Friday, September 26, 2008


Maybe it is because I am looking to make sense of my first ever lay off and have availed myself of the support of family, friends and strangers or maybe it is because the news is dominated by the invisible fist of the market place but, I have been considering the importance of kindness and how its presence feeds relationship and its absence kills it.  The Oprah sanctioned relationship counselor Harville Hendrix uses a technique called "Imago Therapy" to help distressed married couples remember why they chose to love, honor and all that other stuff they said on their wedding day.  It has specific steps and you can check out the link if you want to see them.  Those of you who hate touchy feely stuff will want to avoid the link - my warning to you.  But basically my experience with Hendrix comes down to a thought that the mind can't differentiate from kindness.  If I am choosing kindness towards you then in fact my mind interprets the receipt of kindness.  One's willingness to risk kindness in relationship creates the opportunity to feel kindness and with the essence of kindness trust forms.  How do we enact kindness?  One could argue that the financial actions taken that have led us to our recent economic crisis were kind.  They let people get homes and then let other people swim in money as the loans backing those homes were turned into marketable securities.  But was that kindness or self-satisfaction?What is kindness?  Is it the Golden Rule (my favorite being "Don't do what you hate" from the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas)?  Is it Ayn Rand's Virtue of Selfishness?  Is it the recovery movement's 12th step?  Hendrix would say that it is the honest recognition of the needs of the person you are facing and also that their humanity is viable simply because it is.  This is realized in the practice of "Mirroring" when a distressed partner in a broken relationship plays back to their partner the viability of their distress.  It is not this.  

My consideration of kindness also makes me realize that as a planner I rarely have fought for the practice of kindness when considering communications development.  So often the honest need of the person my client is looking to convince is subsumed by the political or business need the organization is fixated upon.  When I see the power of kindness in communication I am truly filled with a sense of trust.  I think of ads like this or the attention the latest Microsoft "I am a PC" ad earned from me as a response to the well-loved Apple Mac vs. PC campaign.  I know as a an ad guy I am supposed to love Macs and am supposed to genuflect at the aforementioned ad but, to be honest my response has always been one of alienation.  I watch the Mac vs. PC spots and just get the sense that I am not cool enough, curious enough, or courageous enough to be a Mac guy.I don't feel like I can trust the brand to trust me to be part of the brand.  And I am writing this on an iBook G4. But the political considerations of the marketplace to grow Mac share and the use of basic political advertising to achieve that goal seemed more important than my need as a Mac user to be invited into a community of Mac users.  My sense of alienation also could be fueled by a former creative director's love for the Mac vs. PC spots and his un-PC (Politically Correct) language around all things PC (Microsoft).  I'm not sure but the latest Microsoft spot makes me feel okay with being an ad guy who thinks Twitter foolish, loves acoustic guitars and folk music, and would rather read Joseph Campbell and Alice Miller as applicable knowledge towards human behavior than the latest portmanteau operating as a human behavior insight.

Microsoft succeeds for me in sharing kindness.  It is not an either or possibility.  It is a useful practice of Hendrix-like mirroring.  I feel invited in by it because I can see myself in it.  I trust them a little bit more.  

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chasing Noise

I recently spent some time with some folks suffering from cognitive breakdowns.  I won't get into any details to protect the names of the innocent but it got me thinking about how easy it is for us to agree that the noise we make is reality.  Why is it that a heroin addict can understand his own self-destruction yet choose to return to that destruction after he admits it is destroying him?  There's an unconscious acceptance that his particular noise is real to him. I then think of all the work I did as an account planner coming up with arguments and rationale to convince my clients that if we make a certain noise then people will really like that noise.  I doubt that now.  I think we operate under layers of cognitive distortions.  Most of the time the noise we listen to has a pitch and melody we think sensible.  Many times it is a soundtrack to our sense of who we think we are.  But then I spent time with some folks whose premeditated idea of themselves ran headlong into the gravity of reality and that noise was just noise.  I think we continue to make noise between each other and within ourselves.  I don't know why.  Sometimes there is enough agreed upon noise that it becomes valued.  The valued noise becomes the premise behind a brand strategy but as I look at it now that thinking is false.  Marketing simply becomes a more organized cognitive distortion; just one particular noise chasing after the noise it deems valuable.  The only thing that quieted the noise for the folks I spent time with was the humble acceptance that their noise wasn't who they were.  There could be quiet instead as they listened and considered in kindness other people's noise and helped them see that it was just noise.