So It Really Is A Popularity Contest

So It Really Is A Popularity Contest

Good, Sue Shellenbarger in the Wall Street Journal finally said it…”likability matters more than ever at work.”

Yes, you also need to know your subject matter and be able to perform like a pro, but just that alone is not enough.

If your a card or a jerk, no one wants to know you.

The old Jewish thinking about being a mensch, first and foremost, still holds true.

“Likable people are more apt to be hired, get help at work, get useful information from others, and have mistakes forgiven.”

Employees also track employees likability on social networks and recruit those who can well represent them and make transformative changes.

What contributes to likability:

1. Be Authentic – an ounce of sincerity is worth more than a boatload of of b.s. — people see right through it.

2. Use Positive Cues – eye contact, smiling naturally, and a warm, varying, and enthusiastic tone make you approachable and believable.

3. Show interest in others – selfishness, narcissism, and I, I, I will get you no friends; show genuine interest in the other person–be cognizant of what’s in it for them–give a damn!

4. Listen – 2 ears, 1 mouth; close the mouth and listen to the other person–don’t just hear them, understand them, empathize, feel something!

5. Find common ground – look for shared interests or commonalities; we can all relate to others with whom we can identify.

Short and sweet, treat others as you would want to be treated (Golden Rule) and it doesn’t pay to be a ass! 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Solitary Social Creatures

Solitary

We’ve all had the feeling of being alone, abandoned, and feeling down and out.

As social animals, we crave being with others–even the biggest introverts out there have got to have social interaction.

Sometimes, when young people live alone–before finding their significant others or old people live alone–after losing their significant others, there is a deep pain of being isolated in the world…almost as if there is no meaning itself in being alive.

Yet, others seem to adjust in a way to living alone, as long as they can reach out and get social interaction in other ways–family, friends, colleagues, classmates, at clubs, religious institutions, and more.

Either way–“No man is an island,” as John Donne wrote in 2003.

Being alone is torture.

No really.

The Wilson Quarterly (Spring 2012) in an article entitled “The Torture of Solitary,” by Stephanie E. Griest is about the purpose and effects of solitary confinement as rehabilitation and as a punishment.

Coming out of the Middle Ages, where physical torture was common–dungeons instead of jails, cages instead of cells, racks and rippers instead of rehabilitation and yard recess–the Philadelphia Quakers in the 18th century, had the idea that solitary confinement was humanitarian.

They believed that “what these prisoners needs…was a spiritual renovation. Give a man ample time and quiet space to reflect upon his misdeeds, and he will recover his bond with G-d.  He will grieve. He will repent. He will walk away a rehabilitated man.”

And so prisons (like the 1829 Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia) were built with entirely isolated cellblocks and prisoners were engulfed in silence and aloneness.

Any rejection of the mental torture of isolation through any form of communication–such as pipe clanging or shouting through flushing toilet pipes–could lead to yet again physical tortures–such as “strapped inmates into chairs for days at a stretch, until their legs ballooned” or even putting their tongues in “iron gags.”

The article concludes from the effects of solitary that “the physical pain of these tortures–common in many prisons at the time-paled beside the mental anguish of solitude.”

From the horror-mangled looks on the faces of the prisoners, Dickens wrote: “I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.”

I cannot imagine the pain and horror of these tortures by design–physical and mental. In all cases, the scars of the flesh and soul are probably indescribable and outright haunting to even the imagination.

Eventually the horrible effects of solitary and the high-cost of prison cells housing individual inmates, resulted in Eastern State Penitentiary being converted into a museum in 1971 with the “The crucible of good intention” finally shuttered.

From the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Miller, we read:

“A considerable number of prisoners fell, even after a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others, still committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.”

“In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court nearlydeclared the punishment unconstitutional;” it is now used mostly for “short-term punishment for exceedingly bad behavior.”

Currently, there are more than 60 prisons across the country with solitary cells housing up to 25,000 prisoners.

This is a puzzle–what do you do with offenders that are too dangerous to be with others, but as human beings too fragile to be alone?

What is striking to me is how something as “simple” as putting someone by themselves and incommunicado can drive them literally nuts!

Almost like we cannot bear to be by ourselves–what is it about ourselves that we must turn away from, be distracted from, and causes such inner horror?

Our minds and bodies need to be active to be healthy, this includes being social–being alone and bored in solitary has been shown to cause people to hallucinate, go insane, and even kill themselves.

Yet still people recoil from other people–emotionally, they may be turned off or nauseated by them; physically, they may fight, separate, or divorce and end up for a time by themselves again–people make the decision that it is better to cut your familiar loses, then go down with a ship filled with corrosive and abusive others.

I imagine Buddhists meditating in the mountains or in an open field–alone and yet at peace–but this is self-imposed and temporary and more like a “time out” in life.

Then I see humans languishing in dungeons and in solitary confinement–physically and mentally tortured–they scream out in the void–and I see G-d reaching out to finally take them from their immense suffering to be reborn and try their lives again.

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Deisel Demon)

Are You Thing 1 or 2?

Tees

The old Dr Seuss story of The Cat In The Hat had the crazy part when “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” jump out from under The Cat’s hat and proceed to make a messy house disaster even worse.

Recently, I saw some people wearing the matching type shirts–you know the ones that that generate attention–bright red, with one shirt saying “Thing 1” and the other person’s shirt saying “Thing 2.”
It was cute the way the family members were connected through the shirts, and I smiled to myself thinking, like in the children’s story, which one is the bigger “trouble-maker” in this family–Thing 1 or 2?
Today, I saw this picture online of these twins, again with these matching type t-shirts, but this time, one said “Ctrl + C” and the other one had written on it “Ctrl + V” — these are the well-known Microsoft commands for copy and paste.
I guess with twins, the copy-paste imagery makes a lot of sense–copy kid 1, paste, and there you have it, kid 2.
Generally, t-shirts have messages about peace, rock and roll bands, corporate branding, or satire of some sort–I wouldn’t say it’s exactly a fashion statement, but more of an identity thing–how we choose to brand ourselves in a world of 7 billion people. It’s not necessarily about who we are, but more like how we choose to identify ourselves–a meaningful one for example, is for breast cancer awareness.
I remember as a kid, my sister, who was a budding biomedical scientist, bought me t-shirts from a scientific catalogue–so that I was wearing the Periodic Table and Einstein on my chest from very early on in life.  While I always did like science too, it was not what I ended up pursuing, but I would still wear these shirts today, because in some ways, I still identify with science and psychology and learning and so on.
These days, if I had to choose some t-shirt themes, I am pretty sure technology and futurism would be in the mix. Then again, my current t-shirts include a hefty mix of Rocky and Everlast–you see identity is a complex subject. Also, a whole bunch came 4 for 10–who can say no to a sale? 😉
A simple t-shirt, and the messaging can take you from Dr. Seuss to Microsoft, the Periodic Table and to the future (or even to the bargain bin).
What are you wearing–who are you?
(Source Photo: here)

Swarming For Social Order and Disorder

Swarm

A swarm is a large number of organisms generally in motion.  According to Swarm Theory, the collective exhibits superior intelligence or abilities beyond that of any individual.

Swarms are powerful forces that we see in our society today in everything from the worldwide riots of 2011 to crowdsourcing on the Internet–to put it simply as they say, “there is power in numbers.”

And swarms and their immense power dates back to the Bible, where the 8th plague sent on Egypt in Deuteronomy 10:14-15 was the plague of locusts:

“And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt…for they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees…”

This past year, we saw the power of swarms in the riots around the globe–from Tahir Square to Occupy Wall Street. In the case of Egypt, Mubarak was deposed after ruling for 30 years and in the case of Wall Street, the Occupy movement sparked protests around the globe lasting for many months.

Similarly, swarms are being put to the test in multiple military applications from the Army’s Future Combat System (since renamed) that envision brigades of manned and unmanned combat vehicles linked via an ultra-fast network creating a highly coordinated and maneuverable fighting force to DARPA’s iRobotSwarm Project creating a mesh network of mobile robots with sensors that can coordinate and perform surveillance and reconnaissance gaining dominance over the battlefield.

The power of the swarm is not just a physical phenomenon, but also a virtual one where crowdsourcing is used online to do everything from building incredible sources of knowledge like Wikipedia to soliciting citizens ideas for solving national problems such as on Challenge.gov.

Traditionally, the power behind the swarm (in nature whether bees, ants, or locusts) was the collective behavior of so many to attack an enemy, build a colony, or ravage the landscape. Today however, the swarm is powerful because of its collective intelligence–whether in pooling information, vetting ideas, or just coordinating activities with such sophistication that the group can outwit and outmaneuver its opponents.

Wired Magazine  has an article for the new year (January 2012) called “Crowd Control” in which the riots of 2011 are viewed as  both “dangerous and magnificent”–they represent a disconnected group getting connected, a mega-underground casting off its invisibility to embody itself, formidably, in physical space.”

“Today’s protest, revolts, and riots are self-organizing [and] hyper-networked”–and just like a swarm, individuals deindividuate and base their ideas and actions on the shared identify of the group and therein, a social psychology takes hold and with basic communication and social technology today, they can spontaneously form potent flash mobs, “flash robs,” or worse.

The age old phenomenon of swarming behavior is intersecting with the 21st century technology such as smartphones and social media to create the ability of individuals to gather, act decisively, disperse into the crowds, and then reconvene elsewhere to act again.

The power of this modern swarm is no longer about “sheer numbers,” but about being interconnected through messaging, tweets, videos,and more.

Many today are finding the power of the swarm with both friends and foes.  Friends are using swarming to try to accomplish new social and scientific feats.  While foes such as Al Qaeda are utilizing swarming for hit and run terrorism–moving agilely between safe havens and targeting their victims with tools of terror such as IEDs, car bombs, and other flash attacks.

Swarming is not just a behavior found in the animal kingdom any longer, today it is a fundamental source for both social order and disorder.

Swarming is now a strategy and a tactic–we need to wise up and gain the edge with social swarming behavior and technology to “outwit, outlast, and outplay” those who want to threaten society, and instead use it to improve and secure it.

(Source Photo: here)