Behavior Geek

Reading time – 3:19; Viewing time – 4:36  .  .  .

When I see or hear behavior that stands out, one of my first responses is to wonder what’s behind that. For example, when Donald Trump demands a military parade and faintly lauds the Nazis in Charlottesville and insults Gold Star Families and imposes import tariffs that will create a net loss of over 100,000 jobs – and worse once our trading partners react – and he lies two-thirds of the time, I scratch my head about what drives those behaviors. That’s after I calm down. Fortunately, mental healthcare professionals have offered their expertise about Trump’s behavior by demonstrating that he exhibits nearly all of the telltale indicators of a sociopath (here and here and here and here and here). Voilà! The behavior geek in me is satisfied. Mostly.

That information helps to explain Trump’s bizarre acts to destabilize others (“I like being unpredictable.”) and his destructiveness of our country, often displayed multiple times per day. What it doesn’t do is explain why millions of people dismiss his anti-social behavior, saying things like, “That’s just Donald being Donald,” as though that makes okay his Access Hollywood admission of assault of women, his constant attacks on his predecessors in office and his refusal to aggressively interdict Russian efforts to subvert our elections and to impose sanctions. Why would those who wave the red, white and blue tolerate for even one second Trump’s obviously anti-American behavior, his grabs for autocracy, his dereliction of duty?

They aren’t all racists, homophobes and misogynists and they don’t all think that mass gun slaughter is just the price of freedom. Please, get over those notions and the need to demonize those who are different from you. That’s the disease that has swept our nation and you can self-inoculate against that virus. Seeking to understand is a really good way to do that. I really mean just seeking to understand. Be a behavior geek to see the world as they do so that you can understand them. Be clear, though, that doing so is not for the faint of heart.

I recently presented my Money, Politics and Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want program and had a unique experience. The program is non-partisan and focuses solely on how the Big Money people are getting what they want, but We the People are not. I’ve presented this program to groups from all over the political spectrum and have never gotten push-back. But that isn’t what happened at this recent presentation.

There were people sitting at the edges of their chairs, wagging fingers, interrupting, and aggressively going off-point, seemingly unable to focus on the content. They seemed to want to defeat what they experienced as an attack on their cherished beliefs and I was hard pressed to avoid engaging in a verbal battle. I felt attacked and wanted to hit back. I refused that knee-jerk response, though, and repeatedly tried to redirect back to the primary point about Big Money in our politics, but to no avail.

At last some clarity came to me and when the room quieted I said that in that room we were a microcosm of America today. We seemed to be unable to simply talk to one another and be heard. There was refusal to tolerate different views and insistence on being “right.” And, yes, that describes what was going on inside me, too, as the near-chaos had ensued. It took a formidable force of will not to verbalize some of my reactions. That’s why that seeking to understand business is not for the faint of heart.

The only good that I see having come from that meeting is the clarity of what we in America have become. It isn’t pretty and I don’t get what’s behind it – the behavior geek stuff – not fully.

We have to look outside our smug bubbles in order to learn, so I’m looking and will report what I find in subsequent posts. For now, we all need to understand how self-destructive we’re being on a one-to-one basis and nationally when we demonize one another; when we refuse to allow others the same right of opinion as we demand for ourselves; when we hunker down in those smug bubbles. When we’re ready to peer outside our defended zones, things will begin to get better.

For now, stop listening to the haters.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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