I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time.  In fact, it’s part of what prompted this blog in the first place.  In my “About SWOG BLOG” section, I write about the struggle many women have with being strong, confident and self-assured while maintaining dignity, grace, approachability and humility.

Brené Brown talks about this in her book The Power of Vulnerability.  She has worked on this not only through her research but personally, herself, to the point that she uses a mantra to try to combat shame and maintain the delicate balance between strength and grace.  She repeats the following “authenticity mantra” when she finds herself in sensitive situations including when she is triggered by events and people in her life:

Don’t shrink; don’t puff up; just stay in your sacred ground.            Brené Brown

Humility, I think, is something we develop toward over time.  Rohr said the following in a recent blog post on humility:

Space, time, and patience reveal the patterns of grace.  This is why it takes most of us a long time to be converted.

I am speculating–very unscientifically by the way– that we go through phases or stages on our way to the potential of humility, and there are a variety of reasons why we struggle to get to a balance of strength with grace.  Let me mention a few here in this post and, as always, I’m interested in your comments and wisdom.  Please keep in mind, I’m reflecting from my own experience and perspective; yours will add to the richness of the post.

As women we are notoriously insecure, frequently compare ourselves to others, are more prone to experience shame including body image issues, and we are generally convinced our worth isn’t as substantial as that of our male counterparts.  So we somehow end up in an inferior state of mind, in jobs where we don’t work to our potential, in unequal pay situations, in a state of burnout from continually trying to prove ourselves to—–well frankly—-to ourselves….and so on.  When we are feeling these things, according to Dr. Brown, we tend to “shrink” or move away from the shame we feel.

Then somewhere along the way we get angry about all that.  That’s when we start to “puff up.”  The large chip shows up on our shoulders, and we tell anyone who will listen and a lot of people who don’t (listen) that we deserve “more.”  More respect; more money; more recognition; more adulation; more proof of love; more, more, more.  At that point the pendulum has swung to the other side, and we are women– hear us roar.  In this reaction, we’re using shame and blame to fight our shame.  We are no closer to the actual issue when we “puff up.”  The actual issue is loving ourselves, accepting ourselves and our imperfections, being honest with our shadow sides and understanding what triggers us.  We’re just directing our shame outward.

Some women never “puff up” but they turn that anger inside and it shows up in a form of depression.  They are convinced they will never be good enough so why even bother to try.  Self-defeating behaviors show up here and the spiral downward only continues.  This is another form of “shrinking.”

I also think because of this insecurity, we are prone to look for affirmation in not-so-healthy ways.  This is the classic people pleaser.  This is where we fall into relationship traps.  This is where we make job changes for the wrong reasons.  This is where we feel a need to tell people how special we are or celebrate out loud things that may be best absorbed within our spirits.  We crave others recognizing our “superiority,” and we do a lot of “resume-sharing” and one-upping during conversations, cocktail parties, and work events.

Two other potential threats to leading a humble life are knowledge and experience.  In his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Deepak Chopra writes:

The Yoga of Understanding has been referred to…as the razor’s edge and we are cautioned to tread carefully on this path.  As we gain understanding about the laws of nature we run the risk of arrogance.  Arrogance inflates the ego and the ego overshadows the spirit.  The original sincere quest for discovery leads to an alienation from the very source which intimacy was sought.  Truly great scientists are known for their humility.  For even as they explore and unravel the secrets of the unknown, the unknown looms larger and becomes evermore mysterious.  Humility leads to wonder which leads to innocence.  The return of innocence invites us to enter the luminous mystery of life and surrender to it.  Yoga of Knowledge can be a wonderful path if we are mature enough to understand that there are seductive temptations that may entrap us for awhile in diversions of the intellect.

Rohr writes:

But the Bible does not make transformation dependent on cleverness at all; rather, transformation is found in one of God’s favorite and most effective hiding places: humility. Read the opening eight Beatitudes in this light (Matthew 5:1-12). Such “poverty of spirit,” Jesus says, is something we seem to lose as we grow into supposed adulthood.

We all need what Jesus described as the mind of a curious child (see Matthew 18:1-5). A “beginner’s mind,” which is truly open and living in the now or in what some call “constantly renewed immediacy,” is the most natural and simple path for all spiritual wisdom.

Experience, knowledge and a degree of “success” in the career world can lull us into “puff-dom” (that just sounds like a cool new word–doesn’t it??!!).  We just KNOW what’s the right way because it was our way of doing things that reaped rewards.  Judgments and polarizations abound and anything that resembles a different path from ours has to be the WRONG way or at least inferior to our way of thinking or doing.  All or nothing.  Right or wrong.  Good or bad.  My way or the highway.  This can also be disguised more subtly as “counsel,” “advice,” or “wisdom” from one who “knows the ropes.”

The reason I speak about all this is because I have struggled with it.  I have lived it.  I seek to develop away from it.  And, I think it’s like smokers who quit or try to quit.  Many of them have difficulty being around other smokers.  At first, it tempts them to start smoking again, and they have to guard against being sucked back into the habit.  Self promotion, judgment, finger pointing and competitiveness are very contagious.  Just like gossip, it’s easy to get drawn back in.  Then later, the former smokers struggle with being around the smoke.  They are hyper sensitive to it, and it just flat out annoys them.  They become a bit self-righteous about the behavior they used to engage in.  So goes the recovering “puff-upper” (ANOTHER new word!!).  For those of you following the adult stage development reading, this is why the “Individualist” or “Self-Questioning” stage has difficulty with the “Expert” or “Skill-Centric” stage folks.  They are both self-righteous in their meaning making.

How to overcome shrinking/moving away, people pleasing and/or puffing up?  Loving and accepting ourselves first–whatever that takes–maybe through coaching, counseling, meditation, spiritual studies & practices, self-improvement reading, Ted Talks by thought leaders like Brené Brown and whatever else works for you.  Taking care of the company you keep because it does impact you.  My coach likes to say, “Keep yourself out of the line of fire.”  Try not to subject yourself to people and situations who try to shame you, try to suck you into a competitive relationship, and/or demonstrate the kinds of behavior that you are trying to overcome.  It doesn’t mean you can’t regard those people with love and compassion, but like the addict, you may not be able to be around them and stay free of the behavior you are trying to change.  And finally, Rohr’s quote above is a good source of advice…maintain a “present” focus and approach life with curiosity instead of a knowing certainty.

Those are ideas I’ve pulled from men and women much wiser than me.  What are your ideas?

“Don’t shrink; don’t puff up; just stay in your sacred ground.”




Actually, I think the title of this post is a bit misleading.  I’m not sure there’s anything particularly graceful about stage transition based on what I can discern thus far.  Maybe it’s a blessing and therefore “of grace” that one goes through stage development.  I’m not sure about that yet either.  There are certainly no guarantees of being happier on the other side–or at least the instructors Barbara Braham and Chris Wahl noted that in their two day conference I attended back in September.

I’ve included a couple of their slides and a few other pictures with quotes to help me attempt to explain this topic.  First, some quotes on Stage Transition (click on picture to make it larger):




How do you know when you’re going through a stage transition?  (And, I do use “stage” before transition purposefully, because according to Barbara and Chris, you can go through a transition, but not necessarily develop to a new “meaning making” stage at the same time).  I really love the Bridges quote to attempt an answer to that question:

One way or another, most people in transition have the experience of no longer being quite sure who they are.           ~William Bridges

Life transitions include things like career changes, relationship changes, residence changes, education, health changes, life phases (parenthood, empty nest, retirement), and aging.  Just because you experience those changes doesn’t mean you are necessarily going through a developmental transition.  The latter are more evidenced by the following (from Braham & Wahl):

  1. Dissatisfaction with aspects of the current stage
  2. Experiencing the limits of current meaning making
  3. Life is getting more complex and demands expanded meaning-making
  4. Exposure and attraction to later stages of meaning-making (education, friends, colleagues)
  5. Purposeful, intentional development
  6. Mysterious reasons


So, developmental transitions are often prompted by life transitions, but they don’t have to be.  In my case, life transitions started the process moving and then I would point to numbers 1, 2, 4, 5 and perhaps even 6 as reasons behind my feeling tugged and unsettled.

Speaking of unsettling, here are the stages you typically go through when experiencing a developmental transition:




I think I’ve given you plenty to digest for the next few days (I know, I know…perhaps the next few months!!).  Some of the implications of these transitions include (and I’m quoting the seminar leaders here): losing friends who have no idea what is the matter with you right now; career indecision; choosing different activities and people to hang with because the former people and things don’t fit so well anymore; drive seems missing or non-existent; you or others experience you as volatile, uncertain, ambiguous, indecisive, unclear, and so forth.

I can’t help end this post with two wonderful quotes.  Namaste everyone!





So, who cares about this adult stage development stuff, SWOG lady?  Well, let me make the case for why we should all care.

Take a look at this chart, and focus on the difference in percentages between the UK and US when it comes to the earlier vs later stages of adult development (you can click on the picture to see it more clearly):


Knowing the little bit I do about the differences in how people behave in those earlier stages versus the later stages, the fact that the US has over 58% of US managers and supervisors operating at the “Expert” stage or earlier is concerning to me.  We wonder why the country is polarized and divided.   I think the following information taken from the Cook-Greuter work will help shed light on some of the behaviors demonstrated at those earlier stages:


  • Morality: When Opportunists lose a test of will, or overstep a boundary, they see the cause as outside themselves. They get frustrated and tend to show free-flowing anger and hostility. Others are to blame, never oneself. Their own anger towards the world is projected outward.
  • Interpersonal: Self-protective individuals especially the Opportunist type tend to cause much friction and hurt feelings wherever they go because of the “I win, you lose” mentality. This is especially so in relationship to others at more conventional stages. In turn, others describe Opportunists as unpredictable, unreasonable, manipulative and exploitative.
  • Cognitive style: Thinking is concrete and dichotomous, based on global, undifferentiated judgments, and simple ideas. Things look black or white. Others are either for me or against me.
  • Language clues: Experience is described in simple dichotomies – good/bad, right/wrong, fun/boring or with concrete, physical words such as in “life is hard.” Often strong negative affect is expressed.
  • Morality: Conformists adhere to a simple rule: “everything goes into two piles. The good, or correct, and the bad, or incorrect.” Knowing the distinction makes it easier to make sense of the world. Every decision, every idea, every person, every action, fits in one pile or the other. There are few, if any, shades of gray, no irony, and no intangibles. Actions are carried out with conviction. This is how it is done around here. “Either you are with us and agree or you are against us.”
  • Feelings: Blind conformism, fundamentalism and prejudice can be expressions of this early conventional frame of mind.
  • Interpersonal style: Because Conformists so desperately want to belong, they will conform to the rules and norms of whatever desired group, gang, political party they belong to.
  • Conscious preoccupation: Conformists put great value on appearance, status symbols, material possessions, reputation and prestige. They are concerned with social acceptance and attempt to adjust to group norms. They deeply care about other’s opinions and evaluations although they are not likely to ask for feedback.
  • Coaching-Counseling style: Conformists like to give lots of advice telling others what to do or not to do. They also tend to compare and evaluate others according to their own preferences where the way I manage or we do it here is the right way while other ways are simply wrong and need to be corrected.
  • Cognitive:  Experts tend to focus on doing things right or correctly, not yet on doing the right things. That is they offer single loop solutions, rather than questioning their preferred approach. Indeed, their own way of doing something is seen as the only right way.
  • Social: Experts may reject their family of origin or their childhood beliefs, yet they still need a reference group that accepts and respects them. Only now they want to be accepted by others because of how they are different and special. Expertise and knowledge are ways to distinguish oneself. Professional peer groups and organizations thus supply the need for approval and belonging. Degrees, authorities, and reference books in the field also provide the needed support for defending one’s approach. However, feeling special can easily lead to feeling superior as one wants to stand out from the crowd.

This is a small sample from her work but you get the idea.  And we wonder why we’re polarized?  If you have access to HBO, I would recommend you watch the special, “VICE Special Report:  A House Divided.”  See what you think about whether the above information is reflected in that report.

I’m not sure exactly what to do about this except push ourselves to continue developing broader perspectives, other ways of looking at things, realizing we’re not always right and our way isn’t the only way to do things.  Seek to understand before being understood.  If your natural inclination is to judge, I would encourage you to work on suspending judgement and conclusions in the interest of understanding.  And, of course, demonstrating that behavior to others you lead is an important consideration, as well.

I used to be drawn to intelligence and accomplishment.  Now I find myself drawn to open-mindedness and away from polarizing judgments.  I love the “what if” discussions instead of “this is the way–the only way–the right way.”  I also find myself admiring humility.  You know the person in the room who is the world’s expert on whatever and you would NEVER know it because of how unassuming he/she is;  the people who have grown beyond having to prove themselves to everyone or anyone who will listen to them; the people who don’t need to be the center of attention and tell people how special they are.

Maybe I’m just old and tired.  Maybe I’m onto something.  I’ll let you decide for yourself.  Next up is how to recognize (potentially) if you’re going through a transformation to another stage of development.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!




Part II of Adult Stage Development.  Or “Making Meaning Out of Life 201!”




Here are a few tenants of Adult Stage Development Theory.  I’ve underlined some of the key points that jump out at me as I read them:

In general, full-range human development theories share most of the following assumptions (from the Cook-Reuter white paper).  

  •     Development theory describes the unfolding of human potential towards deeper understanding, wisdom and effectiveness in the world.
  •     Growth occurs in a logical sequence of stages or expanding world views from birth to adulthood. The movement is often likened to an ever widening spiral.
  •     Overall, world views evolve from simple to complex, from static to dynamic, and from ego- centric to socio-centric to world-centric.
  •     Later stages are reached only by journeying through the earlier stages. Once a stage has been traversed, it remains a part of the individual’s response repertoire, even when more complex, later stages are adopted as primary lenses to look at experience.
  •     Each later stage includes and transcends the previous ones. That is, the earlier perspectives remain part of our current experience and knowledge (just as when a child learns to run, it doesn’t stop to be able to walk). Each later stage in the sequence is more differentiated, integrated, flexible and capable of optimally functioning in a rapidly changing and ever more complex world.
  •   People’s stage of development influences what they notice and can become aware of, and therefore, what they can describe, articulate, cultivate, influence, and change.
  •     As healthy development unfolds, autonomy, freedom, tolerance for difference and ambiguity, as well as flexibility, self-awareness, and skill in interacting with the environment increase while defenses decrease.
  •     Derailment in development, pockets of lack of integration, trauma and psychopathology are seen at all levels. Thus later stages are not more adjusted or “happier.”
  •     A person who has reached a later stage can understand earlier world-views, but a person at an earlier stage cannot understand the later ones.  (This is why people at earlier stages think later stage adults are speaking “Woo Woo” when they talk about things like “True Self,” “Triggers,” “False Self, Small Self, Ego,” etc. )
  •     The depth, complexity, and scope of what people notice can expand throughout life. Yet no matter how evolved we become, our knowledge and understanding is always partial and incomplete.
  •     Development occurs through the interplay between person and environment, not just by one or the other. It is a potential and can be encouraged and facilitated by appropriate support and challenge, but it cannot be guaranteed.
  •     While vertical development can be invited and the environment optimally structured towards growth, it cannot be forced. People have the right to be who they are at any station in life.
  •     The later the stage, the more variability for unique self-expression exists, and the less readily we can determine where a person’s center of gravity lies.
  •     All stage descriptions are idealizations that no human being fits entirely. (When you take the assessment, you usually fall into 3 to 5 stages.  Most of your answers, however, typically assess in one stage which becomes your “center of gravity” and the stage where you tend to make meaning of life.)

The above information also reminds me of Rohr’s first half versus second half of life.  Or the stages he discusses going through as we develop: “order,” “disorder,” and “reorder.”   It is also similar to Richard Barrett’s Stages of Psychological Development and Levels of Personal Consciousness.  Here is that model:




So what?






It seems confusing, but as I read about the later stages of adult stage or ego development, I come across characteristics like:

  • Creative
  • Tolerant
  • Slow to trigger
  • Inviting feedback
  • Value others feedback because they realize their own view of reality to be partial
  • Ego takes a back seat
  • Can reframe viewpoints and judgments to look at alternate perspectives
  • Appreciate paradoxes and can allow “both and”
  • Are creative in conflict resolution because they see conflict–that is, differences in values and perspectives–as an inevitable part of viable relationships

Let me ask you–do our organizations need more of these characteristics?  Does our society need more of the above?  Do our families need more of the above?  These questions are the “why” behind my blogging about adult stage development.

Every weekend I try to catch CBS Sunday Morning.  It’s a delightful show filled with both news stories and human interest ones and this week, like so many weeks during this Presidential Election season, there was a story about the dynamics of this election cycle.  Ted Koppel did an investigatory story on “fake news” and how news in general has had such an impact.  When he concluded his story, he discussed three potential lessons we could take away from recent events.  They were:

  1. Civility (an increased need and emphasis on it)
  2. Objective Reporting
  3. Renewed Respect for Facts





Later this week, more about transformation.  How do you know when it’s happening?  How do you encourage it?

Well, I’ve been kind of avoiding this topic because it’s a big one and I knew it was going to take me some time to pull it together.  I knew the “why” I wanted to introduce it but not the “how.”  Leave it to Richard Rohr to help me.  Today his blog post included the following:

Those who have gone to the depths—of suffering, awe, or silence—discover an Indwelling Presence. It is a deep and loving “yes,” an “amen” or “let it be,” that is inherent within you. In Christian theology, this inner presence is described as the Holy Spirit: God as immanent, within, and even our deepest and truest self.

Some saints and mystics have described this presence as “closer to me than I am to myself” or “more me than I am myself.” This is what Thomas Merton called the True Self. It is inherent in all of us, yet it must be awakened and chosen. The Holy Spirit is totally given—and given equally—to all; but it must be received, too. One who totally receives this Presence and draws life from it is what we mean by a saint.

That is how “image” becomes “likeness” (Genesis 1:26). We all have the indwelling image, but we surrender to the likeness in varying degrees and stages.

And there it was–Voilá!  Instant “how” to do it!!  “Hey!” Tigger exclaims as he boings over and jumps on Pooh, “Is that like Instant Oatmeal?”  “Not quite, Tigger,” Pooh says patiently.  “Not quite.”



What Rohr says above and what I placed in bold is what I want to discuss.  When Rohr has discussed finding your “True Self” or what other writers have referred to as finding your soul, it has always seemed like “Woo Woo” to me.  An allusive concept that sounds wonderful, but give me the “how-to” manual or the step-by-step approach to get there.  But, what he writes today finally resonates with me:  “but we surrender to the likeness in varying degrees and stages.”  YES!

What I’m drawing on is something called Adult Stage Development.   This is a concept any of you who have studied psychology in the relatively recent past have probably learned.  Sometimes known as Ego Development Theory, it is an understanding about how people develop through different stages of adulthood and in each of those stages how we tend to behave, emote and think.  Here is a basic description of that (you may have to click on the picture to read it in full):


I have a feeling no reader on this post is going to digest a 90+ page white paper on this stuff, but it’s out there on the web if you have a burning interest in it.  Google search the following article by Susanne Cook-Greuter called:  “Ego Development:  Nine Levels of Increasing Embrace.”  Here is the link if you’re really feeling ambitious:


In essence, over our lives we can grow and develop or not.  Growth is usually defined as increasing a level of skills or knowledge at the same developmental level.  So my getting a coaching certification in and of itself is growth.  Development occurs when you move between these nine adult stages.  Here is a picture depicting this distinction:


You’re starting to get a feel for why it took me so long to tackle this.  YO!  Are you still there????

A couple other things in the way of introduction and then I’ll wait on tomorrow’s post to go into more detail.  This understanding gives a leader greater ability to truly manage oneself and manage others.  Or communicate with others.  And, it’s not only a tool for the workplace.  You can just imagine how it might assist you in personal relationships.  Secondly, you can read all the details of each stage of development and self assess, but there is an actual assessment you can take.  It’s not inexpensive ($400, I believe) and it takes a while to evaluate, but it does help you know in what stage of adult development you tend to make meaning of life.  Thirdly, there is no contest or competition on stage of development.  The theorists don’t even talk about “higher or lower” stages; they use the terms “earlier” and “later” stages.  We are where we are and we are a product of our learning and life circumstances.  Fourth, age doesn’t necessarily matter.  Based on life circumstances, a young person might find him/herself making meaning at a later stage of development.  And, an older person may not advance beyond some of the earlier stages.  Finally, if and when we advance, we advance one stage at a time; it is rare that someone would skip a stage.  As I read from Rohr above and I contemplate those later “post conventional” stages of adult development, it now makes sense.  It takes time and commitment to development to move toward that “unitive” stage.  One stage at a time.




In plain English, I used to think things like the Myers-Briggs or the DiSC could really explain differences in human behavior.  They do, of course.  But, this theory adds a whole new dimension to understanding why someone may think, emote and behave the way they do.  And the later the stage of development, the more understanding you have of stages before yours.  So, you can imagine–in this day and age of such divisiveness–why it might be important for us to understand these differences and keep developing our perspectives on life.

More tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

On this day of giving thanks and counting our blessings, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you all how grateful I am for YOU!!

Thank you for your interest in this blog, your love & support over the years, and for just being YOU!!

Many blessings to you on this day and all the ones to follow!

Love you,





Enough is enough!  This is the last one, I promise (maybe!), but I have gotten some good feedback on this one so I thought I would share it with my swog blog friends.  This comes right out of the Harvard Business Review daily blog and it was written shortly after the election last week.  It is long, but I’m putting it into my blog in its entirety instead of posting a link.  The reason?  I really, really want you to read it.

I am giving a shout out to Harvard Business Review.  They have been so adept at sharing perspectives on the election results from articles like the one below to one on why the polls got it so wrong.  I would be remiss if I didn’t put a plug in for them.  If you lead–and again, most of us do even within our own families if not at work– I would highly recommend you subscribe.

Finally, I’m interested in what you’ve heard, read and the themes you feel are important for us to address as Americans going forward.  What thoughts do you have a week later based on what you’ve absorbed?  Let’s continue the dialogue.

What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class
• Joan C. Williams
My father-in-law grew up eating blood soup. He hated it, whether because of the taste or the humiliation, I never knew. His alcoholic father regularly drank up the family wage, and the family was often short on food money. They were evicted from apartment after apartment.

He dropped out of school in eighth grade to help support the family. Eventually he got a good, steady job he truly hated, as an inspector in a factory that made those machines that measure humidity levels in museums. He tried to open several businesses on the side but none worked, so he kept that job for 38 years. He rose from poverty to a middle-class life: the car, the house, two kids in Catholic school, the wife who worked only part-time. He worked incessantly. He had two jobs in addition to his full-time position, one doing yard work for a local magnate and another hauling trash to the dump.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he read The Wall Street Journal and voted Republican. He was a man before his time: a blue-collar white man who thought the union was a bunch of jokers who took your money and never gave you anything in return. Starting in 1970, many blue-collar whites followed his example. This week, their candidate won the presidency.

For months, the only thing that’s surprised me about Donald Trump is my friends’ astonishment at his success. What’s driving it is the class culture gap.

One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that “professional people were generally suspect” and that managers are college kids “who don’t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,” said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo. Barbara Ehrenreich recalled in 1990 that her blue-collar dad “could not say the word doctor without the virtual prefix quack. Lawyers were shysters…and professors were without exception phonies.” Annette Lareau found tremendous resentment against teachers, who were perceived as condescending and unhelpful.

Michèle Lamont, in The Dignity of Working Men, also found resentment of professionals — but not of the rich. “[I] can’t knock anyone for succeeding,” a laborer told her. “There’s a lot of people out there who are wealthy and I’m sure they worked darned hard for every cent they have,” chimed in a receiving clerk. Why the difference? For one thing, most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich outside of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money. “The main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else,” a machine operator told Lamont. Owning one’s own business — that’s the goal. That’s another part of Trump’s appeal.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, epitomizes the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite. The dorkiness: the pantsuits. The arrogance: the email server. The smugness: the basket of deplorables. Worse, her mere presence rubs it in that even women from her class can treat working-class men with disrespect. Look at how she condescends to Trump as unfit to hold the office of the presidency and dismisses his supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic.

Trump’s blunt talk taps into another blue-collar value: straight talk. “Directness is a working-class norm,” notes Lubrano. As one blue-collar guy told him, “If you have a problem with me, come talk to me. If you have a way you want something done, come talk to me. I don’t like people who play these two-faced games.” Straight talk is seen as requiring manly courage, not being “a total wuss and a wimp,” an electronics technician told Lamont. Of course Trump appeals. Clinton’s clunky admission that she talks one way in public and another in private? Further proof she’s a two-faced phony.

Manly dignity is a big deal for working-class men, and they’re not feeling that they have it. Trump promises a world free of political correctness and a return to an earlier era, when men were men and women knew their place. It’s comfort food for high-school-educated guys who could have been my father-in-law if they’d been born 30 years earlier. Today they feel like losers — or did until they met Trump.

Manly dignity is a big deal for most men. So is breadwinner status: Many still measure masculinity by the size of a paycheck. White working-class men’s wages hit the skids in the 1970s and took another body blow during the Great Recession. Look, I wish manliness worked differently. But most men, like most women, seek to fulfill the ideals they’ve grown up with. For many blue-collar men, all they’re asking for is basic human dignity (male varietal). Trump promises to deliver it.

The Democrats’ solution? Last week the New York Times published an article advising men with high-school educations to take pink-collar jobs. Talk about insensitivity. Elite men, you will notice, are not flooding into traditionally feminine work. To recommend that for WWC men just fuels class anger.

Isn’t what happened to Clinton unfair? Of course it is. It is unfair that she wasn’t a plausible candidate until she was so overqualified she was suddenly unqualified due to past mistakes. It is unfair that Clinton is called a “nasty woman” while Trump is seen as a real man. It’s unfair that Clinton only did so well in the first debate because she wrapped her candidacy in a shimmy of femininity. When she returned to attack mode, it was the right thing for a presidential candidate to do but the wrong thing for a woman to do. The election shows that sexism retains a deeper hold that most imagined. But women don’t stand together: WWC women voted for Trump over Clinton by a whopping 28-point margin — 62% to 34%. If they’d split 50-50, she would have won.

Class trumps gender, and it’s driving American politics. Policy makers of both parties — but particularly Democrats if they are to regain their majorities — need to remember five major points.

Understand That Working Class Means Middle Class, Not Poor
The terminology here can be confusing. When progressives talk about the working class, typically they mean the poor. But the poor, in the bottom 30% of American families, are very different from Americans who are literally in the middle: the middle 50% of families whose median income was $64,000 in 2008. That is the true “middle class,” and they call themselves either “middle class” or “working class.”

“The thing that really gets me is that Democrats try to offer policies (paid sick leave! minimum wage!) that would help the working class,” a friend just wrote me. A few days’ paid leave ain’t gonna support a family. Neither is minimum wage. WWC men aren’t interested in working at McDonald’s for $15 per hour instead of $9.50. What they want is what my father-in-law had: steady, stable, full-time jobs that deliver a solid middle-class life to the 75% of Americans who don’t have a college degree. Trump promises that. I doubt he’ll deliver, but at least he understands what they need.

Understand Working-Class Resentment of the Poor
Remember when President Obama sold Obamacare by pointing out that it delivered health care to 20 million people? Just another program that taxed the middle class to help the poor, said the WWC, and in some cases that’s proved true: The poor got health insurance while some Americans just a notch richer saw their premiums rise.

Progressives have lavished attention on the poor for over a century. That (combined with other factors) led to social programs targeting them. Means-tested programs that help the poor but exclude the middle may keep costs and tax rates lower, but they are a recipe for class conflict. Example: 28.3%of poor families receive child-care subsidies, which are largely nonexistent for the middle class. So my sister-in-law worked full-time for Head Start, providing free child care for poor women while earning so little that she almost couldn’t pay for her own. She resented this, especially the fact that some of the kids’ moms did not work. One arrived late one day to pick up her child, carrying shopping bags from Macy’s. My sister-in-law was livid.

J.D. Vance’s much-heralded Hillbilly Elegy captures this resentment. Hard-living families like that of Vance’s mother live alongside settled families like that of his biological father. While the hard-living succumb to despair, drugs, or alcohol, settled families keep to the straight and narrow, like my parents-in-law, who owned their home and sent both sons to college. To accomplish that, they lived a life of rigorous thrift and self-discipline. Vance’s book passes harsh judgment on his hard-living relatives, which is not uncommon among settled families who kept their nose clean through sheer force of will. This is a second source of resentment against the poor.

Other books that get at this are Hard Living on Clay Street (1972) and Working-Class Heroes (2003).
Understand How Class Divisions Have Translated into Geography
The best advice I’ve seen so far for Democrats is the recommendation that hipsters move to Iowa. Class conflict now closely tracks the urban-rural divide. In the huge red plains between the thin blue coasts, shockingly high numbers of working-class men are unemployed or on disability, fueling a wave of despair deaths in the form of the opioid epidemic.
Vast rural areas are withering away, leaving trails of pain. When did you hear any American politician talk about that? Never.
Jennifer Sherman’s Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t (2009) covers this well.

If You Want to Connect with White Working-Class Voters, Place Economics at the Center
“The white working class is just so stupid. Don’t they realize Republicans just use them every four years, and then screw them?” I have heard some version of this over and over again, and it’s actually a sentiment the WWC agrees with, which is why they rejected the Republican establishment this year. But to them, the Democrats are no better.

Both parties have supported free-trade deals because of the net positive GDP gains, overlooking the blue-collar workers who lost work as jobs left for Mexico or Vietnam. These are precisely the voters in the crucial swing states of Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that Democrats have so long ignored. Excuse me. Who’s stupid?

One key message is that trade deals are far more expensive than we’ve treated them, because sustained job development and training programs need to be counted as part of their costs.

At a deeper level, both parties need an economic program that can deliver middle-class jobs. Republicans have one: Unleash American business. Democrats? They remain obsessed with cultural issues. I fully understand why transgender bathrooms are important, but I also understand why progressives’ obsession with prioritizing cultural issues infuriates many Americans whose chief concerns are economic.

Back when blue-collar voters used to be solidly Democratic (1930–1970), good jobs were at the core of the progressive agenda. A modern industrial policy would follow Germany’s path. (Want really good scissors? Buy German.) Massive funding is needed for community college programs linked with local businesses to train workers for well-paying new economy jobs. Clinton mentioned this approach, along with 600,000 other policy suggestions. She did not stress it.

Avoid the Temptation to Write Off Blue-Collar Resentment as Racism
Economic resentment has fueled racial anxiety that, in some Trump supporters (and Trump himself), bleeds into open racism. But to write off WWC anger as nothing more than racism is intellectual comfort food, and it is dangerous.

National debates about policing are fueling class tensions today in precisely the same way they did in the 1970s, when college kids derided policemen as “pigs.” This is a recipe for class conflict. Being in the police is one of the few good jobs open to Americans without a college education. Police get solid wages, great benefits, and a respected place in their communities. For elites to write them off as racists is a telling example of how, although race- and sex-based insults are no longer acceptable in polite society, class-based insults still are.

I do not defend police who kill citizens for selling cigarettes. But the current demonization of the police underestimates the difficulty of ending police violence against communities of color. Police need to make split-second decisions in life-threatening situations. I don’t. If I had to, I might make some poor decisions too.
Saying this is so unpopular that I risk making myself a pariah among my friends on the left coast. But the biggest risk today for me and other Americans is continued class cluelessness. If we don’t take steps to bridge the class culture gap, when Trump proves unable to bring steel back to Youngstown, Ohio, the consequences could turn dangerous.

Saying this is so unpopular that I risk making myself a pariah among my friends on the left coast. But the biggest risk today for me and other Americans is continued class cluelessness. If we don’t take steps to bridge the class culture gap, when Trump proves unable to bring steel back to Youngstown, Ohio, the consequences could turn dangerous.

In 2010, while on a book tour for Reshaping the Work-Family Debate, I gave a talk about all of this at the Harvard Kennedy School. The woman who ran the speaker series, a major Democratic operative, liked my talk. “You are saying exactly what the Democrats need to hear,” she mused, “and they’ll never listen.” I hope now they will.

Joan C. Williams is Distinguished Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Center of WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.


OK, well I said I was going to stop commenting on the election, but this is about broadening my/our collective perspectives on how others view this phenomenon.  And since many have compared the recent Brexit situation in the UK with Mr. Trump becoming the American President-Elect, I thought it would help to share this author’s perspectives.  I have another HBR article I may share tomorrow as well, which somewhat serves to complement what you’ll read below.

The author of the below blogpost is Richard Barrett who is Founder and Chairman of the Barrett Values Centre based out of the UK.  I attended a webinar he conducted a few weeks ago and was immensely impressed with his research and ideas on human development.  And, yes, I know the UK would likely be considered Social Capitalists so this article won’t come as a total surprise.  Here are his thoughts in a recent blog post:

Dealing With the Shock of the Brexit & Trump Votes

On the 24th June and the 9th November 2016, approximately half the population of the UK and half the population of USA awoke to the shocking and painful news that their current lifestyle was under threat and their future needs might not be met.

Meanwhile, the other half of the population of the UK and the USA awoke to the joyful and hopeful news that their current lifestyle might improve and their future needs might be met.

The same event in each country triggered fear in one group and hope in another group.
The fear of the first group is that they will not be able to meet their aspirations. The hope of the second group is that they will be able to meet their aspirations. Why this difference? The answer is simple—inequality.

One group was presented with opportunities to evolve and grow so they could take care of their survival, safety and security needs, and the other group, mostly for reasons beyond their control, never got those opportunities. They got left behind. Their life is a daily struggle for survival, safety and security .

The system was stacked against the group that got left behind because those who were able to evolve and grow became the political elites who controlled the policies that enabled them to further enhance their own survival, safety and security. Now, those who benefited from this situation, and took their opportunities, are in shock.

There are three possible reasons for this shock, all of which have to do with fear:

They are afraid that they will no longer be able to manage their current survival, safety and security needs;
They are afraid that they will no longer be able to manage their future survival, safety and security needs;
They cannot make meaning of what happened and have defaulted to their greatest fear. Whenever we cannot make meaning, we always assume the worst. This inbuilt survival mechanism lies at the root of all traumas.
If you are experiencing any of these fears, here is what you can do.

First, try to see the bigger picture; this will help you to understand what happened. If you cannot understand what happened, then you will not be able to give meaning to the situation, and you will live in your greatest fear.

Second, recognize that this is a transformational moment: an opportunity for you to move beyond “us and them.” The truth is we cannot move forward unless we all move forward together. We must shift our attitude from “What’s in it for me” to “What’s best for the common good.” We must individually and collectively embrace those who got left behind and help them to meet their survival, safety and security needs. Only then, will we all be able to move forward/
We either move forward together, or we don’t move forward at all.

Third, understand that the world is in turmoil because billions of people on the planet are not able to meet their survival, safety and security needs. We will never find the peace and stability we are all yearning for by focusing on our own needs. We will only find peace when we can embrace empathy and compassion for those who are less well off than ourselves and by doing whatever we can to contribute to the good of the whole.


If you are living in fear, you are part of the problem. When you move beyond fear, you become part of the solution.

For further reading:

Love, Fear and the Destiny of Nations

A New Psychology of Human Well-Being

Written by

Richard Barrett
Chairman and Founder at Barrett Values Centre


I do want to bring my commentary on the election to a close but I do not want to stop the dialogue on the valuable lessons we must learn from the experience.  So, let the discussion continue!

I couldn’t help but wind down the topic with a special post that Richard Rohr put on his blog last Friday morning.  You will find it below.

Rebuilding from the Bottom Up: A Reflection following the Election

Friday, November 11, 2016
Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
Beside the streams of Babylon, we sat and wept, trying to remember Mount Zion. —Psalm 137:1

Every four years a significant portion of the United States is disappointed with the outcome of our national election. Still, this election has felt different. There was a palpable fear and anger leading up to Election Day, and for many it has grown even stronger.

This fear is felt deeply by those who are most vulnerable in our country. As a follower of both Jesus and Francis, my primary moral viewpoint is not based in the wellbeing of those who are on top but first in those who are at the bottom.

For the vulnerable who have now been rendered more vulnerable, I lament and pray and promise to stand with you.

A time of national introspection must begin with self-introspection. Without our own inner searching, any of our quests for solutions and policy fixes will be based in shifting sands.

I suspect that we get the leaders who mirror what we have become as a nation. They are our shadow self for all to see. That is what the Jewish prophets told Israel both before and during their painful and long Exile (596-538 BC).

Yet Exile was the very time when the Jewish people went deep and discovered their prophetic voices—Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others—speaking truth to power, calling for justice. Their experience laid the solid foundation for Jesus’ teaching and solidarity with the poor and the outcast.

Maybe some of us naively thought that we could or should place our loyalty in any political agenda or party. Remember, Yahweh told Israel that they should never put their trust in “princes, horses, or chariots” (Psalms 20:7, 33:16-17), but only in the love of God. We must not imagine that political or programmatic changes—of themselves—will ever bring about the goodness, charity, or transformation that the Gospel offers the world.

Do not be afraid to allow conventional wisdom to fail and disappoint you, which is often the only path to wisdom. Imperial thinking focuses on judging who is worthy and who is unworthy, who is in and who is out. We who know about universal belonging and identity in God have a different form of power: Love (even of enemies) is our habitat, not the kingdoms of this world.

Our message is not primarily political, it is much more pre-political and post-political—with huge socio-political implications. We thus need to rebuild from the bottom up!
This election has solidified in us an urgent commitment to CAC’s work of action and contemplation, which now seems needed more than ever before. Grounding social action in contemplative consciousness is not a luxury for a few, but surely a cultural necessity. Both the Christian religion and American psyche now need deep cleansing and healing, and I do not say that lightly.

Only a contemplative mind can hold our fear, confusion, vulnerability, and anger and guide us toward love. Let’s use this milestone moment to begin again with confidence and true inner freedom and to move out into the world with compassion.
May God grant us both courage and peace!

A Prayer
All vulnerable and merciful God,
We do not know what is ours to do.
We feel scared and alone today.
We are tired of taking sides.
We cannot hold any more fear or anger or rejection.
And yet we know so many of our friends feel unheard and unwanted.
Help us trust that no feeling is final,
And that YOU will have the full and final word.
If You are indeed a Suffering God, may we hold this suffering with You for those who voted for Hillary Clinton, for those who voted for President-elect Donald Trump, and for the many who have felt excluded by our politics in the many ways that we do indeed exclude.
We offer ourselves as best we can to hold this Love outward and open toward all, just as You never cease to do toward us.
We believe You are praying this prayer through us.

“Only a contemplative mind can hold our fear, confusion, vulnerability, and anger and guide us toward love. Let’s use this milestone moment to begin again with confidence and true inner freedom and to move out into the world with compassion,” Rohr states above.  This my friends is the key.  See Timi’s comment from yesterday.  We must do all AND; not see either OR.  This is a foreign concept for many of us who experience the world in polar opposites.

You can hold all these emotions–anger, fear, confusion AND compassion, hope and love.  I urge you not to demonize those who voted for the other side–whichever way you voted.  Now is the time for gracious winners and losers and the recognition that our country had an almost even number of people who voted for each candidate.  AND, we had a huge number of eligible voters who didn’t vote at all.  We should examine what each of those statistics tells us.

Most importantly, now is not the time to be complacent.