compassion, empathy, kindness, Obliterate Hate, RECK, Well-Being

For Greater Inner Peace, Don’t Enimate!

Have you ever had such a difficult time with a person that you have come to think of them as your enemy? And then, almost unconsciously, you begin to imagine them doing all sorts of terrible things behind your back to sabotage you or actively do you harm. You start to imagine future scenes in which this person is being openly hostile towards you or picking a fight with you.

This can happen. We cast someone in the role of the enemy and then animate them in our minds doing all sorts of horrible things that might even cause us to begin the resent or dislike them more… or even actively hate them. I have coined a term to help describe this process of enemy animation: I call it “enimate” or “enimation.” We animate people in our imaginations as our enemies behaving like enemies.

I’ve done this before and I suspect we all have. We enimate people doing all types of terrible things that validate our negative feelings towards them. But what I’ve learned over the years is that this type of obsessive thinking is much more harmful towards me than it is towards the other person.

First of all, it’s not true! The person hasn’t actually done the things we are imagining them doing. And they probably never will. We are making these individuals into worse humans in our minds by eminating them into these terrible stereotypes which they are not. They are full human beings just like us with a full range of emotions who also want to be well liked and even loved and admired (possibly even by us).

Secondly, enimation is ultimately harmful to ourselves. It gets our blood pressure up and turns us into angry and resentful people. The next time we see the person we’ve been spending our time enimating they might even wonder what the heck they have done to make us so angry towards them! It’s unhealthy for us both physically and for our relationships.

Instead of enimating people who get us upset with them, we should actively work to think of them with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness (RECK). This will help us to calm down and it will help us find inroads to connecting with them. If you spend your time thinking of people with RECK instead of enimating them you will discover that the next time you see them you will suddenly have lots of positive things to say to them. You might even find yourself liking them and having better interactions with them.

So, don’t simply treat everyone you interact with every day with RECK, but also think of them with RECK. Imagine yourself being respectful, empathetic, compassionate, and kind towards them. You might be surprised how quickly this turns your relationships around and makes you feel more positive and happier.

With love.

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

empathy

Empathy is Essential to Effective Leadership

I spent 15 years in various leadership positions in the Entertainment Ticketing Industry and over those years I learned that one of my leadership super powers was the ability to anticipate reactions from staff teams and the public to various scenarios and plan in such a way as to respond to reactions before they occurred. For example, if we were going to roll out a new piece of software to our ticketing agents I would role-play in my mind the reactions of various team members and then put a plan in place to help ease anxieties, calm upset, and utilize certain team members who would grasp it easily.

This type of thinking also worked with our customers. If we needed to announce a change to an already ticketed event, I would anticipate the public’s reaction and have our agents prepared with answers to likely questions or concerns. If, for example, we learned that the headliner on a concert needed to cancel, I would make sure that my agents could list the artist or artists who would be stepping in to replace the headliner and a variety or reasons why they were a comparable substitute.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that much of this work involved empathy. In each case, it was my ability to put myself into someone else’s shoes and consider their needs and/or reactions that fueled this super power. And, being a voracious reader of nonfiction, I don’t need to rely solely upon my own experiences to support my claim. In his acclaimed leadership book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey’s fifth habit is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In this section of his book he promotes the concept of “empathic listening,” which is to listen deeply to what another person is saying and make an effort to empathize with that person.

I found that after spending a good deal of time with my staff and practicing empathic listening with them regularly I got to know them pretty well and could anticipate their reactions to new things based upon previous experiences. Covey says, “Empathic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretation, you’re dealing with the reality inside another person’s head and heart.”

In his book Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, author Daniel Goleman goes so far as to argue that empathy is the root of morality. He shares the work of empathy researcher Martin Hoffman whose research supports the idea that “it is empathizing with the potential victims – someone in pain, danger, or deprivation, say – and so sharing their distress that moves people to act to help them.” Thus, a lack of empathy would cause a leader to ignore how people might react to a set of circumstances and thus lead their team or company down the wrong path.

In Goleman’s book, we learn that Emotional Intelligence is essentially the ability to sense other people’s emotions, empathize with them, and respond appropriately. He has an entire chapter entitled “Managing with Heart” dedicated to inspiring leaders to utilize empathy and act upon it. The chapter ends with the call, “As knowledge-based services and intellectual capital become more central to corporations, improving the way people work together will be a major way to leverage intellectual capital, making a critical competitive difference. To thrive, if not survive, corporations would do well to boost their collective emotional intelligence.”

In conclusion, it is our empathy that drives our ability to be proactive leaders. And in the end, isn’t that what an effective leader really is? Someone with the ability to visualize how a variety of scenarios might work out and choose the best one. So, be an empathetic leader, and rest assured that you will be an effective one.

 

 

Image: Copyright Getty Images

empathy

How to Better Empathize with Black People Right Now

NOTICE: This post contains an imagery exercise that might be triggering for some people.

RESPECTFULLY: There is detailed description of the events surrounding George Floyd’s death. No disrespect is meant towards Mr. Floyd or anyone else. An effort is being made to help people empathize with Mr. Floyd and others.


6/2/20

This post is intended for White people who don’t consider themselves racist, but who are having trouble understanding why Black Americans are angry, and why some events are happening in our country right now. I am writing this as a White person who hopes to be of service to other White people who have a genuine interest in wanting to better comprehend everything that’s going on. I am not an expert on race, but I am an educator on empathy, and will be using this as our inroad.

First, a little context. I think it’s important to understand that George Floyd‘s death did not happen in a vacuum. It was not a singular event. Mr. Floyd’s death while in police custody happened as part of an ongoing series of events in which excessive force was used against Black people by police. And that has been happening inside of a larger context of inequality for Blacks in America. This is all part of a 400 year history of oppression of Black people in the United States of America. That’s a lot to try to keep in mind, but it’s helpful to accept that history in order for us to properly set the stage for what happened to George Floyd and how Black Americans are reacting to it.

Now, let’s take a look at what happened to George Floyd. The police suspected him of using fake money. So, they took him into custody. Try now to get the mental picture of Mr. Floyd lying on the ground in handcuffs. While lying on his stomach with his face against the pavement, a White police officer knelt on his neck. This is a fact. It was caught on video. If you are having trouble empathizing with how it might make a Black person feel to see video footage of this, instead of picturing George Floyd on the ground in handcuffs, picture someone you love.

Do you love your father, or your brother? If you love your brother, instead of picturing George Floyd on the ground, picture your brother on the ground in handcuffs. Now, picture someone kneeling on his neck. Your brother does not fight. He does not resist. He simply says, “I can’t breathe.” Now, wouldn’t you expect the police officer to get off of your brother’s neck? What if instead of getting off your brother’s neck, that police officer stayed on your brother’s neck? What if he stayed there for nine minutes while onlookers tried to help your brother, and other police officers stopped them from helping him. Does this make you angry? If you love your brother then chances are that this thought is making you angry. Now imagine that your brother later died. Now I bet you’re really angry.

This is what we White people need to do. We need to picture these events happening to our brothers or our fathers, or other people we love. Because, when Black people see video of these incidents they are picturing it happening to their brothers and their fathers and maybe even to them. Imagine if you were watching this video and something similar had actually happened to you before. That experience might really be triggering.

It is possible to us White people to better understand the feelings of Black people right now, and our empathy can help us to do that. We need to tap into our empathy and our compassion. Now that you have imagined that it was your brother who died at the hands of the police, imagine that it happened to your cousin last year and a friend of a friend the year before that. Now you might be getting really angry. Now you might be so angry that you feel like marching in the streets!

Now, imagine that you have been marching in the streets asking for police reform for over half a decade and yet these killings continue to happen. That might make you think of upping the stakes a little bit, right? When peaceful protest doesn’t work, you might consider turning to other actions to get attention for your cause… to make people listen. You might be wondering, “What do I need to do to get people’s attention already?!”

This is where we are. Black people are fed up. They started marching in the streets over all of this back when Barack Obama was still president. Now, here we are half a dozen years later and there still has not been any meaningful police reform on a national level. Black people still continue to die at a disproportionate rate to other members of the population.

Here are a couple of other things that might help you empathize with Black people right now. First, we are all human beings. Even though we look different, we are all the same on the inside. What is happening to Black people is happening to human beings who want many of the same things you do. They want to be free to live their best life. They want safe neighborhoods and communities. They want to love and be loved. Also, as stated earlier, Black people are dying in disproportionate numbers at the hands of police, but people of every race are getting killed due to excessive use of force. It’s happening to White people to, just not as much.

So, it is good for everyone to work towards police reform. It will serve us all in the end. A safer system of policing for Black people means safer policing for all people. And that’s a good thing, right? We can have positive change that is positive for all. So, use your empathy to connect with Black people during this crucial time. Get on board with making a brighter future for everyone. Black lives matter because all lives matter.

All the best to you.

With love,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

Postscript: This was a really difficult post for me to write. And I am deeply sorry if it upsets anyone – especially anyone of color. I truly love all people and want very much for all types of folks to be able to better empathize and connect with one another. I truly believe that respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness are keys to a brighter future for all.

compassion, empathy, family, kindness, Love, RECK, respect

Stuck at Home with Family? Practice RECK!

These are unusual times. The novel Coronavirus has more and more states telling people to stay at home and requiring Physical Distancing if we must go out. This puts many of us in a situation where we are “Safer at Home” with the people we love… and getting on each other’s nerves!

Never fear! RECK is here! To save you having to click over to another page to discover what the heck RECK is, I’ll take a moment to explain it here. RECK is an acronym that stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. It is meant as a simple guide to help us treat others in the best way possible. And don’t we want to treat the people we love most in the whole world in the best way possible? Of course we do.

Think of it this way: all people need respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness in order to stay emotionally healthy. When you think about harm that has been done to people, in every instance, one or more of these four principles has been violated. In family situations, most typically the principle we forget to adhere to is to be kind to one another.

Here’s how to utilize RECK at home during this unusual time:

First, do your best to remain respectful towards your family members at all times. This can be a tough one, especially when we are feeling irritable. Disrespectful words are usually those words that we end up regretting later. When it comes to trying to create a harmonious home atmosphere, being disrespectful is a line we simply should not cross. Being respectful towards your family all the time will help you maintain a healthy self-respect. When you are respectful to others, you feel good about yourself.

Next, make an effort to be empathetic towards the feelings of others. This one can be especially challenging with young children. They tend to feel things strongly and are often unable to completely articulate or even understand their feelings. As adults, we have an important role to play in helping them identify their emotions and learn to understand and control them. Remember, empathy is deeper than sympathy. Sympathy is to feel for someone, while empathy requires us to go even further and feel with them. A good way to understand empathy is to remember the adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Then, strive to always keep your compassion switch in the “on” position. This is a tall order. Compassion calls us to feel another person’s suffering with them and then work to relieve it. Compassion, however, is a game-changer for children. Kids feel so often misunderstood and like their suffering is ignored. As adults, we can sometimes wish children would simply “get over it.” But we need to remember that their feelings are very real to them and when we take them seriously and respond to them, children feel heard. Although perhaps more pronounced in children, this is true for all people. And during these stressful times, lots of people might be feeling strong emotions. We all would be well served to hear one another out, take each other’s feelings to heart, and make an effort to provide comfort whenever possible.

Finally, in all situations and at all times: Be kind. If you think this one is easy or trivial, then think back to the last time that you know you hurt someone else’s feelings whether they said so or not. You might not have to think back very far! Kindness is the grease that oils the gears of healthy family dynamics. Being unkind is like throwing a wrench in the works. How often has everything been going just fine at home and then someone did or said something unkind and all heck broke loose? Kindness is the key to unlocking family harmony.

If your family is struggling to get along right now, then make a big sign that says “RECK: Respect, Empathy, Compassion and Kindness” and put it up someplace everyone can see it. Then, make sure everyone knows what all of those words mean and make a promise to treat each other with RECK. You’ll be amazed by how much better everyone gets along.

All the best,

Matthew Vasko,

Founder, Century of Compassion

connection, empathy

Not Social Distancing: Physical Distancing

Image: David Ramos/Getty Images


 

Dear world, can we please stop calling it “Social Distancing?” As human beings, we all need social contact to maintain emotional health. This Coronavirus pandemic sucks and using the term Social Distancing repeatedly isn’t helping things any. In our house, we’ve taken to using the term “Physical Distancing” to both better describe what it is we are doing and to remind ourselves that even while physically apart from our friends and extended family we can remain socially close.

Personally, I am making an effort to reach out to all sorts of people in my social sphere to see how people are doing and provide emotional support where I can. I imagine that most people are doing something similar, as we should be. And as the weeks grind on and we spend more time isolated from many of the people with whom we usually spend time, I sure we’ll continue to think of creative ways to connect.

Already this week I’ve Skyped, FaceTimed, Zoomed, texted, messaged, and phoned all sorts of people from coworkers to family members to friends with whom I’d fallen out of touch. And I plan to keep it up. I’m also making an effort to set up Skype sessions between my kids and their friends as sort-of virtual play dates. All of this is important. Each interaction helps. And it’s all social.

Each day, my family is getting out for a morning walk and waving at neighbors and exchanging pleasantries from a safe distance. Again, physically we are separated, but socially we are close.

If anything, it feels like the whole world is drawn closer by our common shared experience with this pandemic. We see videos on social media of Italians singing from their balconies and medical professionals dancing in full protective gear. Commonality builds empathy, and before this is over, every single one of the nearly eight billion people on planet Earth will be able to empathize with what it was like to have battled this novel Coronavirus.

So, let’s all make an effort to remain socially close while we practice Physical Distancing. And – as has become my catch phrase: Stay safe. Stay healthy.

With Love,

Matt Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

(Postscript: My heart goes out to each and every person who has, is, or will suffer from COVID-19. Please know that you are in my thoughts. Much love to anyone the world over who has lost someone to this terrible disease.)