Fourth Grade Satyagraha

Emma, my daughter, is having “the year of her life” in school — huge leaps of passion and learning and adventure.  And facing powerful challenges.  The most pressing being a relentless conflict with another girl, let’s call her Josie.  They are both strong willed, independent, and believe themselves to be smart.  Patty & I have worked to help Emma see that being right is not that interesting unless you are also kind.   In turn, Emma has worked hard on being less abrasive, but these two just push one another’s buttons — and now it seems like nearly every day Josie is accusing Emma of something.

The latest round was that Josie was mad that Emma ignored her.  “I don’t want to fight with her so I just walk away,” says Emma… and we all agree that’s better than fighting… and that it’s not the same as making peace.  Emma was at a loss, though, of how to engage a different way, and was feeling helpless.  “She’s mad at me no matter what I do.”

So last week I shared a bit of Gandhi’s story.  Emma could definitely relate, and found the concept of Satyagraha fascinating.  Satyagraha is the name Gandhi gave to the type of nonviolent resistance he led to transform India.  Gandhi wrote:

Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence.

He contrasted satyagraha to passive resistance — or to walking way (in Emma’s case).  Satyagraha is active, it’s a force, but it’s not the kind of force most of us in the West think of when we think “power.”  Yet it turns out to be a game-changing, world-changing power because it steps out of the paradigm of escalating might and righteousness.

And it’s not just “what you do” that matters.  “How” is just as important.  For Gandhi, the means is the result — if you pursue peace through violence, you have made violence.  If you create peace through love, then you have created love.

Emma came back the next day having tried it.  “Satyagraha is SO difficult,” she said, “but I am going to keep doing it.”  While she struggled with it, she also knew, she experienced in just one day, that this is a transformational way of engaging with disagreement.  We could see in her reflection that she had, in fact, found a new kind of force.

As Gandhi said, when you let go of “violence of the heart” it generates a powerful new energy:

What I have pleaded for is renunciation of violence of the heart — and consequent active exercise of the force generated by the great renunciation.

Paper HeartsThe challenge is maintaining it — holding onto the kindness in the midst of the daily frustration.  Because while Emma can choose her response, Josie is continuing to look for opportunities to blame.  And how do you, as a 9-year-old, not take this personally?  It’s so difficult to step back and recognize that Josie’s reactivity is Josie’s.

In our EQ training we sometimes talk about the idea of “making others good.”  This means letting go of being right over others — it means accepting that “they are doing their best and I could do no better.”  The challenge is finding a genuine, solid core of caring for this “enemy” (who our egos are saying is “wrong/bad/mean”) and  letting go of the defense of righteousness.

Satyagraha is a process of resistence and a force of power, and an exercise in justice; at the core it is change that starts with love.

Control-Z in Real Life

Working with Emma (my daughter, now 9) – she’s cutting out cupcakes for her science fair poster and cuts too much off:  “I wish there were a control-z for real life.”

I so agree!  Think of all those “emotional intelligence train wrecks” we could correct with a quick “control-z” — remove foot from mouth… ah the relief!

In the meantime I guess we’ll have to settle for better Consequential Thinking – the capacity to assess and manage the emotional impact of our decisions.  Yes it’s learnable – harder than pushing a button though.

Overheard: EQ Dating Advice

Out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, young couple on first (?) date sitting at the next table:

Boy:  “This place is pretty good!”

Girl: “Yes, I like the food.”

Boy: “Oh good, I was worried.  I thought it was like a downscale Olive Garden, I mean I thought maybe I was taking you to some hole in the ground for Valentine’s Day….”

Help! Get this boy an EQ coach!!!

To be more emotionally intelligent, ask yourself this important question:  What do you want this person to feel? Perhaps you want her to feel special, important, attractive, interesting… or you can go with the “hole in the ground” comment (showing that your mom chose the restaurant) leaving her feeling doubtful and drab.

Then, when you know what you what feelings you want to inspire, you can consider what of your own authentic feelings you can tap to engage those.  Then use that as a guide to manage your own choices!!

Arab Proverb – Accountability

Othman Alkhader, one of our network members from Kuwait, shared this proverb with me (because I was speaking in the Gulf I wanted some!):

At first I thought it was kind of “non EQ” self-destructive — but discussing w Billy & Hamidah (2 other network members) late night in Malaysia, maybe it’s really a pillar of emotional intelligence:  If you are emotionally smart, you take your full share of responsibility (but no more).  That’s part of the competencies we call “Exercise Optimism” and “Engage Intrinsic Motivation” – it means taking ownership, not just of what’s easy, but of the whole enchilada (to mix cultures)…

How amazing would that be to work for leaders, and live with people, who took the full measure of responsibility for their choices?

What do you think – and feel – about the proverb?

The Color of Creativity : The Frontal Cortex

Fascinating post by Jonah Lehrer about colors and problem solving

2 key points:

1.  different colors stimulate different types of thinking… red for analysis, blue for creativity

2.  relaxation is key to innovation… as Tessy Britton blogged before (here) there is a critical link between emotional states and creative problem solving.  People do, in fact, need to be “in the right mood” to be effective innovators… so if you want to be an emotionally intelligent organization or school, get the feeling right!!

This guy’s blog is GREAT for those neuroscience fans – check it out: The Color of Creativity : The Frontal Cortex

6S Emotional Intelligence Model in Putrajaya – Video

This is an excerpt from a keynote for young executives in the Malaysian government (aka “emerging leaders”).  My goal in this session was to engage them to consider how they show up as leaders and the opportunity offered by using emotions more consciously and effectively.

The clip starts with our “EQ-Performance Chain” which shows how emotions are critical for driving results — then goes into a brief overview of the Six Seconds Model.  Later in the talk I go into a little more detail on each of Know, Choose, and Give yourself with a few interactive discussions, video clips, and activities.

5 minutes of fatherhood

Several years ago when Emma and Max were small, I heard that on average, fathers spend 5 minutes per day with their kids.  This seemed impossible.

Yet this morning, after being away all last week, while Patty & the kids were having breakfast, I was answering email.


Partly just habit now… maybe it grew from a pattern of mine: When I feel overwhelmed, I retreat and make myself busy.  When there’s “too much going on” (ie, normal family chaos), I retreat to the office and get on the computer…and maybe now I’m just used to hanging out at my desk?

But I have this sense of the window closing – the time when the kids WANT to be with me is growing shorter – and I’m feeling a bit sad and anxious about this.  Those important, valuable, unpleasant feelings are leading me to wonder about the choices I’m making.

The Power of Validation

I just discovered this awesome video on youtube. Watch the first few minutes, even if you don’t have time to watch the entire 16 minute story. It is a fantastic meditation on the power of kindness and how we have the power to validate each other.

Emotions and the Web


MediaSnackers are putting together an exciting new project looking at how people (aged 13 – 19)feel online.  Although it is not live yet I am so interested to see how it will work, as emotions, the web, and networks is a particular interest of mine.  I also like the fact that MediaSnackers isn’t approaching this as a research project, and that it will attempt to look at another ‘invisible’ but vitally important aspect of our online activity.

Mark Mapstone writes:

“Its seems to be all about numbers out there. Is it because the emotive isn’t tangible and easily measurable?

We’ve decided to capture this untapped emotion that’s fuelling peoples actions and activities online, calling it ‘The Web Makes Me Feel’ (TWWMF for short).

This isn’t going to be research though. Why not? Because without covering all bases, pitching the right questions and operating in an unbiased, non-influential manner, covering all demographics, you can be certain that the end result will so full of holes you could park a caravan in it. No fun we thinks.

So the end result data will be useless? Yes, if all you want to do is shove it in to excel and create a pie chart, but no, if you want to discover how people ‘feel’ about being online.

The final project should be enjoyable to wander through the results, interesting to talk about and as far as we’re aware, something no-one else is documenting.”

Good luck to MediaSnackers with the project, more excellent work expected from them!

Thanks to Mike Amos-Simpson for the link!