Yesterday’s New York Times includes an editorial, “America, We Have a Problem,” that cites three core ingredients putting America at risk. The ingredients consist of “othering”, “aversion”, and “moralization”: basically, ingredients that denigrate a person or political party that holds opposing views, rather than finding common ground.
Punitive intolerance and anger are often found in tandem, as my latest podcast guest explains more fully. Mix in money, power, and race; then add media-stoked anger and you have a recipe for an explosion.
Calling it the “Turbulent Twenties,” the scholars Goldstone and Turchin have modeled economic and demographic trends that suggest a political crisis is brewing in America, on par with the Civil War era. When the country’s elites are keen on protecting their own selfish happiness, the risk is great that the general public’s feelings of disappointment and distrust will turn to rage. Almost 30 years ago Goldstone predicted the rise of a figure like Donald Trump. Now would be a good time for another Lincoln or FDR.
Anger, Politics, and the Health of American Democracy
Released today: episode #33 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Steven W. Webster, the author of American Rage: How Anger Shapes Our Politics. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.
Webster is an assistant professor of political science at Indiana University. His research and writings focus on the role of anger in American politics, including the growth of “negative partisanship” in our country, and the ever greater polarization separating Democrats and Republicans.
This episode covers the behavioral implications of anger in American politics, from increased intolerance, blame, and aggression, to an ever-deepening lack of trust in government’s efficacy. Among the topics being addressed is the role of the media and internet in stoking anger; how democratic norms are threatened by partisan taunting; and the way anger invites loyalty to party over country.
The number of Covid-19 cases is rising quickly again in America. If Donald Trump’s post-election shenanigans mean he’s serious about running for President again in four years, then it’s time to prepare for the political equivalent of Covid-24. No wonder so many Americans feel uneasy.
Anxiety is rooted in a feeling that you’re not up to handling the circumstances you face. That sensation can trigger profound, prolonged sadness (depression) because your situation feels hopeless.
Fortunately, the topic of my podcast this week involves seven habits people can foster to help them cope with adversity. Depending on your personality type and existing interests in life, you may gravitate to one or more of the following habits:
Three ways to make physical connections: by 1) exploring nature, 2) by having a household pet, and 3) by listening to your own body through breathing exercises like those yoga teaches.
Three ways to enhance your cognitive appreciation through: 4) enjoying the power of laughter, 5) music, and 6) stories.
The final habit is 7) spiritual: using prayers and meditation to anchor in something you do control, your own values and sense of being.
Dr. Christophe Morinhas received multiple speaking, publishing, and research awards during his career. He holds an MBA from BGSU, and both a MA and a Ph.D. in Media Psychology from Fielding Graduate University. The episode focuses on three transformational steps: better understanding your personality and motivations, practicing self-love, and finally choosing among seven habits those that may best help sustain you and bring you more inner calm.
With the Election next Tuesday, America is about to see how well the “glue” holds. Can our courts and police forces provide a sense of justice being impartially served? Or will we descend into bleak partisan chaos if the voting is close?
My concerns focus on the political divide between Democrats and Republicans with regard to the Supreme Court. A majority of the current Supreme Court Justices were appointed by presidents George W. Bush, Jr. and Donald Trump, who both lost the popular vote. Chief Justice John Roberts, Brett Kavanagh and Amy Coney Barrett were all part of the legal team that aided Bush in the fight to count or not count votes in Florida. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in Bush’s favor and the Florida recount ceased, giving the Presidential victory to Bush.
Recently the Washington Post reported that white nationalists were attempting to infiltrate law enforcement . Since wide-spread racial bias seems to exist across our society, aided by stereotypes, what are the odds these extremists could find fertile soil, at times, in trying to recruit allies that give them elbowroom?
Let’s hope for the best. But if legal maneuvering delivers an Electoral College victory to Trump, despite Joe Biden winning the popular vote, protests could erupt that will make the Black Lives Matter marches seem tame by comparison. Then how will the police respond? Will fears of racial strife, lost lives and looting make the perversion of democracy seem like the lesser “evil”? Over the next days and weeks leading up to Inauguration Day in January, we’re about to find out.
Abt is widely considered to be America’s foremost expert on the use of evidence-informed approaches to reduce urban violence. He is a Senior Fellow with the Council on Criminal Justice in Washington, DC. Prior to the Council, he held posts at Harvard University and in the U.S. Department of Justice. Other media outlets that have covered Abt’s work include the Atlantic, the Economist, Foreign Affairs, the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio.
In this episode, the topics range from the human and economic costs of violence, to how a focus on a limited number of bad people, bad places and bad behaviors can improve situations that may otherwise look hopeless. The interview’s final question raises the specter of whether police bias in favor of gun-toting white vigilantes could ever become a serious issue or not.
Oscar Wilde’s most famous play is The Importance of Being Earnest. But I’m here today to talk about the importance of disgust. Like contempt, disgust is an aversive, rejection emotion. But the two emotions are cousins, not twins. Contempt is an intellectual or attitudinal emotion—signaling distrust and disrespect. In contrast, disgust is the single most visceral emotion—signaling that something is poisonous: literally, physically, something stinks or tastes bad, and/or is morally repugnant.
In Tuesday night’s first—and I pray only—2020 presidential debate, Donald Trump oozed disgust—showing that emotion 10 times more often than Joe Biden. So what, you might say. Well, research shows that conservative people have greater disgust sensitivity. In other words, given their tried-and-true, less experimental nature, conservatives are far more likely to reject what’s new and unfamiliar. That conservative, disgust-sensitivity bias would seem to suggest that Trump was on-track by showing a glut of disgust on Tuesday. When, though, is lots of disgust too much of a bad thing?
Here are Tuesday’s emotional results:
In short, Trump went emotionally overboard and likely repelled undecided voters, who tend to be less interested in and, hence, more emotionally low-key about politics. Take the President’s constant interruptions of Biden and even the moderator, Chris Wallace, then add that lack of decorum to Trump’s massive showing of disgust and now you’ve got someone whose bully-dominance is telling voters intuitively, emotionally—beyond words alone—that he’s prepared to blow everything up to get re-elected. Right-wing militia types like the Proud Boys might be delighted. Largely apolitical voters as well as female suburban voters are, however, likely to be left both appalled and profoundly uneasy, tilting them in Biden’s favor.
Does It Smell Right?
The sense of smell is the oldest, most powerful sense we have. Its even the origins of the brain, meaning it should be I smell, therefore I think – not I think, therefore I am.
Why Has Hatred Become So Prevalent Today?
Released today: episode #21 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring Berit Brogaard, the author of Hatred: Understanding Our Most Dangerous Emotion(Oxford University Press 2020). Listen to the audioclip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.
What is it that makes hatred so addicting?
Berit is a Professor of Philosophy and a Cooper Fellow at the University of Miami. Her areas of research include the topics of perception, emotions, and language. She’s published five books, four with Oxford University Press over the past decade, plus The Superhuman Mind, published by Penguin in 2015.
Topics covered in this episode include:
The two-fold nature of hatred, which has both a personal dimension and a group dimension to it. Hatred runs hotter and longer than anger, having more intensity and an attitudinal element.
How a 6th trait, honesty-humility, is a contender to supplement to the usual Big 5 personality model because it brings into the equation the role of narcissism, and its likely relationship to contempt.
How it is that some relatively privileged white men could be so prone to hatred toward women and minorities, with that hatred growing in times of greater economic inequality.
The fantasy is that citizens carefully, rationally, sift through political messages and information, making consciously informed decisions about which candidate to support based on the issues of the day. The reality is that 75% of Americans can’t name all three branches of government, 20% believe the right to own a pet is enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and 10% of our country’s college graduates think Judge Judy is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.
So don’t think for a moment that emotions and intuitive, gut-reactions and biases don’t drive election results. How best to spot what a candidate is feeling?
Bear in mind that in ambiguous situations—think presidential debates—how we assess what’s being communicated is 55% from the face, 38% from the voice, and merely 7% from the words. Yes, facial expressions matter. So here is my cheat-sheet guide for you to use while watching the first debate on September 29th when the 7% of Americans who have supposedly not made up their minds may instead make up their hearts.
Special Upcoming Roundtable Edition of Podcast
Airing on October 2nd will be a special, one-hour edition of my “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast. It features a pair of political scientists, John Hibbing and Jonathan Weiler, who specialize in the emerging field of biopolitics: how our emotions, personality traits and even, perhaps, our DNA can predispose us to a liberal or conservative political orientation. This special edition will focus on how swing-voters in play may have responded to what they saw and heard during the 1st presidential debate.
Is It Expensive To Be Yourself?
Released today: episode #20 of my “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast, featuring Timothy R. Clark, the author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2020). Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.
How does any organization invite the true, full participation of its members?
Clark is the founder and CEO of LeaderFactor, and ranks as a global authority on senior executive development, strategy acceleration and organizational change. He’s the author of five book, and over 150 articles. Clark earned a doctorate degree in Social Science from Oxford University.
Topics covered in this episode include:
Why showing respect and granting permission are the keys to unlocking potential.
What lies beneath stunning statics like, only 36% of business professional believe their companies foster an inclusive company culture, and only one-third of workers believe their opinions count; whereas, 50% of workers report being treated rudely at work at least once a week.
How a leader’s “tell-to-ask” ratio relates to whether that person suffers from the narcissism that limits the effectiveness of so many leaders.
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.
$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 Far. Listen 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, there are people who consider happiness a “trivial” emotion in the business world. “Back to your desk and get to work.” Those might be the words of a domineering, old-fashioned boss. But truth be told, happiness is essentially about embracing others, yourself and new ideas. It’s an emotion that grows the pie. I’ve been thinking about the power of happiness this week because the country’s boss-man, Donald Trump, decided it would profit his campaign or simply his id to attack NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace in a tweet. Wallace’s response: “Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS. Love wins.”
The noose found in Wallace’s stall at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama by his race team led to NASCAR in general and racing legend Richard Petty in particular embracing the sport’s only full-time black driver. Due to Wallace’s cap and Petty’s sunglasses, I can’t say for sure. But given their expansive, inviting smiles, I would bet big-time that both guys are actually exhibiting joyous, true smiles, whereby the muscle around the eye tightens and creates a twinkle in the eye.
Happiness is also on my mind this week because, for my podcast, I interviewed a cheerful Caroline Stokes. One of her book’s best ideas is that a new hire would benefit from a small support team meeting at the end of that person’s first week on the job, and again at the 50- and 100-day mark, to help the new hire navigate without “crashing”. Such assistance made me think of Wallace and his 43 team yet again because doesn’t a support team function in effect like a NASCAR pit crew? Change the tires, refuel the tank, and you’re quickly on your way. If only the Trump administration’s response to covid-19 could function half as well.
Getting Up to Speed in a New Job
Released today: episode 9 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast, featuring Caroline Stokes, author of Elephants Before Unicorns. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode. And if you like what you hear, please subscribe, and give a rating and review on iTunes.
How does avoidance of conflict ultimately create more conflict in the workplace?
Stokes is the CEO of FORWARD, and the podcast host of The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter. She is an award-winning leadership coach and thinker, partnering with global leaders throughout their career and leadership cycle.
Topics covered in this episode include:
The emotions that inadvertently inspire the behavior of both push-over and bully bosses, and the likely emotional responses of their direct reports.
How the risk of employee disengagement can get short-circuited before it happens.
What are steps that can ensure a better on-boarding experience for the new employee, including CEO’s (whose turn-over rate is 50% within the first 18 months on the job).
There are two currencies in life: dollars and emotions. For the past 20 years in running my EQ-oriented market research firm Sensory Logic, Inc, I’ve tried to help clients achieve more “bang for their buck” by ensuring they create the greatest degree of emotional connection possible with prospects and existing loyal customers.
Every Thursday we will be dropping new episodes (including the first four, released last week), highlighting my conversations with prominent authors across a wealth of topics that include all aspects of business – from the marketplace to the workplace – as well as conversations about world events, culture, sports, psychology, and more. I’m hoping you’ll listen in, and if you like what you hear consider subscribing to my series as well as giving it positive ratings and reviews. Every little bit helps in launching an enterprise or project, as I’m sure all of you know well!