How Do We Become More Sympathetic and Helpful? What Creates Good Character?

How Do We Become More Sympathetic and Helpful?
What Creates Good Character?

Relationship between sympathy, helping others could provide clues to development of altruism

Recently one of my book groups read David Brooks, “The Road to Character.” It was a fascinating book though I didn't feel the people he chose to write about had character in the way I define it, they did help others through good work. This research article shares insights into how helping others can build sympathy.

Research could help inform interventions to promote positive behaviors in adolescents

Date September 29, 2015
Source: University of Missouri-Columbia

Summary: Developmental psychologists long have debated whether individuals volunteer and help others because they are sympathetic or whether they are sympathetic because they are prosocial. Now, new research helps clarify some of the confusion.
Developmental psychologists long have debated whether individuals volunteer and help others because they are sympathetic or whether they are sympathetic because they are prosocial. Now, new research from the University of Missouri helps clarify some of the confusion, which could lead to better interventions to promote positive behaviors in adolescents and clues as to what makes some individuals altruistic.
"As researchers, we've known about the link between sympathy and prosocial behavior, such as volunteering and helping others, for a long time, but we didn't have much evidence about the nature of the relationship," said Gustavo Carlo, Millsap Professor of Diversity in MU's College of Human Environmental Sciences. "We demonstrated that a reciprocal relationship existed between prosocial behaviors and sympathy for adolescents from ages 12 to 16. Sympathy predicted prosocial behaviors, but also engaging in earlier prosocial behaviors positively predicted later sympathy."
Engaging in prosocial behaviors has a self-reinforcing quality that eventually may become incorporated into how adolescents view their moral selves; this may help explain how some individuals, over time, become more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors and become more sympathetic, Carlo said.
"This research has tremendous implications for understanding those individuals who we think of as moral exemplars, individuals who commit themselves to certain causes or other forms of generosity -- people such as Mahatma Ghandi, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr. and others," Carlo said. "We want to know which developmental processes led these individuals to eventually manifest altruistic behaviors that set them apart from other individuals. For every one of those individuals who became famous, thousands of others exist who are doing fantastic work and helping to improve our society on a day-to-day basis."
For the study, the researchers recruited 500 12-year-olds to answer questions about sympathy and prosocial behaviors. The researchers questioned the adolescents four more times, each about a year apart, to observe changes in the adolescents' behavior and sympathy over time. The researchers observed a decline in sympathy among boys in early adolescence, but a steady increase followed the dip as the boys matured. Girls had higher levels of sympathy and prosocial behaviors at all ages.
To increase prosocial behaviors among adolescents, and among boys in particular, attention should focus on changing the societal environment so it encourages boys and girls to express their prosociality, Carlo said.
"Unfortunately, in our society, the pressures for boys to act tough and to not express what's seen as a sign of weakness is suppressing prosocial behaviors," Carlo said. "We need to pay attention to adolescents' contexts and their socialization groups. Prosocial behaviors clearly are natural tendencies, and unfortunately, some cultural contexts make it difficult for adolescents to express those tendencies, which should be signs of strength and not weakness. We need to get that message across and make it easier for kids to express what's innately inside of them."

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from 
materials provided by University of Missouri-ColumbiaNote: Materials may be edited for content and length

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at www.PattiWood.net. Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at www.snapfirstimpressions.com. Also check out Patti's YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/user/bodylanguageexpert.

President Obama and Putin's Body Language During United Nations Meeting in New York.

President Obama and Putin's Body Language during United Nations Meeting in New York

I did a piece this morning for ABC News on the body language of President Obama and President Putin during their time together at the United Nations in New York.  Here is the piece followed by the videos I analyzed. http://bit.ly/1KJ09ir.


Body language expert: Obama's disgust' on display in 'forced' encounters with Putin

By Amanda Ota Tuesday, September 29th 2015



United States President Barack Obama, right, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin pose for members of the media before a bilateral meeting Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)






WASHINGTON (SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP) — President Obama is done playing politics when it comes to Russian President Vladimir Putin, based on his interactions with the world leader at the United Nations on Monday.
"He's letting the world know he is not very happy with Putin" explained Body Language Expert Patti Wood.
While most politicians have their "game face" that shows that nothing bothers them, Wood said Obama made the choice to use his body language to express his feelings toward Putin on Monday.
Overall, Wood described, Obama used "a cluster of cues" to tell Putin "I don't respect and honor you enough to give you my time, to enjoy this process or enjoy this moment.. I'm being forced to do this"
While Wood explained that Obama has been more likely to show his displeasure in certain situations than other Presidents she has observed "this was really obvious."
"It is highly unusual to show that much emotion," Wood noted.
Wood described Obama's body language "was more disgust than displeasure it was more profound he made the choice to say I'm displeased, I'm disgusted, I don't want to have a relationship with you."
"Obama feels strongly enough to show his feelings to the entire world," Wood said, and everyone is paying attention.
"The whole world is noticing this," Wood commented.
Obama appeared pained to even be in the same room as Putin for a photo opportunity. Wood noticed that he didn't' walk all the way into the room where members of the press were eagerly snapping photos.
"Usually a handshake approach in those kinds of setting everything is slowed down for the camera Obama did a couple of things to make it short and brief."
Making the moment as short as possible, Wood said, Obama "showed his dislike and disrespect."
Keeping the photo opportunity brief was just one of the actions Obama took to show his disrespect for Putin, Wood noticed. Describing the handshake itself, Wood noticed Obama "swung out his fingers like he wanted to smack Putin up the side of his face."
Wood described the way Obama "flung out his fingers" as a "weapon gesture" which she said is not often seen in a stylized handshake.
Wood saw no indication that Putin was phased by Obama's cold demeanor. She noted that during the handshake "Putin went on top, to show his power and control and his dominance, that's just the way he is, that isn't purely situational."
Analyzing the smirk Putin was caught making while toasting with Obama during lunch, Wood explained that a smirk is an indication that a person is feeling one thing, but having to act in a different way. Putin's smirk, Wood analyzed was him thinking "I'm so much better than this, I'm so much smarter than them this is just ridiculous that I have to be here."
The notion of having to be present against their will may have been the only mutual feeling Obama and Putin shared Monday. Asked to sum up the interactions between the two world leaders Wood described them as "forced."

Video of their photo opportunity is in the first few seconds of this:




Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at www.PattiWood.net. Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at www.snapfirstimpressions.com. Also check out Patti's YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/user/bodylanguageexpert.