Dacher Keltner, Born to Be Good, Your Jen Ratio and Cro-Magnon CEO’s
Susan Bratton

Episode 83 - Dacher Keltner, Born to Be Good, Your Jen Ratio and Cro-Magnon CEO’s

One of America’s preeminent psychology professors has devoted his life to understanding human emotion. In this wild ride of a two-part series, Susan and Dacher get deep into brain science to explore emotions that can positively affect your success in business and in life.

Find out how to gain elevated status in your work environment. Learn how to get more power in the office. Key in on the true emotions of your customers and co-workers to know what they are really thinking. Learn exactly what it takes to create better rapport with everyone around you and how to become more likable. Find out the single most important characteristic you can hone to find your perfect mate and be more appealing to possible relationship partners or your spouse.

Dacher proves that we are wired for good and gives us a list of the activities on which we can focus our intention to create a life of meaning.

This episode includes:

  • Shatter the Myth of Homo Economicus
  • The Thesis of Zen Romanticism
  • Upping Your Jen Ratio
  • How to be Good
  • The Categorization of Human Emotion – Facial Action Coding System
  • The Moral Gut
  • Cro-Magnon CEO’s and Power Hierarchies

Part Two Includes:

  • Creating Rapport
  • The Value of Embarrassment, Laughter and Teasing in Creating Connection
  • Touch and Trust and His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • Your Reputation Rests on Kindness, as Does Your Marriage
  • How to Be a Vagal Superstar
  • Sympathy, the Strongest of Instincts
  • Taking The Camper on THAT Fork in the Road
  • Acoustic and Tactile Social Networking
  • The Science of a Meaningful Life – Building Resilience, Reducing Stress and Strengthening Relationships



Announcer: This program is brought to you by personallifemedia.com.

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Susan Bratton: Welcome to DishyMix. I am your host Susan Bratton. On today’s show, I have someone you are really going to enjoy meeting, Dacher Keltner. I’m going to actually tell you quite a bit about Dacher because I want you to know who he is. He is not someone from our industry in the media marketing or Internet world. He’s actually a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. I met Dacher because he was a speaker at a conference that I recently emceed called “Happiness and its Causes” and Dacher was the best speaker at the whole conference bar none, head and shoulders above all the other speakers. He was so interesting. And so much of what he is working on is related to our careers and our lives and how much we are getting out of the work we do and the humans that we are.

So let me tell you a little bit about Dacher before I even bring him on because he’s heard his bio before. He’s prolific. He’s authored over 100 scientific papers. He has two best-selling textbooks in his field which is pro social psychology so he is a psychologist. But what he focuses on are the positive aspects of emotion, things like compassion, awe, embarrassment, gratitude, love and what he calls the basis of moral intuition, the abuses of power which we see a lot in our business and the formation of social hierarchies which I think is what we will talk about today that will help us understand how to manage and find our way within our organizations.  

So Dacher is really well known in his world. “Wired Magazine,” as an example, recently rated the podcast he has on his course on a human emotion as one of the five best in the country and you can get that at iTunes and it is free. It is his lecture series. And in 2008, he was named one of 50 visionaries by Utne Reader. I don’t know if you read Utne Reader but it is one of my favorite publications. And what Dacher is doing now is directing something called Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. So as a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, he teaches but he runs this Greater Good Science Center and he is the co-editor of a magazine that comes out of it called, “Greater Good.” You can get to that and I think you’ll check out it, greatergood.berkely.edu.

And Dacher has come on today to talk to us about this amazing new book that he has written. He is the author of a book called, “Born to be Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life.” Well, it’s really interesting information and we are going to apply so much of what’s he learned and the research that he has done and the work to which he has devoted his life to understanding how we can have a better life.    

So with that great introduction and some background, please meet Dacher Keltner. Welcome Dacher.

Dacher Keltner: Susan, I don’t know who you are talking about but I am humbled to be here.

Susan Bratton: [laughter] It’s all you. You have been an amazingly busy and prolific man. So I want to take a minute and I swear to God, Dacher, you will get a word in edgewise

Dacher Keltner: [laughter]

Susan Bratton: but I wanted to read just a single paragraph from your new book, “Born to be Good.”

Dacher Keltner: OK   

Susan Bratton: You wrote in the very beginning, kind of the thesis of your book. This is what you wrote: “I hope that you’ll see human behavior in a new light, the subtle cues of embarrassment, playful vocalizations and the visceral feelings of compassion, the sense of gratitude in another’s touch to your shoulder that have been shaped by the seven million years of hominid evolution and that bring the good in others to completion. In our pursuit of happiness, we have lost sight of these essential emotions. Our everyday conversations about happiness are filled with references to sensory pleasure: delicious Australian wines, comfortable hotel beds, body tone produced by our exercise regimes. What’s missing is the language and practice of emotions like compassion, gratitude, amusement and wonder. My hope is to tilt your jen ratio (and we will talk about that on the show) to what the poet Percy Shelley describes as the great secret of morals, the identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action or person, not our own.”

So that’s what your book is really about. It’s about the study of those emotions and all this evolution.  I really thought that was beautiful and your premise is that you are against this idea of Homo economicus,

Dacher Keltner: Homo economicus

Susan Bratton: Homo economicus but you believe we are wired for good. So tell us about this idea of Homo economicus and why you think that’s wrong, where that came from and why you think we are looking at who we are as people in the wrong way.

Dacher Keltner: Well, in the sciences that I work in and then which is evolutionary science and the study of altruism and human emotion and I think in our culture much more broadly in how we think about the good life, we’ve been guided for several hundred years, if not millennia, by this idea that we are economic at our basic core. It really translates to a couple of key ideas. One, is that everything that humans do no matter how kind or good natured is actually self-interested at its core. People in explaining altruism have often attributed the most generous kind acts to things like selfish genes, even Freudian fantasies about convincing ourselves that we are not angry at our mothers. Second idea is we are competitive at our core. We are bloodied to the cloth. And finally, that the mind is this cauldron of instincts and hostile impulses. And that view of nature which I call Homo economicus, first of all, is just not stacking up with the new scientific evidence and we are finding in dozens of studies that people are cooperative. They are generous. If you give them a chance to give a lump sum of money to a stranger, they will give half of it even though they don’t know the person and will never see that person again. And then our nervous systems which is what I study, are wired up to care and to be good and to be playful and to find beauty in others. So the scientific level, I just think this idea of people as self-interested and competitive and wired to be cynical is wrong.

When you broaden out, and you think about people at work or people in marriages or in communities or families, I think this view has really led our culture astray. What we are learning in the social sciences is this cynical, competitive self-interested view is damaging to marriages. We’ve learned that at the individual level, these people, there are new studies finding, the more people strive after material goods and think of happiness as a new pottery barn sofa or a delicious wine, they are actually less happy. And then you can even broaden out further at the cultural level and I think we are in a deep period of cultural reflection. And scientists and economists have started to observe that our culture, the United States culture, is very cynical right now and not trusting of our fellow citizens and it’s leading us astray.

Susan Bratton: We are going to talk about that, some of that research when we talk about the jen ratio,

Dacher Keltner: Yes

Susan Bratton: which is coming up. But before we get to that, I want to talk about your thesis of zen romanticism

Dacher Keltner: [laughter]

Susan Bratton: where that comes from. You fundamentally (I can say that again), you fundamentally believe that we are wired for good and that comes from some of the factors that were created when you grew up.

Dacher Keltner: Yes

Susan Bratton: Tell us about that.

Dacher Keltner: Well, I had the greatest parents and I am forever grateful for that and very unusual parents. And I had a mother who was a literature professor and really taught me the wisdom of 18th, 19th century romanticism in literature. Those people like Wordsworth and Rousseau and others. And the idea there is that our pursuit of the good life is guided by passion. It’s guided by deep feelings of gratitude or reverence or compassion or love. And that really is the path to happiness. And then alongside that I was lucky, my Dad is an artist. And we were living out in the foothills of the Sierras, and living something of an experimental life. He was an artist and he got very interested in the early 70’s in Eastern thought and California has always been a great place for the promulgation of new ideas and as Zen Buddhism started to arrive from Japan to the United States, my Dad was really interested in it. And there the core idea is that happiness and meaning and connection and what’s transcended in life is right here in front of us. It’s not in some mythical future, some sort of deep path. It is right in this moment. That’s all we have. And really as I started to think about my science which we will talk about, it traces right back to my Mom and Dad and my Mom was telling me how important the passions are and my Dad was saying the good things in life are right here in this moment in our emotions. So that’s the Zen romanticism thesis.

Susan Bratton. It’s the thing that probably brought you into wanting to study the good in people, don’t you think?

Dacher Keltner:  Yeah, it definitely did. And I would also say though that the other thing that really got me to the study of the good in human nature is my frustration with the scientific study of human nature and how we can talk about this. But we as a field just fifteen years ago, we know a lot thanks to people like Robert Tapolsky [sp] about how stress causes disease and divorce and despair and all these things and we just didn’t know much about the upside to human nature.

Susan Bratton: So when I was getting ready for this interview with you, I want to let our listeners know that this is actually a two-part series. This is the first of a two-part series because there is so much  I wanted to talk to you about that you are good enough to let me have you for enough time to do two and cover all these things. I ask you the axiom by which you live your life. And I wonder if you can tell us that now because it really feeds into this notion of jen ratio which is such an important component of the work that you are doing.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah, well that’s a terrific question. As I started to study these emotions that we will talk about that bring out the good in others and that really are the foundation for healthy individuals and marriages and friendships and communities, I really struggled with some concepts or phrases that helped capture this spirit that I was after in these emotions and there I heard the voices of my Mom and my Dad, not surprisingly. So one of the quotes comes from really humanity’s first teacher who is Confucius and we will get to his idea of jen but he says “That a person of humanity wishing to establish his own character or her own character also establishes the character of others that we find ourselves in bringing out the good in other people.”

And then this was a quote that my Mom sent to me in college that stayed with me since then which is Percy Shelley, the great poet was writing about the imagination and he arrives at this place where he says the great secret of morals is love or going out of our own nature and identification of ourselves with the beautiful that exists in thought, action or person not our own.” And that is such a spectacular statement about romanticism in a way which is that where do we get our moral compass? It’s really in love. What is the core of that and it’s finding the beauty in other people.

Susan Bratton: I want to talk to you about the moral gut because I think it is something that we’ve forgotten how to tap.       

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: But tell us about this idea that you got. You stole an idea from Confucius, jen ratio.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: [laughter] I love it.

Dacher Keltner: Oh, thank you. Well, psychologists are, and in particular, as your listeners will discover, I am interested in how millisecond movements of facial expressions tell us about a person’s character or the love for their partner. And so as scientists we’re interested in really distilled, quick measures that are deep that capture the condition of an individual, right? And so I was really grappling with what is a way to get my readers and for ourselves as members of this historical moment to really think about are we leading the good life and I was captivated by jen and jen as reflected in that quote I just read of Confucius is really the idea of respect and caring and bringing out the good in others.  It’s an amazing concept in Chinese language and forgive me if I’ve mispronounced it.

And so I was thinking well, if I want to take stock of my life and find out if it’s going well, if I want my daughters to take stock of their lives, what’s the lens that I can give them or how shall we do that. I think it is more than asking are we happy right now or do we feel good. So I came up with this idea of the jen ratio. Jen is, actions that are based in jen are actions that bring out the good in others. The jen ratio is very simply in the numerator in the top of a ratio, you put all the actions you’ve just seen or that you’ve just engaged in that bring out the good in others. In the denominator, you put the opposite, the actions that actually bring out the bad in others, that are adversarial. And the bigger the score you have or the higher the number the happier your life. And I think when you look at studies of marriages, when you look at studies of kids who do well on playgrounds and when you look at studies of presidents who do well or CEOs leading companies, I think one of the uniformities that we see is they have high jen ratios. They are acting in ways that bring out the good in others.

Susan Bratton: I was talking to one of my girlfriends who is Chinese. She was born in China and then she immigrated here and she’s been here for about 15 years. And I asked her about Confucius and this idea of jen

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: and she said you know we have a lot of names for that. I mean we have as many names for that concept as we have

Dacher Keltner: Yep

Susan Bratton: words but she said that it’s absolutely true and interestingly enough one of her friends has this idea that in China, they actually have too high a jen ratio

Dacher Keltner: Yep

Susan Bratton: that they are selfless

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton:  and they give up themselves for the greater good of their culture, of their people.

Dacher Keltner: Yep

Susan Bratton: So an example she used was, here is an example where jen is actually overdone. At the Beijing Olympics, the government

Dacher Keltner: [laughter]

Susan Bratton: asked people not to drive to the Olympics because there are some horrible traffic problems in Beijing. If you have ever been there, it’s just a nightmare to get around town. And she said so people went through quite a bit of hardship to get to the Olympics. So they took on personal strife to support the good of the common group.

Dacher Keltner: Correct

Susan Bratton: She said that she thinks there is a balance where in America, we are way to the other end of that spectrum. We are all about the individual. We’re pushing ahead in traffic. And we are going to take our dam car and it’s going to be a gas guzzler and screw all you people.

Susan Bratton: Get the hell

Dacher Keltner: [laughter]

Susan Bratton: out of my way. And she said that she thinks there is a perfection in the middle road

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton:  and that we haven’t achieved that yet and that we have very different cultures. She said that Asian Americans who have a high jen ratio but understand the dynamics of American culture tend to do very well


Dacher Keltner: Yeah.                 

Susan Bratton: and they balance it which I thought was very fascinating.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah, whoa, what a terrific observation. I should collaborate with your friend.

Susan Bratton: Oh absolutely

Dacher Keltner: So first, isn’t it fascinating with respect to language and culture that the Chinese have dozens of words that capture this idea of respect and reverence of others

Susan Bratton: Yes

Dacher Keltner: And in the English language, we are kind of impoverished.

Susan Bratton: Well, you’ve given us ours.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah, hopefully.

Susan Bratton: It’s jen and we’re going to use that.

Dacher Keltner: I completely agree, Susan. I think you need this balance. You need a balance of orientation to others and self interest. There is a fascinating psychological condition that people are just starting to study called, William’s condition, William’s syndrome and it’s actually

Susan Bratton: Right, right

Dacher Keltner: where people are too oriented towards the welfare of others and they don’t protect themselves enough.

Susan Bratton: Yeah

Dacher Keltner:  I’m completely on the same page.

Susan Bratton: It’s fun to study those extremes and to get some wisdom out of them. We are going to go to a break to thank my sponsors and when we come back we are going to talk about how we can be good, how we can create more goodness in our lives by relying on amusement, gratitude, compassion, some of the things you study and how we can bring the good to others to completion which I think is just a beautiful concept and works so well in the workplace environment. We are really empowered in the workplace to bring the good in others to completion. I want to talk about the thing that pushed your edge the hardest in your whole life. I want to talk about the moral gut because I think there are some really interesting things there. I love your idea of the Cro-Magnin CEO.

Dacher Keltner: [laughter]

Susan Bratton:  And we are going to talk a little bit about power hierarchy. So we’ve got some work to do in the second half of this show and there so much more in Part 2. So let’s go to break. When we come back, you’ll get to hear more from Dacher Keltner, Professor of psychology at UC Berkley and author of the book you absolutely have to buy called, “Born to be Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life.” So stay tuned.

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Susan Bratton: Alright, we are back with Dacher Keltner, author of “Born to be Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life.” Now, Dacher, you’ve given me two autographed copies to give away for my Dishy Mix listeners. Is that right?

Dacher Keltner: Absolutely

Susan Bratton: I really appreciate that.

Dacher Keltner: It’s an honor.

Susan Bratton: It’s an honor to have an autographed copy. That’s the best part. And if you are a Dishy Mix listener, you know the way you get to be chosen to be one of the recipients is to post the most fun, interesting desire on the Dishy Mix Fan Club. Just go to dishymixfan.com. Post the reason why you should be the person lucky enough to get an autographed copy of “Born to be Good,” and I may just select you and Dacher will sign it and send it to you.

So let’s get on with this. I want to talk about how should we be good, Dacher? You have this amusement, gratitude, compassion. You’ve got these things. How do we bring more of this into our lives? Tell us the story.

Dacher Keltner: Well, one of the really interesting things about writing this book, I do this basic science on laughter and touch and gratitude and parts of the nervous system like the vague nerve which we will talk about that help us care and be compassionate to others. And one of the things that was really interesting is to connect these parts of our body that are shaped by evolution to the ethics that have arisen in the wisdom of our cultures. And what I believe is that and I think what the science is starting to show is that these emotions like gratitude and reverence and appreciation and love and laughter are skills. They are really things that you can cultivate, things that you can readily teach with your children to cultivate the good life. And so what we are starting to see in the science of happiness is evidence that fits that thesis.
So, for example, one of the most well-known studies is by Richie Davidson and John Cavitsin[sp] a neuroscientist and an M.D. who does work on meditation. If you meditate on loving kindness and just being compassionate to others, it shifts the brain chemistry so that you have more activation in the left side of your frontal lobes, which is associated with positive emotion and it boosts your immune system.

So, what I recommend in all modesty, and everybody will do this in different ways is build in opportunities to express gratitude at the dinner table. Build in opportunities to be compassionate toward your loved one. Make sure you laugh. One of the most obvious places is touch. We’ve done a lot of research on touch. Touch, friendly kinds of touch which is our basic tendency, boosts your immune system, calms cardiovascular physiology down, makes you trust, increase weight in premature babies by 47% and those are just basic social practices that bring out these emotions between people.

Susan Bratton: Ever since I heard you and Christine Carter talking about the gratitude thing with your children,

Dacher Keltner: Yes

Susan Bratton: on the Greater Good site, there’s a great blog about how to increase the happiness of your children, as well.

Dacher Keltner: Yes

Susan Bratton: Now what I have been doing with my 11-year-old daughter Taylor,

Dacher Keltner; Oh

Susan Bratton: is sometimes I go in the morning and when I wake her up, I lie there with her, touch her, snuggle her

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: and we say tell me three things that I am thankful for

Dacher Keltner: Oh

Susan Bratton: and they always have to be different because we have this thing in our family where we have this little game that we have been playing. I started it with my husband twenty years ago. Tell me three things you love about me.

Dacher Keltner: Yes

Susan Bratton: And you are allowed to ask that anytime you want

Dacher Keltner: Oh

Susan Bratton: if you are feeling a little bit of insecurity. Tell me three things you love about me

Dacher Keltner: [laughter]

Susan Bratton: or sometimes I say, “Can I tell you three things I love about you?” And we just go back and forth and you are never allowed to use the same one and for twenty years we’ve been thinking up new things we love about each other.

Dacher Keltner: That’s wonderful. The marriage researcher John Gottman who

Susan Bratton: Oh yes with

Dacher Keltner: 5-1

Susan Bratton:  the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, right?

Dacher Keltner: For marriages to make it and I would say for families to be healthy you need a 5-1 ratio of positive to negative.

Susan Bratton: We took the gratitude idea and we leveraged it off of the tell me three things you love about me and now we do it at the dinner table or I do it in the morning with my daughter and a couple of times a week we ask her to tell three things that she is thankful for, that she has grateful for and we all do it.

Dacher Keltner: And it’s amazing, Susan. I have been teaching executives in different contexts and healthcare providers. And in the workplace, bosses who say thank you and express respect, I have workers who routinely tell me they will save the email and keep it posted

Susan Bratton: Yeah

Dacher Keltner: to capture that feeling of appreciation and respect.

Susan Bratton: One of the things I like about Linked In are those recommendations where you can ask your friends to give you a recommendation and they are really an appreciation or a gratitude. It was a brilliant move on Linked In’s part

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: to bring some humanity to what was otherwise just a resume service.

Dacher Keltner: Right. Nice

Susan Bratton:  There was something that you’ve done that you said pushed your edge the hardest in your whole life yet is also the foundation of your life’s work. Tell us about FACS.

Dacher Keltner: Well, the Facial Action Coding system is a coding scheme that Paul Ekman, the great emotion researcher, probably many of your listeners have heard about his work on lying and emotion and Charles Darwin. The new Fox show, Lie to Me is based on his career.

Susan Bratton: Oh

Dacher Keltner: I was actually a post doc in his lab after my graduate work at the UC San Francisco. And Paul spent seven years of his life figuring out how to, based on facial anatomy how to code based every muscle movement in the face, based on how muscle movements change the appearance of the face. So, for example, there’s a muscle that circles the eyes called the obicularis oculi. When you feel good, that’s the critical muscle that says you’re happy and when it fires, your cheeks go up. You get a little pouch on the lower eyelid. You get those dreaded crow’s feet. But in actually, it’s a sign of happiness.

And Paul designed this system that enables researchers around the world with any human face to identify which muscle occurs[sp]. It was a phenomenal achievement. It almost ruined his career. When you learn it, it takes about 100 hours to learn this weird vocabulary of muscle movements that translates to what we call aus or action units. And then even more powerfully, once you learn it and start applying it in your research as I did, it changes your life. You start, I remember learning this system and it took 100 hours and you pass the test and I went out of the lab into San Francisco and a woman served me a croissant and she was sneering at me. For about a quarter of a second, I picked it up, right? I saw somebody flirting with my girlfriend and I said “Hey, stop that.” They didn’t even know.  So it gives you a lens onto this world, this subterranean world that became the foundation of my research.

Susan Bratton: Well, that pouch under the eye

Dacher Keltner: [laughter]

Susan Bratton: you talk about and we are going to talk about this in Part 2 the Duchenne
versus the non

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: Duchenne smiling. What you have been able to do is figure out
when a smile is a positive or a negative emotion just by looking at the facial structure. These are simple things we can learn to get a better sense of who we are dealing with and where they are in their head space, right?

Dacher Keltner: Oh absolutely. And Paul Ekman has CDs and I forgot what they are called that you can get and with an hour of training, you can become better able to quickly detect if somebody is really happy about the compliment you just delivered or faking it.

Susan Bratton: Yeah

Dacher Keltner:   Are they really angry about the latest conflict in the family or not so and this is a trainable skill.

Susan Bratton: I have been learning a little NLP as my listeners will know and one of the things I am trying to do is really slow down my own thoughts

Dacher Keltner: Right

Susan Bratton: and focus on the other person.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: And I think if you know a few of these visual cues, they can really feed into and add to the work that you can get with NLP.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah. Oh my God, powerful combination.

Susan Bratton: Absolutely and especially for people in sales or in management to be able to really understand what’s going on with that person that’s sitting across the desk from you. That is powerful stuff. 

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: Not to mention the effect if can have in your personal life. [laughter].

Dacher Keltner: We can use a little of both.

Susan Bratton: Absolutely, we will take them all. I want to talk about whether you think we learn morality or we know morality.

Dacher Keltner: Well, with all the great debates in human nature, is it nature, nurture learning versus evolution and good or evil, the answer from science is always both and so we are learning in the study of our moral inclinations part of it is taught to us by culture and the amazing richness of the culture that we are brought up in. I will give you a very compelling example. When Rick Schwaeder [sp] lived in India and he’s at the University of Chicago and surveyed what people find to be immoral and deserving of punishment people commonly mentioned things like getting a haircut after your father dies, eating  certain kinds of meat on the wrong day, touching a woman who is married to your brother. All of these things that don’t seem immoral at all to the Western mind are immoral in that culture so part of it is learning but there really a new revolution in our understanding of morality and it comes from people like John Height and Mark Hauser[sp.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, John wrote the book about happiness. That was really good.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah and thinking that evolution has built into us these emotions, these zen, romantic, powerful gut feelings, the moral gut if you will, that tell us that something is wrong and should be changed that then feed up into the more rational mind and there you sort out your moral decisions.

I will give you an example and forgive me if it leaves your listeners a little repulsed.

Susan Bratton: Oh no, it is fine. Is it a chicken?

Dacher Keltner: Yes

Susan Bratton: Yeah, yeah, it’s a good one.

Dacher Keltner: Is that fair game?

Susan Bratton: Yeah, totally fair game here on DishyMix.

Dacher Keltner: So this is John Heights example and it confounds the Western mind for  very illustrative reasons. So the question for the listeners is, “Should you punish the following person?” A man goes to the store, buys a packaged chicken, takes it home, closes the curtain, has sex with the chicken, cooks it and eats it, right. Is that guy morally wrong in doing that behavior?

Susan Bratton: So what just happened to everybody was that they went, “Oh, oh,

Dacher Keltner: Exactly

Susan Bratton:  gross, ew, Dacher.”

Dacher Keltner: [laughter] I’m immoral for even bringing this up.

Susan Bratton: [laughter]

Dacher Keltner: So when I give that thought experiment to undergrads and graduate students, CEOs and the like, I see their faces. Their lips curl up in disgust.

Susan Bratton: Yeah

Dacher Keltner: Their stomach turns.

Susan Bratton: Their forehead wrinkles.

Dacher Keltner: Exactly ew.

Susan Bratton: Yeah

Dacher Keltner: But then the Western mind kicks in, the more rational mind and says wait a minute

Susan Bratton: He bought the chicken.

Dacher Keltner:  we have freedom.

Susan Bratton: [laughter]

Dacher Keltner: No one is harmed. That’s fine but around the world most people and most cultures say no that guy should be punished. That’s an impure sexual behavior. And what that little scenario illustrates is something more pervasive which is that we have these gut feelings of compassion and suffering and anger and injustice and disgust and impurity that tell us something is morally eschew and then we integrate it with what culture has taught us about rights and freedoms and costs and benefits..

Susan Bratton: One of the things that I appreciated about that particular chapter in your book “Born to be Good” was that it gave me more confidence in listening to my gut.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: We tend to rationalize our way out of those moral, gut, negative reactions.

Dacher Keltner: We do.

Susan Bratton: We’ll smooth that over

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: with some kind of cultural, social, rational thought

Dacher Keltner: Yep

Susan Bratton: and I’m saying no.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: I’ve put a stop to that now that I’ve read your book. Just had that happen to me with my daughter
Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: about getting into a dance when she is actually a year young to go because she’s got to go with her girlfriend because she is spending the weekend with them and how do we handle this and I said to her, “In my gut, I don’t want you to lie.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: I don’t want you to go if you have to lie.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: Just stay with Colli’s[sp] mom if you can’t get in because of your age.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: And I know in my heart, I know in my gut that that’s the right thing to do.” She said “OK Mom, no problem. I’ll do that.”

Dacher Keltner: Oh

Susan Bratton:  And I leveraged my gut not my rationale

Dacher Keltner: Nice

Susan Bratton: And it felt so freeing for me to get back to that

Dacher Keltner: I agree

Susan Bratton: We’re taught those things and then we grow up and we get away from it.

Dacher Keltner: We do and I think in particular in the West how we think about morality as being about doing these cost benefit analyses

Susan Bratton: Right

Dacher Keltner: thinking about legal or higher order principles where in fact for seven million years evolution has been shaping the nervous system and the emotions to give us a first read on what’s right and wrong.

Susan Bratton: Well, that’s a perfect segway. Let’s talk about this seven million years of learning how to get along in a society, in a group. You have a chapter that I think is fascinating or a subchapter called the Cro Magnin CEO.

Dacher Keltner: [laughter]
Susan Bratton: And it’s about how we as humans chapter which I think is fascinating hierarchical organizations to survive but now what I liked was your focus on how people gain elevated status because it’s different than what we may think based on the behaviors of CEOs and men or women in leadership organizations today. Tell us about what it really is that helps you get ahead.

Dacher Keltner: Wow what a terrific question. The other central area of research that I work in is power and hierarchy and you are absolutely right, Susan, for a long time we’ve labored under what I call the Machiavellian view of power. Machiavelli the great Italian philosopher, very influential in writing about power. There are books out like the Laws of Power by Robert Green that are very influential that advocates this view which holds to gain power you have to lead through fear and not connection. You have to pit people against each other. You have to lie. You have to manipulate and it turns out that view is wrong, both scientifically in studies of organizations today and then evolutionarily. And so what we’ve learned in the studies of primate hierarchies and human hierarchies is that hierarchies are everywhere. We fold into ranks and hierarchies to smooth out the functioning of the group to help us make decisions and the like.

They are everywhere but they are different than other primates in an important way which is that humans because of our social intelligence can form alliances. We can form networks. We can constrain the actions of single leaders in a lot of organizations and social groups and what that shift in evolution did was place a burden upon people who were leading to advance the interest of the group and not to be Machiavellian. A lot of our research and this was also Cameron Anderson at the Haas School of Business, what these studies are finding is that groups selected leaders who bring people together and move the group forward in productive fashion. And they quickly detect Machiavellians and exclude them from opportunities for power. So really interesting implications for how we run organizations and how CEOS need to conduct themselves.

Susan Bratton: One of the things you say in the book and I will quote this is “That power goes to the emotionally intelligent.”

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: What is emotional intelligence when you are talking about power in an organization?  Give us some tips. If we are really good people we have high jen ratios, how can we leverage this emotional intelligence to eclipse those power monger bad guys?

Dacher Keltner: Yeah, you are putting your finger and I think this is why your show has much play on a real sea [sp] change in the field of organizations and leadership and it really is consolidated in this idea of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence has to do with what we have been talking about today which has a couple of key components and this is Danny Goleman. Knowing your feelings by trusting those gut feelings that we’ve talked about. Knowing other people’s feelings being in an ideal world trained in FACS facts and knowing what your coworkers and your team workers are feeling and thinking. Knowing how to cultivate the right feelings in the workplace, right, the right opportunities for repartee or serious positioning or what have you. And there are new studies finding that the leaders that maintain the respect of their teams and lead more productive organizations are emotionally intelligent.

So how do you do it? Well, what we are realizing and learning and teaching is there are just some basic social practices that are often lost sight of in the workplace. You have to joke around a little.  You have to be empathetic and listen. You have to ask a question. There are moments in team meetings when you have to be silly and goofy and laugh and be self deprecating. One of the core concepts is to build trust through generous action and the like. So there are a lot of very powerful ways to cultivate emotionally intelligent leadership.

Susan Bratton: And you said it was Danny Goldman?

Dacher Keltner: Danny Goleman

Susan Bratton: How do you spell that?

Dacher Keltner: Goleman and his book “Emotional Intelligence”

Susan Bratton: Oh right

Dacher Keltner: sold 8 million copies and his idea is emotional intelligence is more important than IQ.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, EQ trumps IQ.

Dacher Keltner: And he’s right.

Susan Bratton: Yeah. We’ve covered a lot of ground already. We talked about finding the good, the idea of zen romanticism, how to cultivate a higher jen ratio, how to actually cultivate the good life in your own life. These things like amusement still keeps coming up, amusement and humor. We got so serious.

Dacher Keltner: Oh my God.

Susan Bratton:  So how can we have more fun?

Dacher Keltner: Yeah

Susan Bratton: And gratitude and compassion. We are going to talk about compassion in the second half.

Dacher Keltner: Great

Susan Bratton: The moral gut in getting back to that and understanding how to be more socially engaged. So we covered all those things.

In Part 2, I want to talk more about creating rapport. What are some of the things? You talk a lot about embarrassment and how it’s actually a disarming and a charming thing to

Dacher Keltner: [laughter]

Susan Bratton: be embarrassed.  I want to talk about that. I want to talk about getting more to the value of laughter and teasing. Teasing has gone out of our culture in so many ways

Dacher Keltner: Oh yeah.

Susan Bratton:  especially in the business world.

Dacher Keltner: Oh my God

Susan Bratton:  So I want you to talk about the value of teasing. We can’t miss the opportunity to talk about touch and trust and your interactions with the Dalai Lama. I want to talk about kindness and different ways that we can do that and then I want to talk about being a vagal superstar

Dacher Keltner: [laughter]

Susan Bratton: and what that means because I think there are some people who are naturally vagal superstars but there are others who could be if they knew the right techniques and mannerisms and ways to cultivate that in their lives to have what they see those vagal superstars getting that they want that. I think people who see vagal superstars want that.

Dacher Keltner: Oh yeah.

Susan Bratton:  So I want you to tell us how we can have that if we don’t have that.
And then, I want to talk a little bit about the seminar you have coming up, “The Science of a Meaningful Life” and some of the things that you are going to teach your students that maybe you can teach us.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah. Sounds terrific.

Susan Bratton: So we are going to stop this session and next week we are going to come back with Dacher and we’re going to talk to him about all those things. So you’ve been listening to Dacher Keltner. He’s the author of “Born to be Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life.” You can get an autographed copy of his book if you are one of my favorite posts on the Dishy Mix fan club, [music] dishymixfan.com. And Dacher, thank you so much for all the wisdom you have already imparted and you are still up for doing another segment?

Dacher Keltner: Absolutely and thank you Susan, terrific questions.

Susan Bratton: Good, yeah it was fun because we applied your work to business which was probably not the thing you most commonly are talking about, right?  

Dacher Keltner: Well actually I do a lot of teaching at CIO summits and CEOs.

Susan Bratton: Oh good.

Dacher Keltner:  It has been great collaboration there too

Susan Bratton: Well perfect. We want to get as much of that out of you as we can on our next episode too.  So I am your host, Susan Bratton. Thank you so much for tuning into DishyMix this week and I hope you will listen to Part 2 with Dacher Keltner next week. Stay tuned and have a great day.

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