Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

A predictor of outcomes:

 

KEY POINTS

  • Empathic accuracy is employed by successful coaches in various sports.
  • Coaches gather impression cues and make inferences about how players are thinking, what they’re feeling, and how they will react.
  • Empathic accuracy can reveal information about the opposition as well, both players and coaches.

With another weekend of sports over, another week of professional coaching begins. Empathic coaches will be considering how the events of recent competition have impacted their athletes, both on an individual and team basis. Gaining such understanding will influence how the coach proceeds, and the way they interact with each of those they lead.

What is empathic accuracy?

Empathic accuracy is the ability to accurately infer the psychological state of an athlete (Lorimer, 2013). As such, it is considered a strong predictor of leadership outcomes (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2008). Empathic coaches aim to achieve this through forming understandings of athletes by collating snippets of information, often referred to as impression cues.

What are Impression cues?

Impression cues include impressions of the athlete’s performance, appearance, attitude, and behaviour. Coaches will also take into consideration all events that may have impacted the athlete on or off the field. There may be stories in the media, on social media, or issues with an athlete’s home life.

Inferences

The inferences made by the coach come together to create an expectancy of how the athlete is feeling, how they will react or perform in forthcoming situations, and what they need from the coach in the days ahead that will help them to fulfil their potential. This process becomes more efficient as the coach gets to know an athlete better. Empathic leaders have closer relationships with those they lead. This closeness garners deeper understanding. In addition, this can  help in prosecuting the potential of athletes, and how they will perform in certain situations.

In competition

The skill of empathic accuracy is also considered helpful in the heat of action (Lorimer & Jowett, 2009). Athletes do their most important work in spaces that the coach cannot enter. The coach’s proximity limits communication. In some sports, the faces of athletes are covered, and so inferences can only be made based on body language and performance. Again, these inferences will be more accurate if the coach is in a close relationship with the athlete.

Keeping up-to-date

Regular conversations provide essential knowledge that cannot be gained by merely observing an athlete in training and competition. Therefore, the coach needs to keep their knowledge of the athlete up-to-date and then make modifications in their expectancy and decision making.

The opposition

A head coach may also employ empathic accuracy to determine how they expect athletes representing the opposition to perform. Their coach too! Collecting impression cues from the opposition can provide opportunities to gain an advantage. This point is well summarized by Gilin and colleagues (2013): “Success in strategic social interactions often necessitates an understanding of the underlying motives, feelings, and likely behaviours of one’s opponent.” 

Knowing the opposition well helps. Coaches who have worked with opposing athletes before will find it easier to recognize what can be inferred from certain behaviours. The body language of a stranger is harder to decipher.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it seems clear that empathic accuracy offers sports coaches an advantage in their day-to-day work and during competition. Coaches will enjoy more success if they focus on knowing and understanding athletes, whatever colours they wear.

 

This article first appeared at Psychology Today. See original publication.

 

U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal

reminds us that once we understand the importance of empathy in leadership, we have to have the discipline to maintain it.

Click on the play button to watch the video.

U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal

reminds us that once we understand the importance of empathy in leadership, we have to have the discipline to maintain it. Click on the play button to watch the video.

Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

A predictor of outcomes:   KEY POINTS Empathic accuracy is employed by successful coaches in various sports. Coaches gather impression cues and make inferences about how players are thinking, what they're feeling, and how they will react. Empathic accuracy can...

read more
Compassionate Leadership

Compassionate Leadership

It begins with self-compassion and ends with contributing to the greater good:   KEY POINTS - Compassion can be seen as a four-step process: awareness, connection, empathy, and action. The element of action is what takes compassion beyond feelings of empathy or...

read more
The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

If Jung and Freud were European football pundits:   KEY POINTS The coaching philosophy of head coaches is moulded by their own experiences and trauma. The collective fans of European football could learn from Freud and Jung. The Freud and Jung banter If they were...

read more
An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump have starkly different personalities. As the cliché goes, a week is a long time in politics. America has seen its presidency change from Republican to Democrat before, and vice versa. There have been regular swings in the sizes of...

read more
Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude in Sports A fan's perspective. When it comes to sport on TV, what’s the next best thing to sharing in the experience of your own team’s victory? Whatever your sport, you probably prefer to watch your own team rather than any other. You may...

read more
The New Signing

The New Signing

New Signing Eventually, we'll reach the end of another football season in Europe. Clubs will be considering improvements to their squads. So, what happens when a new signing enters the dressing room? Does it lift the moral and emotions of the whole squad? How does it...

read more
Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Empathy Empathy is about understanding and is often fuelled by experience. Empathic politicians need to understand those they represent, yet we regularly see evidence of a lack of understanding, due to a lack of empathy. This leads to a fall in popularity or essential...

read more
The Empathy of Cummings & Trump

The Empathy of Cummings & Trump

Cummings and Trump We have seen Cummings and Trump dominate the news and public discourse for two weeks, with both being accused of lacking empathy. Moreover, Piers Morgan recently suggested to the viewing public that President Trump, who he knows personally, has a...

read more
Empathic Communication

Empathic Communication

  Communication is possible without empathy, but a non-empathic communicator will never be as effective as they could be. Empathic communication is characterised by listening, compassion, concern, and support. Such efforts are noticed and appreciated. They have a...

read more

Compassionate Leadership

Compassionate Leadership

Compassionate Leadership

It begins with self-compassion and ends with contributing to the greater good:

 

KEY POINTS

– Compassion can be seen as a four-step process: awareness, connection, empathy, and action. The element of action is what takes compassion beyond feelings of empathy or concern.
– Self-compassion is the starting point for compassionate leadership.
– Research shows that there is no tension between compassionate leadership and results.

Through research into Empathic Leadership, I’ve enjoyed exploring related styles like Compassionate Leadership. The Center for Compassionate Leadership seemed a good place to learn from. The Center’s founder, Laura Berland, and co-founder, Evan Herrel, kindly agreed to answer my questions, before hosting a virtual Global Compassion Gathering that begins at noon (ET) on July 15.

Is compassion related to empathic concern?

EVAN: We consider compassion to be a four-step process: Awareness, Connection, Empathy, Action. Connection is very similar to positive regard. So, the middle two elements, connection and empathy, comprise empathic concern as we understand it.

What about Action?

EVAN: The distinction between empathy or empathic concern and compassion is the intention to move to action. We value the work of Singer and Klimecki on the neurological difference between empathy and compassion: that empathic responses are observed to activate in pain regions of the brain, while compassion activates in the reward region.

How do we become more compassionate?

LAURA: The beauty of compassion is that we were born this way! Showing compassion and caring for each other is one of the key evolutionary shifts that enabled us to thrive as a human species. While Darwin is known for the role of competition in survival, his later work established the importance of cooperative communities.

Can you define compassionate leadership?

LAURA: It means using the lens of compassion as your guiding principle. Practically speaking, it means treating those you lead with compassion, in all situations, and creating a culture of compassion that supports the flourishing of everyone within that culture. This orientation overrides traditional hierarchal leadership, where winning at all costs, competition, and profits are the starting points. Research shows that there is no tension between compassionate leadership and results.

Is there a danger that only compassionate people will tune in to your message?

EVAN: We observed much more resistance to the idea before the global pandemic. Now that we are all moving through this massive collective challenge and continue to experience the devastating failure of so many systems, there is a new openness to how we rebuild in a new way.

Thankfully, most leaders trust data and science. An explosion of academic and business research allows us to present an evidence-based rationale in support of compassion and compassionate leadership. If anyone is truly stuck in an old paradigm, we let them be. They will feel the call to change or not. There is no convincing or proving necessary. Leaders will grow and expand on their own timeline or eventually stagnate.

Is developing compassion in leaders difficult?

LAURA: Even compassionate leaders cite self-compassion as a major challenge. Many leaders get the importance and benefits of showing compassion for others but fail to prioritize their own needs, wellbeing, and compassion toward themselves. This is why we teach compassion from the inside out; starting with self-compassion.

Do the systems in place inhibit the rise of compassionate political leaders?

EVAN: The prevailing systems reward non-compassionate behaviors. Developing compassion in people motivated by power is more difficult. We need more organizations like Compassion in Politics.

Thankfully, we have examples of compassion in politics. Jacinda Ardern, in New Zealand, is often described as both an empathic and compassionate leader. Other examples seem predominantly female. Are there gender differences regarding compassion?

LAURA: When we think of compassion as only care and nurturing, the scales still tip toward these feminine qualities. However, when we look at the full spectrum of compassion in action, including effective systems change, it requires traditionally masculine qualities of strength and courage as well.

A common initial reaction to the idea of empathic leadership, is that empathy can make a leader weaker? I refer people to the science that demonstrates that empathy makes a leader more popular, powerful, and successful. Do you get the same initial reaction to compassionate leadership?

EVAN: Yes. And we give them the same response you do. It’s not just empathy/compassion leaders fear but also showing vulnerability. While you may fear that showing vulnerability makes you appear weak, the evidence shows it makes you appear human, more likable, and more effective at creating successful teams.

Empathic leaders may employ empathy to understand rivals, and use this knowledge against them. Is a compassionate leader less competitive?

EVAN: No, we don’t believe so. Compassionate leaders would act much like the empathic leaders you characterize in your question. Compassionate leadership does not negate competitive advantage in the marketplace. In fact, it creates a more effective and successful workforce.

Leaders in sport have told me that some individuals may take advantage of their style. I’m also thinking of nurses in the NHS in the UK. There’s a pay dispute at the moment. The UK Government seems to take advantage of the compassionate nature of people in caring professions. Can we be too compassionate?

EVAN: We don’t believe you can be too compassionate. Compassion requires kindness, wisdom, and courage. To be taken advantage of, one of those is out of balance — usually wisdom or courage. It’s not compassionate to be taken advantage of in order to help someone else. One needs to have the wisdom to recognize the consequences of submitting to the wishes of someone else. One also needs the courage to say no to someone. Good boundaries are compassionate.

Maybe nurses can lack self-compassion?

LAURA: We start by teaching that understanding and experiencing the practice of self-compassion will enhance the ability to be compassionate to others. Many people, especially in the caring professions, carry limiting beliefs about how and why it is more important to care for others in advance of their own needs. When people recognize that we often respond to our own suffering with less kindness and understanding than we respond to another’s suffering, they can take steps to enhance self-compassion.

Finally, do you have advice for any leaders considering a more compassionate approach?

LAURA: We encourage leaders to be open and courageous in their exploration of compassionate leadership. Understand the evidence: Compassion makes you more present, aware, happier, and less stressed. Compassionate leadership culture, skills, and practices create organizations of safety, connection, and belonging that foster individual flourishing and better organizational outcomes. Compassionate leadership also contributes to the greater good.

 

 

This article first appeared at Psychology Today. See original publication here

 

U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal

reminds us that once we understand the importance of empathy in leadership, we have to have the discipline to maintain it.

Click on the play button to watch the video.

U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal

reminds us that once we understand the importance of empathy in leadership, we have to have the discipline to maintain it. Click on the play button to watch the video.

Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

A predictor of outcomes:   KEY POINTS Empathic accuracy is employed by successful coaches in various sports. Coaches gather impression cues and make inferences about how players are thinking, what they're feeling, and how they will react. Empathic accuracy can...

read more
Compassionate Leadership

Compassionate Leadership

It begins with self-compassion and ends with contributing to the greater good:   KEY POINTS - Compassion can be seen as a four-step process: awareness, connection, empathy, and action. The element of action is what takes compassion beyond feelings of empathy or...

read more
The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

If Jung and Freud were European football pundits:   KEY POINTS The coaching philosophy of head coaches is moulded by their own experiences and trauma. The collective fans of European football could learn from Freud and Jung. The Freud and Jung banter If they were...

read more
An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump have starkly different personalities. As the cliché goes, a week is a long time in politics. America has seen its presidency change from Republican to Democrat before, and vice versa. There have been regular swings in the sizes of...

read more
Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude in Sports A fan's perspective. When it comes to sport on TV, what’s the next best thing to sharing in the experience of your own team’s victory? Whatever your sport, you probably prefer to watch your own team rather than any other. You may...

read more
The New Signing

The New Signing

New Signing Eventually, we'll reach the end of another football season in Europe. Clubs will be considering improvements to their squads. So, what happens when a new signing enters the dressing room? Does it lift the moral and emotions of the whole squad? How does it...

read more
Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Empathy Empathy is about understanding and is often fuelled by experience. Empathic politicians need to understand those they represent, yet we regularly see evidence of a lack of understanding, due to a lack of empathy. This leads to a fall in popularity or essential...

read more
The Empathy of Cummings & Trump

The Empathy of Cummings & Trump

Cummings and Trump We have seen Cummings and Trump dominate the news and public discourse for two weeks, with both being accused of lacking empathy. Moreover, Piers Morgan recently suggested to the viewing public that President Trump, who he knows personally, has a...

read more
Empathic Communication

Empathic Communication

  Communication is possible without empathy, but a non-empathic communicator will never be as effective as they could be. Empathic communication is characterised by listening, compassion, concern, and support. Such efforts are noticed and appreciated. They have a...

read more

The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

If Jung and Freud were European football pundits:

 

KEY POINTS

  • The coaching philosophy of head coaches is moulded by their own experiences and trauma.
  • The collective fans of European football could learn from Freud and Jung.

The Freud and Jung banter

If they were alive today, Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung might be bantering about the goings-on at the belated Euro 2020 football tournament. Sigmund might have a spring in his step about the Czech Republic team sitting at the top of Group D, no doubt taunting his English neighbours whose team currently lies underneath. Carl might be feeling nervous, neurotic even, knowing that Switzerland needs a win against Turkey to have any chance of going through to the last 16, and dreading another one of Sigmund’s sarcastic texts should Switzerland be knocked out at the group stage.

Where is the psychological perspective?

Despite the rise of sport psychology, there appears to be a lack of psychological perspective of professional football (soccer) in the media (all offers will be carefully considered). The pioneers of modern psychology would have plenty to say. I have no doubt that Freud and Jung would have made entertaining and informative pundits. Their analysis on the philosophies of each team and how they have been moulded by historical trauma could be debated at length, together with a dissection of the significant career events of head coaches.

Freud’s analysis

Analysis of the former playing careers of the international head coaches reveals that nearly all have histories that are focused on defending or stopping the creativity of the opposition. Freud might be concerned that thoughts of attacking may have been buried or suppressed in these individuals. He may suggest a few sessions on the couch to unleash a more entertaining style of play or a change in personnel.

Do we need more goal-scoring coaches?

Only three of the 24 head coaches competing, were forwards in their playing careers. This includes the Italian head coach, the nation’s first such coach in the modern era. Roberto Mancini has transformed the way the Italian team plays and as things stand, after each team has played two matches, the Italians are the top goal scorers in the competition.

Mancini’s new style for Italy

Mancini’s playing career was focused on creating and scoring goals. Mancini was moulded during these formative years and so Freud would surely be unsurprised to see Mancini’s team focused on scoring too. This is not just good news for Italians whose teams tend to hang around until the end of competitions. Fans from other nations are, some may argue for the first time, enjoying watching Italy prioritise attacking.

Football Associations

In the interest of the viewing public then, and to improve the spectacle of each game, Freud might call on football associations across Europe to appoint head coaches who spent their playing days creating and scoring rather than preventing goals. Jung would no doubt disagree at once. Of course, Jung would then have to come up with a reason for disagreeing. He might draw on his own famous quote: “We are not what happened to us, we are what we wish to become”. This might be good advice for England head coach Gareth Southgate.

Southgate’s Trauma

Southgate’s traumatic history is known to most lovers of the game. As a player, he was positioned in the heart of England’s defence at Euro 1996. It was a tournament that England came close to winning yet did not. The trauma for Southgate was greater still, for it was he who had a penalty saved, England’s last kick of the tournament. Freud might suggest that the experience is still being felt by the child within the England head coach, as a way of explaining why Southgate insists on playing two protective, defensive midfielders in front of his former playing position.

Archetypal Players

Most other teams in the competition seem to favour one midfield anchor, and in the case of the top teams, this player is not focused entirely on defending. Jung might describe the French player, N’Golo Kanté as the archetype of this position in international football.

Creativity from the Depths

Freud might then suggest that Southgate should be searching for a player with more creativity welling up from the unconscious than seems apparent within the tireless, tackling incumbents. Freud might quip that some players seem to love the tackle more than they love the ball! Reflecting on this, Jung might remind us that: “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves” and then support the collective clamour for selecting the ball-playing Jack Grealish.

Loving the Beautiful Game is Never Easy

For lovers of the beautiful game across the European continent, sadly, only one team can lift the Euro 2020 trophy. This will leave the majority of fans suffering, adding another trauma to all those years of hurt. As Freud might remind us after the final has been played and before the studio is dismantled: “We are never so defenceless against suffering as when we love”.

Blog originally written for Psychology Today.  See the original article here 

Peter Sear, Founder, The Empathic Minds Organisation
Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

A predictor of outcomes:   KEY POINTS Empathic accuracy is employed by successful coaches in various sports. Coaches gather impression cues and make inferences about how players are thinking, what they're feeling, and how they will react. Empathic accuracy can...

read more
Compassionate Leadership

Compassionate Leadership

It begins with self-compassion and ends with contributing to the greater good:   KEY POINTS - Compassion can be seen as a four-step process: awareness, connection, empathy, and action. The element of action is what takes compassion beyond feelings of empathy or...

read more
The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

If Jung and Freud were European football pundits:   KEY POINTS The coaching philosophy of head coaches is moulded by their own experiences and trauma. The collective fans of European football could learn from Freud and Jung. The Freud and Jung banter If they were...

read more
An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump have starkly different personalities. As the cliché goes, a week is a long time in politics. America has seen its presidency change from Republican to Democrat before, and vice versa. There have been regular swings in the sizes of...

read more
Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude in Sports A fan's perspective. When it comes to sport on TV, what’s the next best thing to sharing in the experience of your own team’s victory? Whatever your sport, you probably prefer to watch your own team rather than any other. You may...

read more
The New Signing

The New Signing

New Signing Eventually, we'll reach the end of another football season in Europe. Clubs will be considering improvements to their squads. So, what happens when a new signing enters the dressing room? Does it lift the moral and emotions of the whole squad? How does it...

read more
Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Empathy Empathy is about understanding and is often fuelled by experience. Empathic politicians need to understand those they represent, yet we regularly see evidence of a lack of understanding, due to a lack of empathy. This leads to a fall in popularity or essential...

read more
The Empathy of Cummings & Trump

The Empathy of Cummings & Trump

Cummings and Trump We have seen Cummings and Trump dominate the news and public discourse for two weeks, with both being accused of lacking empathy. Moreover, Piers Morgan recently suggested to the viewing public that President Trump, who he knows personally, has a...

read more
Empathic Communication

Empathic Communication

  Communication is possible without empathy, but a non-empathic communicator will never be as effective as they could be. Empathic communication is characterised by listening, compassion, concern, and support. Such efforts are noticed and appreciated. They have a...

read more

3 Consequences of a Lack of Empathy in Leadership: Are you missing the magic ingredient?

3 Consequences of a Lack of Empathy in Leadership: Are you missing the magic ingredient?

3 Consequences of a Lack of Empathy in Leadership: Are you missing the magic ingredient?

The first indications of a lack of empathy in leadership may lie in the problems the leader is regularly faced with. If one or more of the following issues seems familiar, a solution may be found in a more empathic approach:

1. Miscommunications

It may seem obvious, but miscommunicating information will not often lead to the desired response. Before delivery, a leader needs to consider how communication will be received and understood. An empathic leader will tailor messages appropriately to maintain clarity and avoid the receiver “getting the wrong end of the stick.”

Communication must work both ways. Listening is fundamental to leadership (LLopis, 2013) and provides the leader an opportunity to learn more about an individual. A leader must seek to understand, while ensuring those they lead feel understood.

Mutual understanding is enhanced through regular rather than rare communication, since this allows knowledge of one another to grow and progress. One symptom of miscommunication can be a poor relationship. Without empathy, what a leader sees as helpful feedback may be received as criticism or even disdain. Miscommunications like this will push relationships in the wrong direction.

2. Poor Relationships

If a leader cannot empathise with the people that they lead, their relationships will suffer. An empathic leader needs to get to know and understand who a person really is, and this can only be achieved through a close relationship. Furthermore, surveys regularly show that in the workplace, relationships are valued more than wages (Mitchell, 2014) and this has implications for recruitment and retention.

Leaders often try to take a shortcut to knowing a person by using personality profiling or psychometric tests. Getting to know people in a social way challenges the time and emotional energy of leaders, but the rewards appear to outweigh these costs. Knowledge elicits understanding and maintains close relationships. The alternative is distant or poor relationships, which will have dire consequences for commitment, trust, and respect. Furthermore, they damage the climate.

3. Toxic Climates

When relationships break down or are distant, behaviour and emotions are less predictable. As human beings, we tend to fear the unknown. This leaves people guessing what a leader wants from them and wearing a heavy mask that suits their imagined role. People are also less likely to offer their ideas, which inhibits the creativity of the group.

The fear of the unknown works both ways. A leader becomes paranoid about how they are perceived, and this breeds insecurity. An insecure leader will be more likely to focus on their own needs. Hence, a lack of empathy in a climate brings a lack of care.

Leaders who do not bother to get to know their people will never know their problems, many of which will impact performance, as well as their wellbeing. All considered, a toxic climate is an unsafe one. The spiral is downward, and the performance of all parties will suffer. People excel in climates of safety, not climates of fear (Tynan, 2021).

It is no wonder that empathy now features on job postings for leaders across industries. From sport to medicine, and from politics to business, leadership will suffer due to a lack of it. Leadership can pose a variety of problems that set a team or organization on a negative path. Understanding that a more empathic approach offers a solution is the first step on the road to positive change.

References

Mitchell, L. (2014). Good relationships at work more important than salary, survey finds | HRZone. Retrieved March 8, 2021, from HR Zone

LLopis, G. (2013). 6 Ways Effective Listening Can Make You A Better Leader. Retrieved March 8, 2021, from Forbes

Tynan, E. (2021). Signs You’re in a Toxic Work Environment — and How to Handle It. Retrieved March 8, 2021, from Top Resume

 

This article first appeared at Psychology Today. See original publication here

 

U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal

reminds us that once we understand the importance of empathy in leadership, we have to have the discipline to maintain it.

Click on the play button to watch the video.

U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal

reminds us that once we understand the importance of empathy in leadership, we have to have the discipline to maintain it. Click on the play button to watch the video.

Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

A predictor of outcomes:   KEY POINTS Empathic accuracy is employed by successful coaches in various sports. Coaches gather impression cues and make inferences about how players are thinking, what they're feeling, and how they will react. Empathic accuracy can...

read more
Compassionate Leadership

Compassionate Leadership

It begins with self-compassion and ends with contributing to the greater good:   KEY POINTS - Compassion can be seen as a four-step process: awareness, connection, empathy, and action. The element of action is what takes compassion beyond feelings of empathy or...

read more
The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

If Jung and Freud were European football pundits:   KEY POINTS The coaching philosophy of head coaches is moulded by their own experiences and trauma. The collective fans of European football could learn from Freud and Jung. The Freud and Jung banter If they were...

read more
An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump have starkly different personalities. As the cliché goes, a week is a long time in politics. America has seen its presidency change from Republican to Democrat before, and vice versa. There have been regular swings in the sizes of...

read more
Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude in Sports A fan's perspective. When it comes to sport on TV, what’s the next best thing to sharing in the experience of your own team’s victory? Whatever your sport, you probably prefer to watch your own team rather than any other. You may...

read more
The New Signing

The New Signing

New Signing Eventually, we'll reach the end of another football season in Europe. Clubs will be considering improvements to their squads. So, what happens when a new signing enters the dressing room? Does it lift the moral and emotions of the whole squad? How does it...

read more
Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Empathy Empathy is about understanding and is often fuelled by experience. Empathic politicians need to understand those they represent, yet we regularly see evidence of a lack of understanding, due to a lack of empathy. This leads to a fall in popularity or essential...

read more
The Empathy of Cummings & Trump

The Empathy of Cummings & Trump

Cummings and Trump We have seen Cummings and Trump dominate the news and public discourse for two weeks, with both being accused of lacking empathy. Moreover, Piers Morgan recently suggested to the viewing public that President Trump, who he knows personally, has a...

read more
Empathic Communication

Empathic Communication

  Communication is possible without empathy, but a non-empathic communicator will never be as effective as they could be. Empathic communication is characterised by listening, compassion, concern, and support. Such efforts are noticed and appreciated. They have a...

read more

An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump have starkly different personalities.

As the cliché goes, a week is a long time in politics. America has seen its presidency change from Republican to Democrat before, and vice versa. There have been regular swings in the sizes of leader egos too, but has the country ever seen as great a change in the personality of Presidents?

Trump

During his Presidency Donald Trump’s personality was questioned by those closest to him. Some claimed that he was a narcissist. The features of narcissism include patterns of grandiosity, the need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. An additional psychological label seemed prevalent as well. Former FBI director James Comey and Trump’s former communications director Anthony Scaramucci are two of people who used the word sociopath. This is consistent with the views of those close to Trump before he became President.

As ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz spent 18 months with Trump. He camped out in his office, joined him on his helicopter, sat in on meetings, and spent weekends with him at both his Manhattan apartment and his Florida estate. Schwartz felt he’d got to know Donald better than almost anyone else outside the Trump family. When asked what the title of the book should have been, Schwartz suggested, The Sociopath.

Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist, supported this diagnosis in her book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, referring to her uncle’s antisocial personality disorder. This describes patterns of disregard for the rights of other people, lack of conformity to social norms, deceitfulness, including repeated lying and conning people for personal profit, impulsivity, irritability, aggressiveness, irresponsibility and lack of remorse.

If Donald Trump is a sociopath, it is worth looking into how his personality could have evolved. In her book and subsequent interviews, Mary Trump offers profound insight to the shaping of Donald Trump.

Childhood

As a young boy, Joe Biden recalls his mother reminding him to imagine walking in the shoes of others, as she repeatedly instilled the values of empathy, courage and loyalty. According to Mary Trump, at a similar age Donald Trump’s father was teaching his son that sadness, kindness, and generosity were weaknesses, and that he had to win at all costs. Negativity was banished from the Trump household. Being a loser just wasn’t tolerated.

Mary paints a picture of an incredibly toxic climate for a child to grow up in. She defines the architect of that climate, Donald’s father, Fred Trump, as a “high-functioning sociopath” and describes his bullying, anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and xenophobia, which are all traits the former president has been accused of.

Donald Trump’s mother, also called Mary, suffered health problems, leaving the future president and his siblings even more at the mercy of their father’s values. It was Donald’s older brother, Fred Jr., who received the most attention until their father realised his eldest son lacked the killer instinct he insisted on. Feeling ignored in his early years, Donald craved his father’s attention and learned the behaviours required to get it.

Already distant from his mother due to her illness, Donald was rejected further still by being cast away to military school at just 13 years old. Trump later described the school as “a tough, tough place” where the instructors “used to beat the sh*t out of you.” The anger about being exposed to this tough environment as a child, the lack of connection with his mother at a crucial development stage, and the values passed down from his father seem to have shaped Trump’s future relationships, his lack of understanding and connection with women in particular.

As we know, Donald Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault by more than 20 women. He denies all such claims. But can we take Trump at his word?

Scaramucci has repeatedly confirmed Trump to be a liar. In his book Fear, Bob Woodward quotes Trump’s outside counsel John Dowd claiming that when questioned Trump “just made something up” because “that’s his nature.” PolitiFact suggest that only 3% of the claims made by Trump are true, 9% mostly true, 15% half true, 20% mostly false, 36% are false, and 17% “pants on fire.”  This deceit and treatment of women is certainly behaviour that can be considered consistent with sociopathy.

Biden

Conversely, the word empathy seems to have attached itself to Joe Biden, and he wears this label with pride. Biden experienced problems in childhood, but his problems were external and conquered with the support of his family. Biden’s debilitating stutter made him a target for bullies, but he could go home and be honest with his mother about what was going on. His sister, Valerie Biden Owens, believes that the experience of having a stutter ultimately gave her brother more empathy and compassion toward others.

Childhood

Biden attended the St. Helena School until he gained acceptance into the Archmere Academy, where he had to clean windows and weed the school gardens to help his family afford tuition. In comparison, Donald Trump’s education allegedly relied on his payment to another pupil to take his SATs, so that he could go to college. As Mary Trump explains, money was the only currency in his family. In Biden’s family, the dominant currencies seem to have been love and support.

The support of a family was maintained throughout Joe Biden’s childhood adversity and into his adult life. The tragic loss of his wife and daughter was something Biden says he could not have got through without the support of his extended family. He concludes that his personal tragedies have led to a greater empathy with people who are struggling.

Opinion

Mitchell S. McKinney, a University of Missouri professor who focuses on presidential debates and rhetoric, perceives Biden to be “reasonable and steady-as-you-go, comforting and empathetic.” When he awarded Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Barack Obama said of him, “To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretence, service without self-regard.” Americans may have chosen a leader with the qualities the nation needs.

The people who know these two presidents well have offered deep insight. If their characterisations are true, then America now has a far more empathic leader and should start to notice significant change. Empathic leaders bring people together, spread empathy to those they lead. They create more supportive and safer climates too, the like of which all of our children deserve to be raised within. All this is a reminder that as parents we need to give our children the support to thrive, so that they can parent and lead in a way that makes the world a better place for everyone.

References

Mayer, J. (2016). Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All – The New Yorker.

Price, W. (2020). Mary Trump on the Political Psychopathology of President Donald.

Wehner, P. (2020). Biden’s Empathy Is What Matches Him to This Moment – The Atlantic.

Article first published at Psychology Today

 

Peter Sear, Founder, The Empathic Minds Organisation

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