Why It’s So Important To Care More About Each Other.

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Further to our last discussion in and around freedom of Expression found here and here, I received some really thoughtful feedback on my blog, here on LinkedIn and also in my personal email inbox.

One such reflections that came to my inbox, so was thus not shared publicly, was from my dear Auntie Ruth Blaser.

Ruth is such a deep, thoughtful, and passionate person who dedicates her life to the acceptance. love, advocacy, and inclusion of others in many different realms, and is an inspiration and role model to many.

Here is what she had to say about Freedom Of Expression:

I have been following, thinking, trying to gather my own thoughts and wondering what I might have to say.

Last year I read a book called Healing the Heart of Democracy, by Parker Palmer who is a Quaker and a US citizen. The main theme of this book is that healthy democracy is shaped by citizens who give a rip about each other and the well being of the whole and participate in the democratic process to try make it work, albeit often frustrating as hell.

He writes about how individual hearts are interconnected with the heart of democracy.

When citizens do not cultivate hearts of compassion which are also informed about the complexities of this rapidly changing world, then democracy stumbles.

When democracy is shaped mostly by greed and entrenched opinion rather than reverence for all life … democracy is in trouble.

Democracy also has and needs laws, including laws on hate crimes and human rights. For example, as gay and lesbian people, our lives have been eased by human rights legislation which serve not only to protect us but allows us to take our place.

Some of you will remember the now ancient Kodak poster with a long row of the most adorable babies of all races and kinds and a caption under it that went something like this:

“Welcome to the world babies. Its round and wet, blue and green and beautiful. There’s only only rule I know of babies ….you’ve gotta be kind.”

Preventing the problem before it even has a chance to start. Brilliant. It may sound too simple, but do you think we have to make things more complicated?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Thank you Ruth.

Does Freedom of Expression Mean Anything Goes?

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Are there, or should there be limits to free expression? Does having freedom mean we are exempt from being responsible for ourselves and for how our words – both spoken and written – and created images affect others?

In an interesting article found here the Pope says states that freedom of speech is a fundamental human right and we have a duty to speak up for the sake of the common good.

But what if what we’re saying is not for the common good? What if it’s actually to shame, ridicule, insult, and put down another person or people group? Should we still be extended this same freedom? Maybe we should, but ought there to be limits?

Is it okay for us to do things that are quite simply bad, or mean, or intentionally hurtful and destructive?

I’m pretty torn on this one.

Even if we don’t agree with the choices of another, is it ever okay to be expressly violent with them? And if so, what’s the point?

What does it mean to have freedom? Does it mean we should just do or say whatever we want without regard to the health and well-being of our fellow men and women?

As a Canadian I am grateful to be living in a Free Country, but this freedom does have limitations. I am not free to intentionally and seriously physically harm or kill another person… And thank goodness for that.

Freedom does not extend to physical violence so why does it extend to verbal, written or otherwise expressed violence?

Why are some people saying it’s okay to intentionally and seriously emotionally or mentally harm another human being? Does this make sense at all?

Even if someone is not being good to us, does it mean it’s no holds barred and Carte Blanche for us to be mean, horrible, or awful to them?

Good goodness. To me, that sounds like total anarchy and chaos.

But this is a really tricky issue.

If there are limits to freedom of expression, and I’m inclined to think that if it were possible, it might be good for our personal well being, then who gets to decide what those limits are, and who is in charge of determining when those limits are breached?

This is a really tough issue and an important discussion we need to be having in the wake of conversations around the tragedy of the Charlie Hebdo Paris Terrorist attacks.

But enough from me. Let’s hear more from you.

It’s More Important to Listen than to Give Advice.

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When is the best time to give advice?

And the answer is… never.

And by never, I mean not ever. Unless, of course, we specifically ask the person if they are looking for our thoughts or suggestions regarding their troublesome situation, AND they reply “yes!” or they explicitly request our advice (but even then the person rarely actually wants your advice – they just want you to fix their problem for them which, of course, none of us can actually do).

You see, many of us believe in earnest that we are the experts on someone else’s life and if they’d only do what we’d do – okay, scratch that because many of us are actually terrible at taking our own advice – so rather, if only they’d do what we thinkthey SHOULD do, then their lives would be fixed, perfect, and all hunky dory.

But wait! How can we possibly be the expert on someone else’s life? Even if it’s someone we’ve lived with for 10, 20, or 30 years – can we actually know someone better than they know themselves? Can we really be as omniscient as this? Well maybe there’s someone out there who can, but by George tis not I.

SO, Julia, when people who come to us with their problems, complaints, challenges, hardships and belly aches and are NOT interested in our expertly curated, wisely formulated, and brilliantly thought of solutions to their problems, what the heck do they want from us?

Support and acceptance.

They are looking to be heard, acknowledged, and validated. Most of the time, unless otherwise overtly specified by them, that’s all. Not to say we always need to agree with the person’s actions or choices, but by coming to us they are simply asking us to hear them and be there for them.

Have you ever noticed that the best and most satisfying “problem solving” conversations you’ve had with someone when sharing your woes is when they just listen non-judgmentally to you, and really make you feel like they hear what you’re going through and where you’re coming from?

When you turn to someone in times of need what you want is to feel heard and acknowledged, and that’s typically all any of us wants.

It was one of the forefathers of modern psychotherapy, Carl Rogers, who wholeheartedly believed, researched, and experienced that given a safe, non-judgmental, caring and supportive environment most people are capable of coming to conclusions and solutions to their problems on their own.

We are often a lot smarter than we think AND we typically know better about what makes sense and works well for us than someone who hasn’t spent a lifetime in our shoes.

It’s funny how most of us REALLY like to give others advice and think we know what their solution is and what is best for them and can even upset ourselves tremendously if they don’t do what we think they should do, but if you think about it, how many of us REALLY like to get advice and expertise about our lives from someone else? Of course we’re allowed to have our own thoughts and opinions about others. And often it’s most effective when we keep those opinions to ourselves.

And in the case of this article here? Take what’s useful and leave the rest. AND of COURSE if you’ve been given the explicit feedback that your unsolicited advice is most welcome and tremendously useful to others, then by all means – don’t hesitate to keep giving it! Because, goodness knows, I am definitely not the expert on your life.

Emotional Offenders: Taking Them on Giuliani Style.

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Back in the mid-nineties when New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani embarked on his lofty mission to clean up the Big Apple and tackle its infamously high crime rate, one might be surprised to learn that his strategy did not focus on going after the big time, hardened, or most dangerous criminals.

Instead, he began by literally cleaning up the city. He did this by installing thousands more public garbage cans, restoring many run down historical buildings, removing an exorbitant amount of graffiti, and cracking down hard on more minor violations and small time offenders. He also invested tens of millions into actually cleaning up and revamping the decaying and dangerous subway system, and because of all this was able to create a different expectation for New Yorkers.

Soon after her started ticketing and arresting these small time offenders he was successfully able to send a city wide message that these small offenses would not be tolerated. It didn’t take long before public and criminal behaviour began to drop dramatically.

As smaller offenses were dealt with, and the message was clear they would not be accepted, larger, more serious crime began to drop considerably without it being specifically targeted any more than before. Kind of like a trickle up effect, if you will. Absolutely brilliant.

After being totally awestruck with this story, I couldn’t help but think about how many of us commit our own offenses right within our own thoughts and minds by the assaulting, destructive, aggressive, and downright violating messages we repeat both silently and aloud to and about ourselves on a very regular basis. Small time offenses, if you will.

So what I propose is for us all to initiate and apply the acclaimed Giuliani Approach on ourselves.

By beginning to consciously address, deal with, and rehabilitate some of these more minute offenders – the destructive thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours we carelessly allow ourselves to think, believe, and act on a regular basis – we will be amazed to find that all of a sudden some of our bigger internal emotional and psychological offenders and mental violators start to hear our new ZERO TOLERANCE message and begin to back off.

Once we can successfully send the message and spread the word to every part of ourselves that our new personal culture is about cleaner, safer, and more welcoming, compassionate, understanding, thoughts, words, behaviours, and expectations to and about ourselves, the big guys will automatically get the message that they better shape up or ship out.

Influential People: How Do They Do It?

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In his runaway bestselling book TheTipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell writes about a certain type of person he calls “senders.”

These people, he writes, “Are those who are very good at expressing their emotions and feelings [in a positive and uplifting way], which means they are far more emotionally contagious than the rest of us.”

These are the types of people who, after spending some time in their presence, we can’t help but absorb, take on, and be influenced by the energy they are sending out.

Have you ever been feeling kind of blah and then happen to have an encounter with one of these types exuding all kinds of positive emotion and energy, and then find yourself all of a sudden feeling so much better as you walk away with a smile on your face and a spring in your step? I sure have.

It makes me think of a client I met with a short while ago who had come to me for some career counselling. This woman had recently been laid off because of corporate downsizing and was now trying to figure out what to do next with her career.

Although feeling quite frustrated, discouraged, and somewhat stressed out about her work situation she still seemed to have a sort of underlying positive energy or attitude…

I can’t quite describe it, but I found myself getting a strong sense that even within her challenging situation, she was ready, willing, and eager to get out there and get going on the next thing – whatever that was going to be – con mucho gusto! (With much gusto).

She was just one of those senders who’s optimism and determination, although in the midst of turmoil, was so absolutely contagious that I found myself feeling a real joy and excitement while in her presence.

Her energy and attitude was so infectious that as our session wrapped up I couldn’t help but say to her “I know you are going to be tremendously successful, and whoever you end up working for will be absolutely thrilled at their good luck for having nabbed you up first.”

My only lament was that I didn’t have a position to offer her.

It was so interesting for me to notice myself picking up on her positive energy, being influenced by it, taking it in, and feeling it myself – and then giving that optimism and confidence right back to her.

What a motivating feedback loop and lesson on the importance of fostering and focusing on having a more positive attitude. I’d say this is a huge ROI.

This also brings it back to a previous post about how we have a lot of influence on how others treat us.

Encountering people like this is a really special and very inspiring experience. I can’t wait to have more!

I’d love to hear if any of you have encountered someone like this in your life.