Monthly Archives: October 2014

Meditations on Crisis Management


Bloomberg has a fabulous article out about Obama’s travails at “Crisis Management.”  As an executive known for her execution skills, Lady In Red would like to give Pres. Obama some much-too-late advice on dealing with the unexpected:

1. People rarely make decisions NOT based on emotion.  Obama often fails to acknowledge and work around this.  People need narratives to survive.

2. Time and study are luxuries you cannot afford in a crisis, no matter how rich you are or how much help you have.  That’s why you went to school before beginning your career.  Now you are a professional, and your mind should be a minuteman sleeping with his boots on.  You should have a solid idea of your values already, and how you will prioritize and act when those values inevitably collide.   Summits and workgroups during a public health pandemic of fear?  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

4. Fake it til you make it–it being attitude.  Leaders set the tone.  Act how you want other people to act, even if you personally don’t feel up to it.  You are doing yourself a favor down the line.  Everything you do and say publicly can and should serve a purpose and be moving people toward your goal, and that endgame will feel better than any minor annoyance you feel now.

What recommendations do you have for Obama as we enter the home stretch of his presidency?

The Giving Tree

The NYT revisited the Shel Silverstein book “The Giving Tree” this week, and discussed whether the children’s classic portrayed unconditional love, or human selfishness.

Of course the answer is both.  Most people interpret the book as a metaphor for the lifelong, parental love for a child, and parents read the book to their children to teach that all they have is available to their children, no matter how ungrateful they may become.

Lady vividly remembers a teambuilding exercise at a former workplace years ago where all members of hospital leadership were sharing with the group favorite books.  Every other person–middle-aged parents all–cited the Giving Tree, usually while weeping.

Lady was struck with that panicky feeling of guilt, and FOMO.  Guilt over her own parents’ love, and FOMO of having never yet truly been a tree for someone else, or at least doing so willingly and happily.  Clearly, giving to the point of near self-destruction was What It Was All About–right?

But upon rereading in adulthood, the book is decidedly agnostic on the characters’ actions.  Says Rivka Galchen:

The actual story doesn’t extol the tree, or endorse the boy. The tree and the boy both do the very particular things they do, and say the particular things they say, and, talking tree notwithstanding, their relationship seems emotionally realistic. The story describes honestly something that is, which is very different from proposing what ought to be. To condemn “The Giving Tree” for having a female who gives in a way that destroys her is as invalid as condemning “Mrs. Dalloway” for having a soldier who commits suicide. Conversely, teaching “The Giving Tree” as a model for how a woman (or anyone) should be is like saying that same soldier sets an example. 

In the years since, I have spent episodes in the role of Tree, at first only as part of youthful experimentation, but on an ongoing basis by having found it to be enriching beyond comparison.  My only issue with the story is actually with its most common interpretation–that the stump is somehow lesser than the tall, powerful, blooming tree that it once was.  Who says a stump that provides rest is any less noble than a young one that grows apples?

The idea that your strengths and gifts are given to you to be used for others  is core to the major world religions, and to call the stump depleted may be technically true, but to miss the point–that unused gifts are an even bigger tragedy.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 NLV)

An Introduction to the Psychology of Political Moderation–Part II: Old Habits Die-Hard

In my previous article, I explored the topic of introductory political psychology and how the majority of Americans adhere to a neutral standpoint regarding their political behavior. Although I explored and introduced the topic of political moderation, there exists a much deeper question which I left posed at the end of my last article. Why do we cling to our political parties despite not fully embracing the ideologies? In truth, this question is incredibly difficult to answer, mostly for the reason that the concept of political moderation is a subjective one. And for this article the emphasis will be placed more so on the science of psychology rather than analysis of political behavior.

We cling to previous political ideologies based off of a series of psychological factors, which are affected by society, friends, and overall perceptions of political systems. One psychological factor that highly affects the American populace is the minimal group paradigm effect, which has overarching effects and consequences for voters.

Essentially, the minimal group paradigm effect creates an in-group bias for individuals associated with a particular similarity. This similarity can be trivial, or esoteric; despite its complexity individuals will favor others with similar beliefs. For example, a democrat voter will favor a democrat candidate based solely on the fact that the candidate is a democrat. Despite a republican candidate having a more impressive history of achievements, the democrat voter will vote for the democrat candidate simply because he is a democrat. This in-group bias is an engrained psychological mechanism, and is very difficult to eliminate.

So the question is, how can we minimize in-group bias of the minimal group paradigm effect and establish a more contralateral viewpoint for voters? The voters must be educated on the obvious null discrepancies between average democrats and republicans. Therefore without an established group to identify with, they will not bias one particular party or the other. Although the answer is simple, the common application to solving this problem is extremely difficult. The American populace must be educated to value the core values and logic behind a politician’s platform, rather than the blatant appeal of patriotism associated with a particular political party. Once we establish an equal, unbiased viewpoint we can finally choose politicians based off accolades and logic, rather than bias and familiarity invoked by the bipartisan political system.