The Death of Tired Sales Assumptions

Black and white photo of Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock with arrows to facial expressions and their emotions expressed via facial coding, in the play "Death of a Salesman".
Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock on stage in Henry Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Two plays have most defined how we see salespeople. One is shown here, from the original staging on Broadway of Henry Miller’s classic Death of a Salesman. There’s rage, but most of all there’s sadness in a drama in which Lee J. Cobb (playing the broken-down salesman Willy Lowman) moans: “The only thing you’ve got in this world is what you can sell.” In vain his wife, played by Mildred Dunnock, tries to comfort him.  

“The only thing you’ve got in this world is what you can sell.”

Lee J. Cobb in Death of a Salesman

What’s the other play? It’s David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. Again, rage plays a role but really the key emotion is the fear that gets instilled in a crew of salesmen. From the film adaptation that added the character of Blake, played by Alec Baldwin, here is the movie’s most famous moment: “We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody wanna see the second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired.”

“We’re adding… to this month’s sales contest…first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado…Third prize is, you’re fired.”

Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross

Let’s broaden and update the picture. As Daniel H. Pink pointed out in To Sell is Human, we’re all salespeople. Something like 40% of our time on the job is devoted to cajoling—persuading—selling others on what we would like to see happen.

What’s the real key emotion of effective sales nowadays? It’s surprise: eyes-wide-open curiosity. As Colleen Stanley points out in this week’s podcast, a salesperson who’s constantly learning about prospects, their needs, their hopes, their fears, and how to better connect with them, including online during Covid-19, is who you actually want to hire. Yes, steak knives are for losers but not in the way Blake meant. Serving up spoonfuls of comfort and hope would be more like it.

A Few Sales Tips

Using EQ to Build a Great Sales Team

Released today: episode 19 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Colleen Stanley, the author of Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode. 

What does it take to connect successfully with somebody you’re trying to “win over”? 

Stanley is the president of SalesLeadership, a sales development firm. She’s been named by Salesforce as one of the top sales influencers of the 21stcentury and also a Top 30 Global Sales guru.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • In hiring, what should you be on against in both yourself and the job candidate? An eye for the “something” missing that you may or may not be able to resolve is one key.
  • Exploring a variety of buyer personas, including specifically: The Poker Face prospect, The Nitpicker, and The Glad-Hander. How best to dislodge an incumbent vendor so you can make the sale?
  • What is mean by helping a person on your sales team “untell” a story that is hindering that person’s effectiveness.

Dan Hill, Ph.D., is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Why Six to Seven Participants Is Ideal

What size work team is most efficient? Hint: the number of fishermen in this 19th century painting provides the answer. Tom Peters has suggested that teams shouldn’t be bigger than what two large pizzas can feed (about six to seven people). Along those same lines – a listener should ideally be within five feet of a speaker to hear well. Sitting almost shoulder-to-shoulder, that precept limits a group to no more than seven members.

In a year where Learning Pods are sprouting up as private tutors offer in-person learning to small groups of children, I’m following suit. Forget anonymous-feeling webinars; I prefer to foster a sense of community and intimacy, through a highly interactive experience. Until a safe vaccine arrives to save us all, I’m launching EQ Learning Pods capped at six participants each.

The content will cover six areas:

  • Executive Leadership
  • Manager-led Workplace Culture
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Market Research
  • Customer Experience (CX)

The insights presented in these pods arise from my 20+ years of research studies conducted for over 50% of the world’s top 100 companies, plus the information contained in my eight books, speeches, books I’ve been influenced by, and what I’ve learned from hosting great authors on my podcast. The pods have been distilled into 45-minute select portions of content to spur questions and discussion. To learn more, go to www.sensorylogic.com for details, and to enroll. EQ Learning pod sessions are limited to six persons at the cost of $25 a person. I look forward to being your guide!

Deep Listening & Seeing, Deeper Learning

Touching the Soul: Musical and Psychoanalytical Listening

Released today: episode 18 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring Roger Kennedy, the author of The Power of Music: Psychoanalytic Explorations. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Why is music so powerful in eliciting emotions?

Now at The Child and Family Practice in London, Kennedy is a training analyst and past President of the British Psychoanalytical Society. This is his fourteenth book.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The ability of music to reward close listening because of qualities like movement and the web of interactions involved.  
  • How music can draw on and has parallels to a range of situations, like “baby talk” sounds shared by mother and child, and the sounds animals make (especially in mating rituals). 
  • Discussion of parallels between music and entering a dream state, rich with free association as opposed to a concrete, logically coherent “narrative”

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

“Palace” Intrigue

Researchers who study chimpanzees have found they will forgo food, if need be, to maintain a clear view of their leader’s face. Survival depends on knowing how your boss is feeling. Is now a good time to seek a favor? Or is it best to hide and stay out of harm’s way? Human beings are genetically 99% the same as chimpanzees, and we behave similarly. For us, too, palace intrigue provides both entertaining gossip and vital survival tips.

Let’s start with the entertainment. Anybody who watched the final night of the Republican National Convention last Thursday was treated to Melania Trump revealing her true feelings about Ivanka Trump. Melania’s forced smile turned to lip-curling scorn and a glassy-eyed stare the moment Donald Trump’s favorite child passed by the First Couple to join them at the podium. A jealous rivalry for the president’s affection and attention underlies the moment. That the Donald finds his daughter attractive enough to have basically lusted after her on an episode of Howard Stern’s radio show is an open secret.

As to survival, we’re all screwed if the Donald has his way. The second photo shows Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director Stephen Hahn apologizing for hyping the benefits of a Covid-19 plasma therapy the day after Trump bullied Hahn into doing so. Hahn’s forehead wrinkles make his concern transparent. Add in other shenanigans like preferring not to test asymptomatic people (to hide the dimensions of the pandemic), and you’ve got a serious case of Trump trying to have the government protect his re-election interests over our health interests as citizens. Welcome to the jungle.

Data Manipulation

$3.3 Trillion Dollars of Greed, Fear & Inertia

Released today: episode #17 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring Paul Offit, the author of Overkill: When Modern Medicine Goes Too FarListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Why Do Unnecessary and Often Counter-Productive Medical Interventions Happen So Often? 

Offit is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. A prolific author, he’s also well known for being the public face of the scientific consensus that vaccines have no association with autism.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The degree to which opportunities to make money and avoid law suits drives the behavior of doctors, though inertia and unwillingness to accept advances in knowledge are also common explanations for being at times too active in treating patients.
  • How the marketing campaigns of pharmaceutical companies can warp treatment plans.
  • The conclusions from countless studies that in at least the 15 common medical interventions covered in this book, many patients are better off with more basic, common sense approaches like eating well, exercise, et cetera.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Working Remotely, Feeling Likewise

In The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, there’s the entry: “ALONE, adj. In bad company.” On the packaging of this mock Fisher-Price product offering, the despair of a crying baby is a burden wine promises to relieve. While “Covid-19” will win hands-down as 2020’s Word of the Year, being “remote” from colleagues, from happiness, and from one’s other numbed feelings, should be on the runners-up list. Look at the upside: at least this parody product isn’t cross-branded with Clorox to include ingesting some bleach to solve your woes!

A World of Zooming and Zapping

Another runner-up for Word of the Year in 2020: Zoom, in all its manifestations. For everything from conference calls to being fired.

Communicating Virtually Is Like Eating Pringles Forever

Released today: episode 16 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring Nick Morgan, the author of Can You Hear Me? Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Image of Author Nick Morgan and his book cover "Can you Hear Me? How to Connect with People in a Virtual World. The Book cover is blue with yellow and green communication doodles. The title of the podcast episode is Communicating Virtually is Like Eating Pringles Forever.

How can we protect ourselves amid the emptiness and treachery of virtual communication?

Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches. He’s written for Fortune 50 CEOs as well as for political and educational leaders, and coached people for events ranging from TED talks to giving testimony to Congress.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • What’s the likeliest way to lose the trust of others during a conference call, and how can you best hope to restore it? 
  • Why are most online webinars a disaster and what kind of format improves them best?
  • If powerpoint presentations are no longer the way to go in selling to prospects in online calls, what’s the alternative?

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Forget Look-Alike, It’s Time for FEEL-ALIKE

Mona Lisa smirking as much as smiling, while also looking sad and angry. Alongside her image, a man with eyes striking wide, mouth ajar, looking frightened.
What is the enigmatic Mona Lisa feeling in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece? Find out here, plus the emotions shown in Gustave Courbet’s self-portrait The Desperate Man.

Back on May 21st, I posted the blog “For Portraits and Selfies: A Case of Money See, Monkey Not-Quite-Do.” That blog was about people – especially artists – cooped up at home during Covid-19 quarantining, choosing to adopt the poses of famous paintings and photographs. Now it’s your turn. I’m holding a selfies contest in which the winning entry for each image will be chosen based on replicating the expressions shown. The deadline for entries is September 1st. You can submit your entries for either painting or both. Email your entries to dhill@sensorylogic.com.

The two winners will receive a free pass to attend one of the private, virtual lectures that I’m giving in September, based on my recent book First Blush: People’s Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art. The lectures cover findings from my study – the largest ever done involving eye tracking and art, plus the use of facial coding, to capture how participants felt about what they were specifically noticing.

What Is the Emotional Baseline of Republicans and Democrats?

It’s known as biopolitics – research indicating that your political loyalties are often
revealed by which emotions you gravitate to most readily. Watch this video to see if it’s true of you, too, i.e. do you fit your party’s mold?

Exploring Misunderstandings about Trump’s “Deplorable” Fans

Released today: episode #15 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring John R. Hibbing, the author of The Securitarian Personality: What Really Motivates Trump’s Base and Why It Matters for the Post-Trump Era (published by Oxford University Press). Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Image of Author, John R. Hibbing and his book "The Securitarian Personality" Which has an image of Trump as Uncle Sam on the cover
John H. Hibbing is an expert in the field of biopolitics – how our personality traits and characteristic emotions often reflect our political leanings. This book shows how Trump’s fans are and are not a departure from traditional Republican supporters.

What are the policy implications due to a fundamental distrust and dislike of “outsiders”?

Hibbing teaches political science at the University of Nebraska and has been both a NATO fellow in Science and a Guggenheim Fellow. Media appearances have included Star Talk, The Hidden Brain, and The Daily Show.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • What are people’s biggest misconceptions about Trump’s staunchest supporters? 
  • How are Trump’s fans different from the Republican party’s traditional base?
  • In a battle over the soul of whether America might be a democracy or an oligarchy in the future, which option might securitarians favor and why?

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Good, Bad and Ugly Bosses

The many (same) expressions of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick

Workplace scholars agree that about 20-25% of all bosses qualify as “bad” (bully) bosses. Maybe your luck has been better than mine. But of the five bosses I had after my Ph.D. program and before I started my company, two of them were bad, bully bosses – a rate of 40%. 

Submissions to my partially crowdsourced new book The Devil’s Dictionary of Work Life (in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond) are arriving. See my web site, where I have a list of definitions waiting to be “deviled” in the spirit of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, e.g. ALONE, adj. In bad company. Naturally, “boss” is one of the terms awaiting diabolical definitions. 

Also feel free to offer your own terms. I hope you will contribute a few. We could all use a little fun about now, given five crises at once: health, economic, racial, democratic, and climatic.

Speaking of bosses, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick (shown above) qualifies as a good, bad and ugly boss all at the same time. Yes, Belichick is unquestionably brilliant and successful. My favorite quote from the guy is that the key to his record is that he “coaches the players I have” (not the the players he wishes he had on the roster) and “keeps it simple” so players don’t “f*** it up.” Shrewd realism: that’s the good part. The bad part is Deflategate and the other scandals that have dogged The Patriots during Belichick’s reign. The ugly part explains why Tom Brady decided he had had enough of Belichick’s dour personality and signed with Tampa Bay. 

Coach Belichick is famous for his “monochromatic” give-nothing-away demeanor on the sideline during a game. But as my analysis shows, the guy’s characteristic expression is anything but blank. Being a perfectionist, Belichick is endlessly disappointed based on what he sees unfolding on the field as well as annoyed that he’s not winning 73-0!

The emotional casualties caused by bad, bully bosses at work exceeds those killed or wounded in the Vietnam War.

How to Survive & Thrive on the Job

Released today: episode #14 of my “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring Art Markman, the author of Bring Your Brain to Work. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode. 

University of Texas Psychology and Marketing professor Art Markman and his book Bring Your Brain to Work, is the latest guest on “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight" podcast

What does it take to both fit in and yet also prosper and grow as a person in the workplace?

The Long-Term Value of Human Relationships

Markman is a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, where he also runs the university’s Human Dimensions of Organizations program. Besides his books, Art writes blogs for Psychology Today and Fast Company, and has a radio show/podcast called “Two Guys on Your Head.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The emotions that often get exhibited in relation to each of the Big 5 traits of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism – as well as how a “dream team” working on a special project will embody a variety of those traits.
  • Bosses who punish negligence instead of failure.
  • The signals in a job interview that might reveal the kind of corporate culture you’d be stepping into.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Crowdsourcing The Devil’s Dictionary of Work Life

Images of three Devil's Dictionary books, and how to submit an entry for Dan Hill's crowdsourcing book

What an exposé is to journalism, satire is to literature: the use of humor to address and (possibly) right a wrong. One of my favorite examples is The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, a contemporary of Mark Twain. For example, BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen. A few years back, Jason Zweig, a personal-investing columnist for the Wall Street Journal, tried his hand at this approach, too, with The Devil’s Financial Dictionary, including for example: IRRATIONAL, adj. A word used to describe any investor other than yourself.

Now here’s your opportunity to join the fun! I’m crowdsourcing The Devil’s Dictionary of Work Life. To submit entries for any of the terms listed on my web site – or terms you want to suggest – go to my web site and add your contribution. Illustrations are welcome, too! 

This is my first entry: DIVERSITY, n. In senior management, a short white guy. And the guest on this week’s episode of my podcast, Cary Cooper, wrote this entry: APOLOGY LAUNDERING, v. The laundering of bland corporate boilerplate faux apologies like “It’s never our intention to cause offence” so that it comes out smelling like ‘sorry’, thereby allowing the media to assume the role of judge as well as jury.

What Inspired Me to Create The Devil’s Dictionary of Work Life?

From discovering Bierce’s classic to my first forays into the business world, here’s my journey and the opportunity to reflect on your own. As to other instances of corporate b.s. and the very real and often highly emotional stakes of work life, Cary Cooper offer plenty of insights.

Why Managers Should Say: “Sorry, I Wasn’t Feeling”

Released today: episode 13 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Cary Cooper, the author of most recently The Apology Impulse and Wellbeing at Work. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Image of the book "The Apology Impulse" by knighted author, Cary Cooper, This book explains why companies are apologizing like crazy

What are best-practices for alleviating stress in the workplace?

Cooper is the author/editor of over 250 books, and the president of the British Academy of Management. An advisor to the World Health Organization and the EU, he’s received both a knighthood and the CBE award from the Queen of England for “extraordinary contributions” to society.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The difference between operational and cultural failures, and why CEOs find it easier to apologize for the latter by pretending the problem has to do with the former.
  • The percentage of workers who feel bullied by a boss at work on a constant basis, and Cooper’s estimation of the percentage of bosses who won’t be able to benefit from EQ-training and, therefore, should be given roles that don’t involve managing people.
  • What the implications and solutions for huge CEO pay amid what could now prove to be the single most significant economic downturn in our lives (due to Covid-19).

Dan Hill, PhD, is the President of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Wealth Meets Supposed Legal Might

Zuckerberg shows anger; Bezos shows happiness, anger, fear & sadness; Cook shows surprise, fear and sadness; Pichai shows disgust. All four executives have eyes opened wide, showing anger, fear and surprise.

Yesterday these four tech executives testified via video chat before the antitrust committee of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee. If you’re a Christian steeped in the Bible’s book of Revelation, their joint appearance might suggest to you The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: riders symbolizing pestilence, war, famine, and death. As a consumer or a woebegone business competitor of these four executives, however, you’re more likely to be wondering: who will ever restore our TRUST in antitrust enforcement?

From left to right, you’re viewing three household names and a fourth, Sundar Pichai, who now runs Alphabet (i.e. Google). What do Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, and Pichai have in common in these four photographs atop Wednesday’s New York Times article about the pending hearing?  The answer is eyes wide open, as if the four men are alert to seizing on new opportunities as they operate de facto monopolies, or at least duopolies, in domains like online search, online marketplaces, app stores, and advertising sales.

Have unfair, even illegal acts been committed by these tech giants? That’s for Congress and federal prosecutors to decide. Much clearer is that the FBI estimates losses from white-collar crime of between $300 to $600 billion annually. In contrast, the total is $4 billion a year for the blue-collar crimes of burglary and robberies. Don’t waste your energy; you needn’t guess which type of crime has the higher conviction rate.

On Economic Mobility & Learning Capacity

This week’s podcast episode concerns the story of a 150-pound, high school viola player jumped by three plain-clothes police officers who found him “suspicious looking.” Yes, an innocent black kid living in Homewood, a downtrodden neighborhood in Pittsburgh founded by Andrew Carnegie long, long ago, is a far cry from the wealth being generated in Silicon Valley. In today’s video, I briefly address why eyes wide open – curiosity – learning capacity – is emerging as the key to success in life.

Released today: episode #12 of Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight podcast series, featuring David A. Harris, the author of A City Divided: Race, Fear and the Law in Police Confrontations. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode that appears on the world’s largest book podcast with over 1.2 million downloads monthly.

David A. Harris' photo and his book cover "A City Divided Race, fear, and the Law in Police Confrontations" will be on Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast

How do we move police forces from a warrior culture to connecting better with communities they serve? 

Harris is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s law school and is the leading U.S. authority on racial profiling. In addition to also being the author of Profiles in Injustice (2002). Harris hosts the podcast Criminal Injustice.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • Harris’s vantage point on what the Minnesota legislature got right and only half-right in recently approving a police accountability measure in the wake of the George Floyd killing.
  • Why navigating fear and anger is so hard for both black suspects and the police alike.
  • What role a lack of familiarity – and trust – plays for officers and suspects in trying to avoid escalating their encounters.
New Books Network and Dan Hill's EQ  Spotlight podcast logos

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Adverse Circumstances, and a Bad Boss

Now blissfully many years ago, I survived two bad bosses in a row. The first was so capriciously mean-spirited that one day on the job our department secretary, a sweet, devout older woman, called me over with glee to tell me the latest joke making the rounds. “Why is Linda going on vacation?” The punchline was so she could write a new introduction to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Half a dozen lawsuits against the company for being subjected to “mental cruelty” would soon be filed by my colleagues. 

As to the other boss, well, that person ran a public relations operation with New York City real estate moguls as clients (Donald Trump wasn’t among them). By my second week at that firm, my neck was iron-tight and incapable of turning even a quarter-inch either direction with ease due to the stress of working there. When I confided my condition to a coworker, she breezily remarked: “Oh, everybody gets sick here by their second week on the job.”

Many of us have had bad bosses, but the two men I’m highlighting this week have it worse than most everyone. They’re stuck in dire circumstances. The first is obviously Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has to deal with the coronavirus and Trump’s back-biting. The other is Bill Stepien, Trump’s new manager of a campaign dealing with both Trump’s self-induced chaos and a double-digit deficit in the presidential race against Joe Biden. Fauci is certainly the kinder spirit of the two men. Stepien’s biggest claim to fame is being fired by former New Jersey governor Chris Christie for exhibiting “callous indifference” amid Christie’s Bridgegate scandal. Come to think of it that makes for a third, bad boss. That’s because I had taken on being manager of Christie’s first, brief foray into politics. The lure? Christie was challenging a fellow Republican who had claimed women were incapable of being good judges given their menstrual cycles.

What do Fauci and Stepien have to do now? Engage in what I call “reverse innovation”: whereby the situation is so dire that you have to practice creativity and triage both aggressively at the same time in order to have any chance of success. I’ll be elaborating on what “reverse innovation” means in a business context in my video below.

Reverse Innovation: Creativity & Triage

Creativity & Innovation, Demystified

Released today: episode #11 of Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight podcast series, featuring Nir Bashan, author of The Creator Mindset: 92 Tools to Unlock the Secrets to Innovation, Growth, and Sustainability. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode, hosted on the New Books Network (NBn).

Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight Podcast features a photo of Nir Bashan and his book's cover, The Creator Mindset

Why is the corporate fallback being “analytical” (as opposed to nurturing creativity)?

Bashan is a creativity expert who has spent the past two decades devising a formula for sustained creativity. Besides his blue-chip corporate clients, Bashan has also worked on album, movies and advertisements for people like Rod Stewart and Woody Harrelson, won a Clio and been nominated for an Emmy. This is his first book.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • Creativity’s three unlikely personal traits (hint: courage is one of them).
  • Why self-doubt and complacency are both threats to successful innovation, and how to overcome each in turn.
  • Design obstacles Bashan has witnessed, plus five more from my book Emotionomics.

Dan Hill, PhD is the President of Sensory Logic, Inc.

The Intersection of Ambition, Anger and Fear

In my book Two Cheers for Democracy, the correlation between anger and disgust (versus happiness) and being a totalitarian leader was clear-cut. China’s Xi Jinping fits the mold, leaving Betsy DeVos a wanna-be dictator.
Don’t let Xi Jinping’s smile or Betsy DeVos’s fear fool you; they’re both determined as can be.

Lately, I’ve been obsessing over how anger and fear are often two sides of the very same coin: fight-or-flight responses to danger. I got there, first, due to the three-headed monster of Covid-19, the resulting economic tailspin, and the justified civil unrest ignited by the murder of George Floyd. In every case people feel uncertainty, a sense of circumstances beyond their control. Where things get emotionally complex is that fear can turn into anger. That’s because the anxiety that comes with uncertainty can—in an emotional sleight-of-hand maneuver—be “resolved” by anger that offers relief from danger by compelling us forward to take charge of our destiny. (See my earlier blog, Anger Management: Emojis Cloud the Picture)

So I started my obsession by seeing how fear and anger intertwine around the issue of control. Then I started looking more broadly at another intersection: between ambition and a desire for control. That step brings me today to China’s leader Xi Jinping and to the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. 

I can’t think of anybody more ambitious on the world stage right now than Xi. From the crackdown in Hong Kong, to almost daily military incursions into the waterways and air space of Taiwan, to suppressing the birthrate in the Muslim province of Xinjiang, China is on the march. And that’s just a part of Xi’s goal of overturning the previous century of Western domination. Look at Xi’s facial expressions and the one constant is low-grade smiles tightened by the presence of anger. And yet underlying that anger is concern about whether China’s Communist Party can maintain its control over its vast population. 

Turning to America’s home front, DeVos’s facial expressions on national TV this past weekend were a study in fear. How to justify sending students and teachers back into the classroom this fall with a pandemic raging and no meaningful federal government response? From Fox News to CNN, DeVos dutifully made the media rounds: angerly supporting Donald Trump’s threat to cut off funds to school districts that don’t comply by opening up again soon. At the same time, however, that DeVos’s words ran hot her face betrayed anxiety whenever she was challenged by a news anchor to explain how this will all work. Open-eyed looks and rising eyebrows did nothing to convey assurance that this will all work out as not-planned. What didn’t waver was DeVos’s long-cherished goal of challenging the validity of public schools, given her faith- and class-based preference for “saving America” with more private, parochial schools.

This week’s new podcast is also to no small degree about fear, anger and ambition. My interview of novelist Siri Hustvedt concerns the character of S.H., who moves to New York City to become a writer and must cope with isolation, self-doubt and slights, large and small, from various men –culminating in a guy attempting to rape her. That scene falls at literally the midpoint of the novel, with half its pages still to follow. And there at the heart of the book occurs a change of heart, as S.H.’s greater assertiveness is manifested most clearly in the pocketknife that she begins to carry around with her for self-protection.

Now, not everyone carries a knife (or a gun). But in every case, anger can become a virtual weapon—perpetuating harm—or a benign source of self-empowerment. The choice of how we utilize anger lies at least somewhat within our conscious powers of control. Stay tuned: anger and fear aren’t going anywhere. Those two emotions will undergird almost every major news story you read for the rest of 2020. Of that much, I can assure you.  

Coping with Danger: How to Build Up Your Resiliency

Mysteries of Time & Memory

Released today: episode 10 of Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight podcast, featuring Siri Hustvedt, the author of the novel Memories of the Future. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Esteemed novelist Siri Hustvedt foreshadowed the #metoo movement with her novel about a young women who fights against male condescension.
The novelist investigates the vagaries of memory as recollection changes every narrative.

How Do We Write Our Personal History at the Same Time That It’s Written for Us?

The Literary Review (UK) has called Hustvedt “a twenty-first-century Virginia Woolf.” She’s the author of seven novels, four collections of essays, and two works of nonfiction. Hustvedt has a PhD in English literature from Columbia University and lectures in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. She is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the European Essay Prize.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • What it can mean to be a heroine instead of a hero, including in regards to which emotions might conventionally be considered “off-limits.”
  • The role that the author’s over-a-dozen drawings play in this novel.
  • Musings on what the roots of ambition might be, and how ambition and shame, as well as memory and imagination are often intertwined.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.