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, RECK

Is Your Compassion at 11?

These are highly unusual times. This pandemic has many – if not all – of us on edge. We are worried about our families and loved ones, friends and acquaintances, coworkers and community members. And as we feel this compassion for the people we care about, it seems like it easily flows to others we hear about on the news or social media who are sick or laid off, working in hospitals or working essential jobs and putting their health on the line for the betterment of all. Plus, there is overlap between all of these groups. So, it might be a friend who is sick or an acquaintance who is working in a hospital.

My point here is this: It seems like almost anyone and everyone is relatable to us right now. We are all in this together. We are all going through a shared experience. And this seems to have had the effect of increasing our empathy and thereby our compassion for one another.

In the classic comedy “This Is Spinal Tap“, while describing his heavy metal band’s amplifiers, Christopher Guest states the famous line, “These go to eleven.” Doesn’t it feel right now as if your compassion is turned to 11? Like you feel for everyone everywhere and want so much for everyone to be well and for this terrible time to come to an end?

Our compassion is turned to 11. We are feeling deeply. Hoping greatly. I’m seeing it everywhere I look. On social media I see people being kinder to one another. More respectful. More caring. If you go out for a walk you might find that the people you pass on the other side of the street give you a friendly wave and maybe even smile and say hi.

And these are just the common occurrences. There are also tremendous acts of kindness and compassion. Parades of cars being formed to celebrate children’s birthdays. People singing from windows. Police departments showing up outside hospitals to cheer on healthcare workers.

There is a beauty in it. Yes, there is pain too. But there is beauty in this heightened compassion and greater empathy. While we are here, while it is happening, the first thing I wanted to do was to identify it. Look at us. Look what we are capable of. Look how good we can be to one another. We can get along. We can care more for one another. We can help support one another and cheer each other on. Go humanity!

Next, I want to say this: practice self care. Compassion fatigue is a real thing. This heightened sense of caring and loving is sustainable, but you have to take care of yourself and manage your own well-being. Humans simply aren’t designed to give and give without taking a little something back to help keep us going. So, take a little time for yourself. Don’t give all of yourself away. It seems like our experience with this pandemic might last a while so care for your heart so that you don’t get overwhelmed or exhausted. Practice the items I mentioned in my last post.

Finally: Dream of a brighter future. Who says that we ever need to go back to the way things were? Yes, of course I want things go back to normal with regard to seeing an end to this pandemic. But what if we don’t need to see an end to caring more for and about one another? Perhaps… now that we have been here… now that we have experienced this.. maybe just maybe this level of caring for one another can be the new normal. RECK can be the way of the future. It’s happening. A society filled with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness is happening right now. And we can keep it this way. We can continue this well into the future. We just need to want to hold on to it. To continue to build upon it. To make RECK for all the new normal.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for turning your compassion to 11. And thank you for joining me in working towards a brighter future. Follow our RECK Pact page on Facebook for more daily inspiration.

All the best,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, RECK, respect, Uncategorized

We Need a Revolution of Connection

Do you ever feel a longing for connection? Real connection? More than another text or email, or even another casual conversation? In our fast-paced, screen-time-heavy world, it seems like we are drifting further and further apart from one another.

This is not to say that we have ever been that socially connected in my lifetime. A child of the 80’s, I feel like I was practically raised by the television – long before smart phones came along demanding our attention.

Perhaps there was a time when communities were closer knit, but it hasn’t been in my lifetime. Essentially, I find myself longing for some Utopian past I never knew. Or perhaps it never really existed to begin with. Who knows.

But here’s the thing. It sure does seem like we could reduce the amount of conflict in the world if people would just sit down and talk to one another. How are we ever going to work out our differences if we keep splitting ourselves into smaller and smaller factions?

We need a revolution of connection! Meaningful connection – deep conversations where we work through our misunderstandings and disagreements. This is the kind of connection where trust is built and where genuine community takes shape.

Our fast-paced, cold, indifferent world needs reflection on connection, a Renaissance of nuance, and a renewed unity of community!

And of course I feel compelled to add that as we undergo this revolution of connection, we must strive to treat one another with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. Honestly, I find these qualities lacking in our modern world as well. We are all perfectly capable of treating one another better, but it takes self control and a determination of will. It begins with us wanting to do better.

So, find ways to connect with others in a meaningful way. Unplug. Get real face-to-face time with others. Schedule unstructured time with your family with no screens and lots of conversation. Go out for lunch and coffee with friends. Make time for connection.

Join a church, social organization or bowling league. Heck, join a group you disagree with and work towards changing them from the inside. Just get out there!

Real connection takes real effort, and it is worth it. It pays big dividends with regard to improved mental and emotional health.

So, answer your inner call – your yearning – for connection. Let the revolution begin! And you’ll be glad you did.

Love to you, always.

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion