The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Creative Waste

In a world beset by many complex, interrelated issues and concerns, are we letting the creative talents that we need go to waste?  Certainly the thinking that we have been using to solve these issues has made little impact, if any.  As Einstein is often quoted:1
“We can’t solve problems using the same thinking we used when we created them.”
We need to be more creative.

We have the creative talent.  We have imaginative powers, and we have the resources.  But, are we using them to the most benefit, or are we wasting our collective creative abilities.  Perhaps the one area of human activity that most utilises our creative talents is the advertising industry.  Creativity and lateral thinking are part and parcel of this industry.  And, it’s significant.

Globally, almost $600 billion is spent annually on advertising.  World-wide nearly 1.2 million people are employed in advertising.2  Most of this activity is concentrated in the North American and European markets. 

What is the purpose of advertising?  To get us to buy, to consume.  Not just to consume, but to consume more and more.  The western-styled consumerist lifestyle is what is primarily targeted.  The top 10 companies by advertising spend in the world are made up of car manufacturers (Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors), the entertainment and broadcasting industry (Walt Disney, Comcast), communications (AT & T, Verizon), beauty products (L’Oreal), the finance sector (American Express), and consumer goods (Proctor and Gamble).  All of these, arguably, could be considered western luxuries.  Between them, these 10 companies spend $22 billion annually on advertising.  It is difficult to imagine that any of this advertising spend is going towards helping to tackle the various issues and concerns besetting us.

Consumption is at the root of many of the issues and concerns for which we need the new thinking that Einstein identified.  Our creative talent is going to waste.  Not only are we not using our creative abilities in solving these issues and concerns; we are using our creative talents to create the issues and concerns.  If we stopped to think about it, surely we would recognise a collective madness within that vicious cycle. 

A highly vicious and pernicious cycle it is too, because all of us are subject to it and get trapped within it.  Every day we are bombarded with hundreds of adverts and other messages telling us to “consume, consume, consume.”  Many of these messages we don’t even notice.  Product placement is notable in this regard.  Products, and their corporate logo, are placed, seemingly innocently, within movies that we watch.  Next time you’re at the movies, spend a little time being alert to the placement of products within the movie story-line.  You may be surprised.  One of the most famous examples of this was in the 1982 movie ET.  An American sweet, Reece’s Pieces, was prominently placed in that movie.  Afterwards, sales of the sweet rocketed a staggering 65%.3

Yes, we need to be creative in tackling our issues and concerns.  But, we are wasting what creative talent we have.  It’s time to stop the waste.  It’s time to redirect our creative abilities.

Notes:
1. It seems that Einstein never actually said this, although he was the Chairman of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists who sent a telegram to hundreds of prominent Americans in May 1946, in which the following phrase was used: “…a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” This telegram came in the wake of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and at a time of heightened nuclear tensions.  Somehow that extract from the telegram came to be attributed to Einstein himself and re-formatted to the quotation about not being able to solve problems with the same thinking that created them.  Certainly, when Einstein was interviewed a few months later he reiterated the quote from the telegram and said to the interviewer (Michael Amrine) “We must abandon competition and secure cooperation.”
2. Global Advertising Agencies Market Research Report, July 2016

3. A Product Placement Hall of Fame, Business Week Online 1998, www.businessweek.com/1998/25/b3583062.htm

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Global Is The New Local

Many years ago the slogan Think Global, Act Local was coined within the environmental movement.1  The mass environment movement was just beginning and a number of global environment groups were coming into existence, amongst them Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and others.  Major issues of the time included fluorocarbons and the ozone layer, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, power plants and the attendant disposal of nuclear waste.  The extinction of animal species also elicited a fair amount of attention.  Plus, of course, the second part of the slogan – numerous local environmental campaigns.

Now, four or five decades later, and in the wake of the neo-liberal globalisation process, the global portion of that slogan is of greater importance.  The continued existence of humans on this planet could hang on how much we think globally.  And not just us – many animal species will suffer extinction if we do not think globally.

Thankfully, there are signs that a more global identification may be occurring.  Since 2001 GlobeScan has been conducting a world-wide study tracking how people in 18 countries (more than 20,000 people) identify themselves.  In 2016, for the first time, more than half the respondents in the survey identified themselves as global citizens.  The strongest global identification occurred in non-OECD countries, with citizens in Nigeria, China and Peru showing a higher than 70% agreement with the statement “I see myself more as a global citizen than a citizen of my country.”  What’s more is that the global perspective of citizens in non-OECD counties has been steadily rising since 2007 (when the average was 42%) to an average of 56% in 2016.  OECD countries on the other hand, have seen a reduction in global identification in the same period (from 47% down to 42%), although it has rebounded from the 2011 low of less than 40%.

However, not all OECD countries show low levels of global identification.  Spain (59%) and Canada (54%) buck the trend.

Certainly it can be argued that some aspects of globalisation have contributed towards this growing global identity.  Chief amongst these are those of communication, transport and information flows.  With the growth of the Internet and instant streaming of television images it is possible for people many thousands of kilometres away to witness the suffering of people on the other side of the world and find an empathy for them.  It is as though the suffering of people who are victimised by war, climate change effects, drought and famine are viewed as if they were living down the road from us.  Sufferers are no longer “on the other side of the world,” they are right there in our living rooms.  Because of global transportation systems we could be there within a day.

That’s no longer global – that’s local.  Global and local are merging.

The emergence of global citizenship is a good thing.  Psychological tests suggest that those with a global citizenship perspective tend to score higher on traits of openness, caring, empathy, and agreeableness.  I am not suggesting that one follows from the other four, nor that the four traits follow from a global perspective.  Rather, I suspect, they emerge in mutual formation.

The world of today is highly inter-connected, full of diversity, and amazingly complex.  The issues, concerns, problems that face us are similarly so.  So too are the opportunities, wonders, and delights.  Those four traits – openness, caring, empathy, agreeableness – are vitally needed, as is a global perspective.

Thinking globally and acting locally continues to be a healthy, responsible, and creative slogan for our times.

Notes:
1. It wasn’t the first use of this or similar phrases.  It had been used within city-planning two decades earlier.  The first to use the phrase from an environmental viewpoint is debatable, although it does appear that its first use may have been David Brower (the founder of Friends of the Earth) in 1969. 

2. The first recorded instance of someone thinking of themselves as a global citizen may be that of Diogenes in 412 BC.  When asked where he came from, Diogenes is reputed to have replied “I am a citizen of the world.”

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Please Don't Fix It

“I don’t want you to fix it, I just want you to listen to me.”  How many men have heard these, or similar words, from their wives, lovers, partners, daughters, or mothers?  The female desire for connection and true listening, and the male wish to fix things, or find a solution to the perceived problem, could just about qualify as the single most prevalent source of communication breakdown in male/female relations.

The generalisations inscribed in the above paragraph should not be read to suggest that only women desire a listening connection, nor that only men wish to fix things.  People lie all along the male-female continuum.  However, the desire to fix things, and to solve problems, is more readily associated with men.

No matter how this came to be, no matter what evolutionary or other cultural driver led to this state, men (and women) are now understanding that listening is at the heart of true communication.  The skills, techniques, and methods of active (or creative) listening are being learnt, understood, and practiced more commonly than they were just half a century ago.  As these skills become more widespread the possibility of communication breakdown between the sexes lessen.

What if we broaden the perspective?  What if we explore the “desire to fix” beyond that of male-female communication?

Could it be that the desire to fix things, the desire to “solve” perceived problems is one of the drivers that have led to the problems we have today?  Are we caught in a circular trap of our own making?  Does fixing things lead to even greater problems than those we thought we were fixing?  What if the problems we are fixing aren’t problems at all?  A couple of examples may help flesh this out.

The Automobile

Not so long ago, in the the 19th century, we moved from point A to point B on foot, horseback, or horse-drawn buggy.  This was considered to be a problem.  The solution was to invent the internal combustion engine and the motorcar.

Today, less than two centuries later, we are now faced with the ramifications of that “fix.”  We have traffic congestion.  We have enormous tracts of land tied up in roads and parking lots.  Globally, more than one million people killed every year in traffic accidents, and a further 50 million injured.  We have pollution problems from vehicle emissions in many of the world’s cities.  And, of course, we have greenhouse gas emissions contributing to perhaps the greatest global issue humanity has ever faced.

Terrorism

In the aftermath of 9/11 the US convinced or coerced some of its allies into the “Coalition of the Willing”1 to invade Iraq and to hunt down its President, Saddam Hussein.  This was a classic “fix it” approach.  What were the perceived problems?  Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, Islamic militants.

A decision was made to invade Iraq in order to solve these perceived problems.  The listening that was needed at the time was woefully lacking.  The UN Security Council was not listened to.  Advice as to the legal basis for invasion was not listened to.  The findings of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), headed by Dr Hans Blix, was not listened to.  The leadership of a number of churches (including the Vatican and the World Council of Churches) were not listened to.  The opposition to invasion by 54 of the world’s nations was not listened to.  Millions of people in the streets of cities in February 2003 were not listened to.2 

However, Bush, Blair, and others were determined to “fix it.” 

Now, more than a decade after the “fix it” solution was applied we have a part of the world that is torn apart by internal strife, the continued presence of military action from other nations, and a massive humanitarian crisis.  Fixing the perceived problems only exacerbated them.  Terrorism is not only increasing (nine times as many people are killed in terrorist actions now than in 20003), it is also spreading (the number of countries experiencing more than 250 deaths per year from terrorist attacks has quadrupled since 2000. 

Listen To Mother Earth

Now, we are trying to fix the Earth.  For centuries we have been trying to fix the Earth for our own benefit.  We have gobbled up her resources, we have depleted her forests and waters, we have exterminated many of her creatures.  Now, we face the consequences of that “fix it” approach – climate change - and we are trying to fix that as well!

Women have been telling men to listen for decades.  It is not only human women that we need to listen to though.  We must listen to Mother Earth.  We need to stop trying to fix her and simply listen.  All of us can get caught in the trap of trying to fix Mother Earth.  Some promote geoengineering, and others call for green technology.  But, perhaps we just need to listen to Mother Earth.  She knows how to take care of herself.  She also knows how to sustain us, if we would only listen.  Please, don’t fix it – just listen.

Notes:
1. Three nations (the UK, Australia, and Poland) joined the US in sending armed soldiers into Iraq. 
2. Estimates of numbers include 3 million in Rome, 2 million in London, and many thousands more in over 600 cities worldwide.  The 2004 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records cited the demonstrations as the largest mass protest movement in history.

3. More than half these deaths are in just two nations: Iraq and Nigeria.  Almost 60% of all terrorist attacks occur in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria.  Source: Global Terrorism Index 2015, Institute for Economics and Peace.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

I Am The River, The River Is Me

Waikaremoana: the jewel in Te Uruwera
For centuries the prevailing western approach to the Earth and nature has been that humans are separate from nature.  Not just separate, but superior to nature.  This thinking has led us to view Earth as a resource to be owned, exploited, and ultimately, depleted and desecrated.

In the process western cultures have colonised, marginalised, and in many cases, wiped out, indigenous people throughout the world.  In doing so, the wisdom of indigenous cultures has been rejected, disparaged, and unheard for these many long centuries.

Now, however, there are signs that we in the western-styled cultures are beginning to see the error of our ways:
  • We are starting to understand that we are part of nature, not  separate.
  • We are starting to recognise that indigenous cultures have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom that we could learn from.
  • We are starting to acknowledge our past colonisation and exploitation of indigenous people and beginning to redress those wrongs.
Three examples of these re-awakenings can be found on opposite sides of the globe: one in Bolivia, and two in Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Bolivia

In 2010 Bolivia introduced a pioneering Constitution that recognised the rights of Mother Earth.  The first nation on Earth to do this, Bolivia’s Constitution provided for six principles by which Mother Earth was to be recognised and respected:
  1. Harmony.  Humans and nature co-exist within a dynamic balance of cycles and processes.
  2. Collective Good.  In terms of human activities, it is society as a whole that is upheld, provided it is within the rights of Mother Earth.
  3. Regeneration.  Mother Earth must be able to regenerate.  This principle recognises that living systems are limited in their ability to regenerate, and that we humans are limited in our ability to undo our actions.
  4. Respect.  Collectively and individually we have a responsibility to respect the rights of Mother Earth for current and future guardians.
  5. Commercialisation.  Living systems are not to be commercialised, nor are they to become private property.
  6. Multiculturalism.  All cultures who seek harmony within nature are to be recognised, respected, and protected.
The full implications of these radical principles (particularly number 5) are yet to be fully comprehended by not just the people of Bolivia, but by all of humanity.  But, it is a start. 

Te Uruwera

Since the 1980s the governments of New Zealand (acting as the Crown) have been engaged in processes of restoration, recognition and reparation with the indigenous people (Māori) of the country.

In 2014 the New Zealand Government passed the Te Uruwera Act which declared Te Uruwera to be a legal identity with the rights, powers, duties and liabilities of a person.  Te Uruwera is a large tract of native forests, lakes, waterways, mountains, flora and flora in the North Island of New Zealand.  The Māori tribal grouping with centuries of connection with this area – the Tūhoe – recognise the area as their birthplace and homeland, and the place that they hold respect and guardianship for.

For Tūhoe this area is known as Te Manawa o te Ika a Māui (the Heart of the Fish of Māui1).  For Māori, as it is for many indigenous cultures, the Earth is not a separate entity.  The Earth is intimately connected with the people – the people are intimately connected with the Earth.

The legislation recognising Te Uruwera as being of equal identity to a person notes that the area is “abundant with mystery, adventure and remote beauty,” and that it is “a place of spiritual value, with it’s own mana and mauri.”2  Because of it’s legislated identity, the Act suggests that Te Uruwera will “inspire people to commit to it’s care.”

Whanganui

Lying some 170 km southwest from Te Uruwera the Whanganui flows north to south, from the mountains to the sea, through spectacular forests and countryside.  The river is considered an ancestor by the tribes along its length.

However, European colonisation disregarded this ancestral connection and exploited the river in many ways.  Claiming their rightful place as guardians of the river and it’s life force the Whanganui tribes have petitioned parliament, taken cases to court, and appeared before Royal Commission for well over seventy years.  Finally, in 2014, a deed of settlement was reached between the tribes and the government.  The legislation for this deed recognised the Whanganui as
“an indivisible and living whole, from the mountains to the sea, incorporating it’s tributaries and all it’s physical and metaphysical elements.”
This settlement not only recognised the life force of the river but also the intrinsic connection between people and nature.

Earth the Mother

These examples recognise the Earth as a living entity having equal value to that of humans.  Furthermore, they recognise that the distinction between humans and the earth (as western thinking has supposed) is erroneous.  The Earth and people are part of the same complex, interwoven, network.

It could be claimed that these examples are confirmation of an environmentalist perspective giving rights to the Earth.  However, it should be noted that the legislation (particularly those in New Zealand) has been brought about as redress to the indigenous cultures restoring their rights as people of the land.  In restoring those rights the legislation also takes note of indigenous cosmologies that understand the ongoing connection of humans with the Earth.  If we, from western-styled cultures, can learn from Māori and other indigenous cultures then we will approach the Earth in a much more sustainable, healthy, respectful, and honouring way.

We do not need to give rights to the Earth, we just need to find our rightful place within the Earth’s eco-system – a place that indigenous cultures have known since time began.  It is a place where we belong.

The final words belong to a saying from the people of the Whanganui:
“Ko au to awa, ko te awa ko au.”
(I am the river, and the river is me.)
Notes:
1. Te Ika a Māui (the Fish of Māui) is one of the Māori names for the North Island of New Zealand.

2. Mana is Māori for power, prestige, authority.  Mauri  is suggestive of spirit, life force, or inherent essence.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

All The Cs

Until recently western political and economic history has been characterised by five Cs: control, competition, conquest, colonisation, and consumption.

We have attempted to control everything from natural eco-systems to the ways in which we relate to one another.  This desire for control has often manifested in a conquest of nature, of other nations and peoples, and even of space.  The conquest of other peoples and lands has resulted in colonisation that continues to this day via economic means.

We have consumed our way through history.  We have consumed the resources of the earth at an ever increasing rate so that we are now witnessing the peak production of many of these resources. Western nations have consumed the lands, the forests and the fisheries of many indigenous nations around the world, leaving those people bereft of sustainable living conditions.

Now it would appear that our unrelenting consumptive lifestyles are threatening the very systems upon which we live; the inter-related system that is the Earth.

Four Other Cs

There are signs, however, that we may be moving towards a future characterised by four other Cs: connection, communication, creativity, and consciousness.

1.  Connection.  After many centuries of viewing ourselves as separate from others, separate from animals, separate from nature, there is a growing understanding that we are all connected, that everything is intimately connected with everything else – what Thich Nhat Hahn calls interbeing.  Of course, many eastern philosophies and indigenous cultures have been saying this for millennia.  In the last century though, western science has also begun to assert this truth.  Beginning with quantum physics and then other sciences such as meteorology, biology and genetics we can no longer claim to be isolated individuals.

2.  Communication. We have always communicated – that is true.  One difference today is that our technologies allow much faster, more widespread and more accessible means of communicating with one another.  A second difference is the techniques of communication that are being opened up via research and experimentation.  The skills of creative (or active) listening were not as widespread as they are today, even a couple of generations ago.  Nonviolent Communication (NVC) was only developed fifty years ago, and is now taught in around 40 countries.  The skills of conflict resolution, mediation, forgiveness, and restorative justice are gaining widespread acceptance.

3.  Creativity.  We have tended to ascribe creative talent to painters, writers, sculptors, dancers, musicians and other artists.  However, many people are recognising that we all have creative abilities.  Furthermore, we are exploring the realms of collective creativity – some are calling this co-creativity.  Tom Atlee has written extensively on co-creativity (and other related subjects) and notes that,1
“…when we are really proficient at co-creativity … we enhance productive self-organising systems … enhance serenity and … enhance openness and ability to learn.”
4. Consciousness.  We have been through the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the Information Revolution.  We are now on the cusp of the Consciousness Revolution  It is in our collective consciousness that we must put our trust if we wish to pass on to our children and grandchildren a world that is worthwhile.  Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (the teenage founder of Earth Guardians) has eloquently expressed the need for a re-awakening of our consciousness:
“The biggest challenge we face is shifting human consciousness, not saving the planet.  The planet doesn’t need saving, we do.”
The signs are there – our consciousness is shifting.

Discovering, or re-awakening, our collective consciousness involves all three of the other Cs.  When we tap into our collective consciousness we discover our connections, our inter-relatedness, we learn to communicate effectively, we utilise our creativity.  Importantly we tap into the core of who we are as human beings and we notice that at that level we share a commonality with all others, including the myriad sentient beings upon the planet and indeed, the planet as a whole.

Are we shifting fast enough from the historic five Cs to the future four Cs?  Are we too late, meaning that we will descend into another two Cs – calamity and catastrophe?  Or are we evolving sufficiently for us to journey into the Cs of compassionate cooperation?

Note:

1. Tom Atlee, The Tao of Democracy, The Writers Collective, Cranston, Rhode Island, 2003

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Throw Down The Sword

“I have to be a warrior, a slave I cannot be
A soldier and a conqueror, fighting to be free.”
So went a couple of lines from the 1972 song “Warrior” by the English rock band Wishbone Ash. Man the Warrior has been, and still is, a “legitimate” career and profession for many men, with a number of countries now also permitting women to join the front-line of their militaries.  Man the Warrior has also been a prevailing archetype for many men for centuries, possibly millennia.

Men have been the the conqueror, the hunter, the provider, the powerful one in the interplay between men and women.  Today, many of these gender role divisions are breaking down and being redefined and redistributed.  And, not before time.

However, the warrior image remains embedded within men’s psyches and modes of being.  Even parts of the men's movement continues to give credence to the image.  Many writings on masculinity suggest four archetypes: King, Magician, Lover and WarriorA number of attributes are associated with The Warrior archetype, including; purpose, vigilance, courage, adaptability, decisiveness, loyalty, skillfulness, discipline.

The warrior metaphor, unfortunately, also conjures up images of power over, hierarchy, aggression, conflict, dominance, competition, and uncomplaining stoicism.  This image has marched young men off to war at the decree of hawkish political leaders.  This image has led men to become the puppets of captains of industry and capitalism.  Psychologically and emotionally the image has been elemental in the high incidence of mental health issues for men.  All three of these effects of the Man as Warrior metaphor are linked.  As an example consider the fact that the number of US war veterans who commit suicide significantly outnumber the number killed in active service.
 
The psychiatrist and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) researcher, Bessel van der Kolk, relates the story of a Vietnam War veteran he was working with.  When the veteran heard the wails of a child he “found himself suddenly flooded with unbearable images of dying children in Vietnam.”  This is just one aspect of the psychological impact of PTSD on men.

But trauma can be brought about by a compounding of incidents.  Men are cajoled to contain their emotion from a very early age.  Men are pressured to “man up” from their teenage years onwards.  Any sign of “feminine” emotionality or unmanly behaviour (such as gayness, bisexuality, or transgender tendencies) are likely to lead to being bullied.  After decades of this onslaught is it any wonder that men may be experiencing sublimated PTSD?

Not only is this warrior image damaging to men, it is devastating for women, children, other cultures, and the planet as a whole.  The domineering and hierarchical images within the warrior metaphor lead directly to misogyny, domestic violence, rape, environmental destruction and war – the crucible of the warrior.

I Don’t Have To Be A Warrior

But we men do not have to be warriors.  We can, and are, transcending this archetype.  Years ago Carl Jung asserted that within men there were the same qualities as within women , and vice versa.  Men can tap into these qualities: qualities of compassion, empathy, forgiveness, humility, and most importantly vulnerability.  We men must shed our armour of invulnerability, lay down our shield of invincibility.  We must throw away our swords of domination and aggression. 

There are signs that men are doing so.  For many men this a frightening journey because it challenges most of the stories that we have been told about what a  man is.  This should not prove too difficult though.  After all, one of the stories that we get told is that, as men, we must face our challenges.

Yes, we men must put aside the Man as Warrior archetype.  Interestingly, when Wishbone Ash recorded the song “Warrior” for their 1972 album1 the song that followed was “Throw Down The Sword.”

Men – it’s time to throw down the sword. 


1. Wishbone Ash, Argus, Decca Records, 1972

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

A Smile to Break the Ice

They’re called icebreakers – those quick, fun, active games that get thrown into workshops, seminars or symposia.  Some are used to deliberately interrupt a session to relieve possible inattention.  Some have a learning element.  Some are used just as the name suggests, to break the ice, and have a bit of fun.
 
What better way to break the ice than with a smile.  Smiles can be contagious.  Try walking down the road and smiling at people.  More often than not you’ll be rewarded with a smile in return.  Here’s a quick icebreaker game that uses smiles - and frowns.

1.  The facilitator asks participants to pair up.
2.  Once in pairs, ask the pairs to quickly touch one another on the shoulder.  Then announce that the person who was quickest to touch the other is person A and the other is person B.
3.  Have the pairs face each other.  Then announce that when you say “go” person A is to smile and person B is to frown.  Advise participants to keep their eyes open during the game so that they can see the face of the other person in the pair.  This game is best done without either person in the pairs speaking.
4.  Tell participants to relax and to allow whatever happens to happen, to not force anything. 
5.  Say “go” and let the pairs see what happens.
6.  After half a minute or so announce the end of the game.
7.  Ask for feedback, comments, or insights.  Get a show of hands as to how many pairs experienced the smile passing from person A to person B.  Ask if the opposite happened for any pair (i.e. the frown passed from person B to person A).

Smile Research

There is a well known saying that advises
 “smile and the world smiles with you, frown and you frown alone.”
In 1991 two researchers from North Dakota State University decided to test this age-long piece of wisdom.1`  They studied the likelihood of someone responding to a smile with a smile, a frown, or a neutral response.  They looked also at what happens when the subject is faced with a frown.  Their results showed a clear support for the wisdom of the ages.  Over 50% of their subjects responded to smiles with a smile.  However the likelihood of a frown eliciting a frown was significantly less – about 7%.

The researchers also studied the difference between men and women.  What they found suggested a definite difference between the sexes.  Women were more likely to respond to a smile with a smile irrespective of the gender of the person offering them a smile.  Men, however, were more likely to respond to a smile with a smile if the person offering the smile was a woman. 

Both sexes responded to a woman’s smile with a smile themselves with about the same incidence.  However, if the smile originated from a man the likelihood that a man would respond with a smile dropped by almost one-half, whereas for women there was no noticeable difference.

The likelihood of a frown eliciting a frown in response was very low with a variety of other responses being more prevalent, ranging from bewilderment to neutrality.  It was noticeable that if the originating frown came from a man then the likelihood that the response would be another frown was higher than if the original frown came from a woman. 

Why the difference between men and women?  The researchers did not offer much speculation on this beyond suggesting that “although males are capable of intimate interactions, they choose not to.”  What is going on?  Is it an evolutionary throw-back to times when male leaders of a clan were unwilling to enter into an intimate interaction with other males for fear that they might be wanting to overthrow them?

If this is so, then men must seek to find the key that will allow them to find release from this trap.  The days of domination and hierarchies are dissolving and men must look to their consciousness and hearts to find ways to feel comfortable in a new reality.

Put a Smile in Your Bag of Tricks

Those facilitating community development or social justice processes have a bag-of-tricks that they go to for various situations.  This icebreaker game is one that you can pop into that bag and help to elicit some smiles in your workshops.

Note:

1. Verlin B Hinsz & Judith A Tomhave, Smile and (Half) the World Smiles With You, Frown and You Frown Alone, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol 17, No 5, October 1991, pp 586-592