caring, connection

What Mass Shooters Forget

Over the weekend we had another mass shooting. This time in Buffalo New York at a grocery store in a mostly Black neighborhood. The shooter was a racially motivated young white man in body armor. It was tragic. It was senseless. And I’m going to argue that it was preventable, but not in the way you might think.

See, here’s my perspective: Each day I see people in the media working to divide us and divide us and divide us. But you know what? We’re all just one big human family and no differences that divide us even matter one little bit. In the end we all want the same things: food, shelter, and to love and to be loved.

I’m sure that shooter in Buffalo was hurting. I’m sure things had transpired that had made him feel horrible about himself and his life. I’m sure that somewhere along the way he forgot the same thing that all of these mass killers forget. It is this: We are put on this earth to love and care for one another.

Think of all the things that shooter (who I won’t name) was missing out on. Think of how far wrong his life had gone. He’d become so warped that he had forgotten that he should have been spending his Saturday helping people in his own community instead of driving for hours to hurt people in another community. He’d forgotten his responsibility to others. He had forgotten our common humanity.

We are all human beings. We all share a common humanity. We need to stop letting our little differences separate us. There is no “us” and “them,” there is just us. We all are all we have. This is a true fact whether or not you believe in a higher power. We can pray to our higher power or powers and still it is us as individuals who need to act to care for one another and be there for one another.

Mass shooters have it all wrong. They are mentally ill based upon the very fact that they no longer see the humanity in other human beings. Anyone who sees people as anything less than beings to be loved and cared for is living in a very dark place in their mind indeed. They need help. They need help remembering that we all have inherent worth and dignity. They need help to love again. They need help to return to their proper senses.

Yes, mass killings of any scale are highly preventable. They will stop when we all learn to put our petty differences aside and love one another. They will stop when traditional and social media learn to work to help people see our common humanity and how wonderful the world can be when we all work together.

You can make a difference and that difference starts in your own heart. Do your best to love everyone. Do your best to see the similarities in someone who might at first seem very different than you. Do your best to go out into the world and make a positive difference in the world.

Much love to you,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

Acceptance, compassion, connection, empathy, kindness, Love, respect

The Core Four Will Change Your Life

What if I told you that you could have a happier life filled with lots of positive interactions and great relationships with all kinds of different people? What if I told you that all you need to do to have all this is keep four simple principles in mind as you go about your day? Would you be willing to give it a try?

The secret to having great relationships and building lasting friendships is these four principles: kindness, respect, empathy, and compassion. But the trick is to keep them in mind as you interact with all people, all the time.

Start with kindness. Let’s be honest, the world needs more kindness. Even a little kindness will go a long way with people. A lot of kindness will go even further. Kindness is wonderful for breaking the ice and getting to know people. It helps sustain long-term relationships.

Respect is next, because if you aren’t respectful towards people then most people won’t want to be around you. When you are respectful towards others they are far more likely to be respectful towards you in return. The best relationships are built on mutual respect. This respect compounds and builds over time.

Empathy is the key to unlocking connection. Typically, the people we are able to empathize with the best are the ones we feel naturally drawn to. The trick is to learn to find ways to empathize with everyone. After all, we are all human and by that nature tend to have lots of things in common – even with people who are very different than us. Always be looking for ways to empathize with people and you will be able to make great connections with all kinds of people all the time.

The last piece of the puzzle is compassion. When we have compassion for the suffering of others it brings out our hidden humanity. Everyone suffers. And everyone wants to know that their suffering is valid and worthy of compassion. When you have compassion for others they will come to love you.

Love. That’s what it’s all about. When we are kind, respectful, empathetic, and compassionate towards others we are in a place where love can flourish. Whether we know it or not, real friendships and real loving relationship are filled with kindness, respect, empathy and compassion… they are constantly swirling and engaging. In time, with luck, we can even come to accept one another. And loving people and accepting them exactly as they are, are the finest gifts that we can give.

Be well,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

Acceptance, compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, RECK, respect, Tolerance

RECK, Tolerance, Acceptance, and Love

It might seem silly to read this, but I spent almost 15 years developing the concept of RECK (Respect, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness) for All. It’s such a simple concept, and I think some people look at it and say, “Yes, for course we should all treat one another that way.” But that’s part of what took so long. I spent a lot of time debating that which is essential that we need to give to all people, and that which we are realistically able to give to all people.

There are three elements that I’ve strongly considered including or did include in RECK at some point and time. Originally, I included Tolerance. But I discovered that tolerance is a fraught value for many people. Some people think of tolerance as too much to ask. Or maybe that tolerance also included tolerating ugly things like hatred and abuse. For others, they thought we should do better than tolerance; we should truly accept one another. Acceptance in beautiful, but can we accept child abuse for example? No. Most certainly not.

Those are the first two, tolerance and acceptance. The third value is love. Love seems like such a no-brainer for me, because I grew up admiring the teachings for Jesus and his concept of universal love. But the fact of the matter is that some people simply do not know how to love properly. Many people have been harmed by love that seeks to control or manipulate… harmed by forms of love that do harm.

So, here we are… RECK for All. Respect, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness for all people. I often think of RECK as a pathway to loving people properly. Plus, respect combined with empathy and kindness can lead to greater tolerance and acceptance.

The more I think about it, and the more RECK is tempered in the fires of real world use, the more I feel like it is enough. It is good. Yes, let’s improve our tolerance. Yes, let’s be more accepting of one another. And yes, by all means, let’s make an effort to love one another better… and RECK is the tool we can use to help us achieve those things.

All the best to you,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

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