with the cause of the anger. He speaks at great length about the benefits of compassion as a way to avoid feeling anger. Compassion for self and others is a key to re-framing our negative judgments in a way that moves us away from anger towards understanding and acceptance.
That’s the subject of a full article of its own.
But, how can I become aware of my anger as soon as it develops? Here is one way to improve your “anger early warning system”:
The next time you are angry notice everything you can about how you felt as you got angry. Even if you blew up, take a minute as soon as possible and think back to what sensations you felt inside your body that could warn you that anger is developing:
- Many people feel pain around the back of their neck or shoulders when they are angry.
- Others get tightness in their throat.
- Still others get fluttering in their stomach.
- Others feel a tightness around their temples.
The key is to be aware of these or other physical sensations and then to check to see if they are, in fact a sign that something is annoying you. Soon, you’ll be able to use these physical sensations inside your own body as an early warning system that you are getting angry.
Dealing with anger requires that we become aware that we am becoming angry, identifying what we are irritated by and then taking actions to alleviate the irritation.
And the key to using anger as the signal it was designed to be is to be aware of our emotions at all times.
1. Be aware that you are angry as soon as you become angry.
2. As soon as you are aware of your anger act in a way that will lower your
irritation by either:
a. Acting gently to change the circumstance that is irritating to you (e.g. through a conversation or some other non-violent action; or
b. Changing your judgment about that circumstance in a way that removes the source of the pain or sense that you’re in danger.
By following the steps above you will be harnessing the benefits of anger while lowering its negative effects.
Bruce Rosove is a Certified Career and Relationships Coach as well as a Certified Emotional Fitness Coach and Coach Instructor. He has studied Non-Violent Communication under Marshall Rosenberg, is certified in Neuro Linguistic Programming, and has level one training in Inner Journey Facilitation. Bruce can be reached at: 613 233 8013 email: Bruce.Rosove@Rogers.com Blog: http://ThisMakesMeHappy.wordpress.com/
I’m at Blue Skies, a music festival that started out 38 years ago as a picnic. It’s a collection of music, holistic workshops and lots of friends.
I’ve been through a catharsis here that I want to share with you.
It all started on the Saturday morning when Maike burst out “I have to go to the workshop on Ho’Oponopono, the Hawaian forgiveness process”. I didn’t react immediately. But 10 minutes later I realized I needed/wanted to be there too. I walked through the woods to the Teepee where about 50 people were listening to a man and woman explain that when we have a conflict we are to ask for forgiveness of the other in the following way:
Please forgive me.
I love you.
Flash to the next morning, Sunday. Ferron, the famous female singer has performed Saturday night. Now she is giving a workshop on songwriting. There are many, perhaps a 100, people in this open air workshop. She explains that she writes songs by going deep into herself looking for stories that move her. She calls this going into deep water. Then she asks people from the audience to tell stories about their lives. Members of the mostly female audience respond one at a time and I start crying. None of the men in the audience get up. I’m crying and don’t really know why.
Finally, near the end of the workshop one man speaks and asks a question. Ferron responds. By now I have been raising my hand to speak a few times. I want to speak. I want to share my sense of vulnerability that as a man I don’t feel safe sharing my most vulnerable moments the way Ferron has been guiding the women to do.
I call out, “Ferron”. I have a loud voice and she responds.
I say, “As a man I don’t feel safe speaking about my most vulnerable moments.” I’m holding back tears at this point. She asks me to say more and I say that it’s important for women to know that men don’t feel they can make themselves vulnerable as they will lose the respect of women who want them to be there to protect and provide for them. I don’t know if I said it quite that way, but that was the message I wanted to convey. In retrospect I realize that I had been inspired by the Ho’Oponopono workshop to not blame men for being less open than women.
Perhaps the reason I had been crying was because I feel men are judged for not being open about their feelings. I was lashing out in a way, telling this mostly female audience that I did not want them to judge men negatively for being less open than women tend to be.
Ferron was wonderful. She said, “We are fighting the same war.” It was a special moment for me. She called me up from my seat where I’d been until then and we hugged.
The audience erupted in loud applause and I felt heard.
The workshop ended shortly after that. Several people came up to me to thank me for speaking out. One woman spoke to me about her son who she was worried about. Somehow my sharing had helped her. Other women just offered thanks.
One man came to me and wanted to speak at length. We ended up back at my spot in a shelter at the festival and exchanged contact information. I spoke to him about the Mankind Project and the New Warrior Training Adventure. He lives in Toronto so he may take the weekend in October.
It’s hard to evoke the deep and profoundly moving emotions that course through me as this story unfolded. It was a gift to me to be able to speak about my vulnerability, vulnerability and fear, that I perceive to exist in most men and to be heard by a strong, famous, feminist, public figure like Ferron. The Blue Skies Music Festival Program describes Ferron as “the Johnny Cash of lesbian folk singing”.
Her support of men in opening ourselves up means a lot to me.
*I have two reasons for calling this article Is Silence Golden? The first is an obvious reference to the silence of men regarding sharing vulnerable moments.
The second is that I had sat reviewing the experience described here for almost a week, somehow unable to motivate myself to write it up as I had decided to do. Then, the Friday after Blue Skies ended and the last day at our rented cottage I heard the song “Silence is Golden” by the Tremolos and I started crying uncontrollably. I don’t know why, but my crying motivated me to sit down and write what you see above.
Bruce Rosove is a Certified Career and Relationships Coach as well as a Certified Emotional Fitness Coach and Coach Instructor. He has studied Non-Violent Communication under Marshall Rosenberg, is certified in Neuro Linguistic Programming, and has level one training in Inner Journey Facilitation. Bruce can be reached at: 613 233 8013 email: Bruce.Rosove@Rogers.com Blog: http://ThisMakesMeHappy.wordpress.com/
One of the keys to creating a happier more rewarding life is to do activities including work that have meaning for you.
We explore ways to do this at each Emotional Fitness coaching session.
An article by Steve Denning discusses the ideas of Chip Conley regarding meaningful work. Conley says people need to find meaning both “at work” and “in” their work in order to increase their satisfaction or happiness with their work. By this he means, that two things need to be true for you:
* The actual work you are doing needs to be meaningful to you.
* The products and services you are helping create (the goals of the organization) need to be meaningful to you.
Creating situations that allow you to create more meaningful activities in each of the areas of your life is one of the themes of Emotional Fitness coaching.
To see Steve Denning’s article about Chip Conley’s ideas go here:
There has been a lot of interest in empathy of late. Jeremy Rifkin has written a best selling book, The Empathic Civilization in which he makes the case that humans are, by their very nature, empathic. He says that for human progress to continue we must tap into our natural inclination to be cooperative, compassionate and empathic …it is our cooperative, empathic nature that has made us such a successful species.
Others are discovering the importance of empathy. Medical schools are looking for ways to teach doctors to increase their empathy when working with patients and colleagues. One of the more successful methods is called Narrative Medicine. Developed by Doctor Rita Charon (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_58.html) of Colombia University it focuses on the use of empathy in the practice of medicine with predictably positive results.
And recently there has been speculation on the empathic skills of President Obama as he leads America through the mid-term elections. Clearly, interest in empathy is growing.
So, what exactly is empathy? Empathy is the ability of one person to experience the feelings of another viscerally.
“When we feel empathy for someone we are getting emotional information about them and their situation. By collecting information about other people’s feelings, you get to know them better. As you get to know others on an emotional level, you are likely to see similarities between your feelings and theirs, and between your basic emotional needs and theirs. When you realize that someone else’s basic emotional needs are similar to yours, you are more able to identify with them, relate to them and empathize with them.” ( http://www.eqi.org/empathy.htm#Empathy%2C+Understanding+and+Compassion)
If I listen and observe you well I can actually gain an experience that mirrors how you are feeling. This can mean, for example, that if you have joy I will have empathic joy with you. Most parents have experienced this when one of their children has had a success or a happy event.
Similarly, one person can experience another’s pain.
We can each learn to be more empathic. I say more empathic because we are all born with a natural inclination to be empathic. We can see this, for example, in babies as they imitate people who interact with them.
Sadly, many of us have been taught that the world is a competitive place and that we must look out for number one or be trampled by the competition. This has led us to lose some of our inclination to be empathic. But we all search for connection with others, with a partner, with children, with friends, with colleagues and so on. This is another manifestation of our natural inclination to be empathic.
So, how can we learn to be more empathic? One key skill is to be good listeners. And listening is a skill that can be learned. There are several programs that have been designed to improve people’s ability to listen. One is Non-Violent Communication the Language of Compassion, developed by Marshall Rosenberg (http://www.cnvc.org/). Another is Listening Power, the foundational tool of the Emotional Fitness Institute founded by Warren Redman.
Non-Violent Communication is often referred to as “NVC”.
The basic building blocks of empathic listening using NVC are:
As a listener I:
1. Identify the situation event or circumstance the other person is describing;
2. State the feeling I imagine the person has in regard to that event or circumstance (mad, sad, glad, fear, guilt, shame etc.);
3. State the need I imagine the other person may have and
4. Ask the person what they’d like based on the above
There is a lot there. This process like any skill takes practice.
The second approach to empathy is the Emotional Fitness Institute’s Listening Power.
Here is how Listening Power works:
Element one: Total Focus on the Other Person
To be an empathic listener:
I must listen to the other person and totally focus on what they are saying. This is their time to be heard by me. The gift to me is hearing what they say completely and accurately.
Element two: A Five Step Structure
This structure helps me focus totally on the other person
Here is the structure:
When listening to another person:
1. Agree on a Contract for that conversation (how long, conditions etc.)
2. Identify the Topic
3. Ask Clarifying Questions (this and summarizing are the heart of listening but the first two steps are key to doing this successfully)
4. Summarize what I think I’ve heard and ask if this is correct
5. Once I’ve summarized accurately, support the person in finding appropriate actions
Both of these processes, NVC and Listening Power, are designed to help people be better listeners. If you use either of these tools you will become a more empathic listener.
Importance of Empathy to You
No matter who you are, listening effectively is going to help you with any relationship you may have or that you may want to create. Just on a human basis this will lead to stronger friendships, stronger business relationships and better relationships with those close to you.
I hope I’ve convinced you that using good listening skills can lead to gaining much more complete information on any topic.
This very brief discussion of two very powerful listening tools is intended to give you the bare essentials to help you become a more empathic listener. If you’d like more information, advice or to receive training in this area please contact Bruce Rosove (see contact information below).
Bruce is Certified as a Life Coach and Coach Instructor by the Emotional Fitness Institute. He is also certified in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) by the American Board of Neuro Linguistic Programming. Prior to entering private practice, he worked for the Canadian Employment Service (part of HRSDC) designing policies and training counsellors in the use of the new counselling tools he developed.
Contact Bruce at:
Telephone: 613 233 8013 or Email: Bruce.Rosove@Rogers.com
This article copyright Bruce Rosove 2010-09-28 used by permission.
When I read the forwarded piece below. It moved me to want to share it. Something about it struck a nerve. My next task was: who would be interested in this? I wanted to share it with the group I host on Monday nights. That group looks at happiness and fulfillment and what leads to those desirable states. I am sending it to them. But I want to share it more widely because it moved me so much.
Funny how that works. When something moves me I want to share it. Is everyone like that? I think so. We all want connection. And what better to connect with than something that moves us.
But why do we see so much negative stuff in the paper? (You’ll see the piece is about a horrible loss of control by a woman in a MacDonalds Restaurant). One reason is that people read that stuff. We now know from research that humans are much more sensitive to danger than happy situations. In fact, we are wired for danger. In other words we are much more sensitive to negative stimuli than to positive ones. This was a survival strategy in the past when we had to look out for sabre toothed tigers. Now it may not be so helpful.
So I send this to you to consider whether you focus on the negative in your life more than the positive and how you feel about that. I also invite you to consider what else that poor woman who lost it might have been dealing with to make her react so violently.
Bruce Rosove, (613) 233 8013
Life Coach, Consultant,
The Emotional Fitness Institute Ottawa
I affirm the CHARTER FOR COMPASSION
From: Bob Koehler
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 1:17 PM
Subject: scratching the itch
ROBERT C. KOEHLER
For release 1/14/10
SCRATCHING THE ITCH
By Robert C. Koehler
Tribune Media Services
The whole point of so much of what we do seems to be to weed people out. We do it for fun, and without awareness.
The following miniature news item, accompanied by a voyeuristic surveillance camera photo, ran as filler in Redeye, the Chicago Tribune adjunct publication for the too-busy-to-read crowd:
“Police in Kansas City, Mo., are looking for a woman who went on a rampage at a McDonald’s because she didn’t like her hamburger, The Associated Press reports. Police say the woman caused thousands of dollars in damage Dec. 27 when she became upset that the restaurant wouldn’t refund her money.
“Employees had offered to replace her hamburger, but the woman refused and demanded her money back.
“Police released a video showing the woman throwing a sign and a bucket of water over the counter and pushing off a glass display case and three open cash registers. She then cursed and fled.”
The point of this story, headlined “She’s Got a Serious Beef,” was entertainment. Very slight entertainment, to be sure — half a snicker’s worth, maybe. “Police are looking for her.” Hah!
The reason I pause at this sad little shred of news, this slice of unhappy trouble on a poppy-seed bun, is because something here feels enormous: This is the flotsam of a life coming undone, but the context in which it is displayed as “news” is solely for the sport of watching someone screw up, and it makes me want to administer a Zen slap or something across the face of my profession. Stop it! Stop purveying disconnection as news.
To put it another way, responsible journalism involves more than scratching the itch.
“The principle of wholeness thus requires looking for, and responding to, complex interconnections, not single acts of separate individuals. Anything short of that is seen as a naïve response destined to ultimate failure.”
Since newspapers are so desperate to reinvent themselves, what if they tried being part of the solution instead of part of the problem? Our disconnected culture is running out of options. Forget our berserk, privatized foreign policy (robot planes, a mercenary army, a war without end); we’re unraveling on the home front. We have the world’s largest prison population, by an enormous margin. We’re down to our constitutional right to live in fear, and to fire back. As a culture, we’re as lost as the woman in Kansas City who didn’t like her hamburger. To laugh at her is to laugh bitterly at our own spiritual void.
Perhaps, if we are to save ourselves — and in the process, avoid destroying the world — we need to start listening to the voices we have historically tried to silence and to start taking seriously the cultural worldviews we almost destroyed.
This is the conclusion that has been growing on me, at any rate, since I read the book quoted above, Returning to the Teachings, by Canadian Crown Attorney Rupert Ross. This 1996 book, by a legal professional whose job included prosecuting crimes in tiny Aboriginal communities across northern Canada (a woman going crazy at a fast-food restaurant could easily have been such a crime), explores the growing movement in these devastated communities to disentangle themselves from the Western “justice” system that has been imposed on them and to reclaim, and heal, their lives.
The absolutely shocking thing about Ross’ book is how it spills beyond Aboriginal culture into our own. It’s more than just a happy account of tribal cultures rediscovering ancient traditions. As the book examines the failure of adversarial, punishment-focused justice in tiny Northern Canada communities, readers cannot help but think about its failure everywhere.
The more I read, the more convinced I became that our approach to life — in essence, to dominate it rather than understand it holistically — is the “primitive” one, and the time has come to stop acting like clueless captains of our own fate and to start seeking wisdom: to start exploring the ways in which all of life is connected.
As Ross points out, one of the key differences between Aboriginal and Western justice is in the focus. While we obsess over single criminal actions, the facts of which are examined in detail at costly, adversarial trials, at the end of which judgment is pronounced — and nothing changes in regard to root causes — the Aboriginal community focuses instead on the relationships damaged in the wrongdoing and sees the healing of those relationships as the top priority.
I know I’m not alone in believing that the place to start our renewal is to focus on healing. Once we commit to this and begin seeing ourselves, just as Aboriginal children learn to do, as “participants in webs of complex interdependencies,” everything will change — including what we tolerate as news.
© 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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