Humans Are Naturally Good, But Institutions Make Us Wicked

Raising Daughters | Humans Are Naturally Good


Are humans naturally good? Should we trust others? In this episode, Dr. Jordan discusses how we overcome negativity bias, and lead us to believe that humans are naturally good. We are naturally inclined to solidarity and cooperation. Let’s join Dr. Jordan in understanding humans better.

Show Notes:

  • How we view our fellow humans affects the way we treat them. Human’s natural inclination is cooperation, connection, kindness, & empathy. If you believe the best, you’ll experience their best
  • Jordan speaks about the findings in the book Humankind by Rutger Bregman.
  • Disasters bring out the best in us, as we like to be part of groups & communities. Dr. Jordan cites examples such as the 1940 blitzkrieg bombings of London and Hurricane Katrina.
  • Explains the origins of myths that humans, by their very nature, are selfish, aggressive, and quick to panic, as well as the concept of original sin and god.
  • Jordan describes the mean world syndrome, negativity bias, availability bias, the bystander effect, and the Rosenthal effect and how it pertains to our views about mankind’s goodness.
  • Thomas Pettigrew’s massive review of 515 studies from 38 countries provided overwhelming support that contact with people perceived to be different from us works to engender more trust, solidarity, and mutual kindness, helps people see the world through others’s eyes, and makes people more tolerant of strangers. Contact is contagious and helps us rethink our biases when we see others act differently.

Final thoughts:

  • Human’s natural inclination is for solidarity and cooperation. So, let’s start with a belief that people are good, cooperative, empathetic, and helpful by nature.
  • We can overcome our negativity bias by reminding ourselves to assume the best in others, believe that most people mean well, and assume that we will be cheated occasionally. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t or can’t trust everyone.

Dr. Jordan concludes with the concept of Ubuntu as described by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Humankind: A Hopeful History, by Rutger Bregman

Dr. Jordan’s website:

Listen to the podcast here


Humans Are Naturally Good, But Institutions Make Us Wicked

I am a developmental and behavioral pediatrician who has been working with kids for many years. I have a counseling practice with girls in grade school, middle school, high school, and through the college years. Primarily middle school, high school, and college. My wife and I also run weekend retreats and summer camps that are personal growth in nature for girls from grade school through high school.

We’ve been traveling a lot also, talking to groups of parents all over the world. I’ve traveled a lot and talked to people in a lot of places, but the most important way I gather information is two things. Number one, working with girls and sitting in circles with girls at my retreats, summer camps, and school program, which is called Strong Girls, Strong World. I listen a lot to what’s going on for kids. I read a lot. I loved to read.

I want to talk about the concept of human nature. Let me start as I often do with the story. The story involves two brothers who one day were up in their bedroom before breakfast. They were mischievous. The older one said to his brother, “Mom, Dad, and all the adults around get to say bad words. We should say some bad words.” The younger brother looked at him with wide eyes. He’s like, “Okay.” The older brother said, “I’m going to say hell, and you get to say ass.” He’s like, “Okay.”

The brothers go downstairs. They sit down at the breakfast table. The mom comes in. She says, “What do you want for breakfast?” The older brother says, “Hell, Mom, I don’t care. Give me whatever you want. Give a bowl of Cheerios.” The mom looked at him and said, “You don’t talk like that in this home. You leave this table now and go up to your room. You can’t come back down until you can use better language.”

He runs up the steps, upset because his mom’s yelling at him. The little brother is still sitting at the table with wide eyes and watching all this happen. The mom comes back and says, “Young man, what do you want for breakfast?” The little boy looks at his mom. He says, “I don’t know. I bet you can bet you’re ass it won’t be Cheerios.” We oftentimes see kids as being mischievous. Throughout history, we’ve had a sense or belief system that says that human beings, by nature, are not good people. They are selfish, evil, and do bad things.

I read a book, which I want all of you to read. It’s called Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman. I tried to get him on for an interview on this topic. I sent an email. His publicist came right back to me within a day. She said that he was busy and he was inundated. He didn’t have time to do these kinds of shows. I’m going to talk to you about the book on my own. He lives in Holland. He’s a great thought leader. I would encourage all of you to read it.

He talks in the book, and he has tons of studies about human nature and what humankind is about. At the end of the book, there are 200 pages of notes. He has well-researched this topic. As an example, he talked about a time in World War II. This was in September of 1940 when the Germans decided they were going to bomb London and break the morale and the backbone of the British people. They called it the Blitzkrieg.

For nine months, the Germans bombed London. Over 80,000 bombs and a million buildings were damaged or destroyed. More than 40,000 people were killed in Blitzkrieg. Despite this, public mental health improved. People didn’t break down. This adversity brought out the best in people. People were helping and supporting each other. It had the exact opposite effect of what the Germans thought.

Blitzkrieg in London

Churchill knew this. He had watched all this. Once the British people got around to being more in control, Churchill responded by doing the same thing to Germany. He bombed Germany, trying to break their morale, even though it had strengthened his country. Half of the towns and cities in Germany were destroyed. They had ten times the number of casualties as the Blitzkrieg in London. Morale was not broken. The German people strengthened their resolve. They helped each other. It strengthened the German wartime economy and ended up prolonging the war.

There are tons of studies that show that disasters bring out the best in us. We, as human beings, love being part of a group. We want to belong. We want to have a sense of belonging. We want to be part of a community. Since the dawn of mankind 150,000 years ago, if we were in a group and connected, we had a much better chance of surviving.

I had a random thought that the United States did a similar bombing in Vietnam. It had the exact same effect, which strengthened the Vietnamese Army. There are a lot of myths out there that humans, by their nature, are selfish, aggressive, and quick to panic. Throughout history, there are many examples of the exact opposite.

Think back to 2005 when Hurricane Katrina wiped out the Gulf Coast. We saw people helping each other out. There were some news stories about some looting and things, but those were little tiny examples when, all around, 95% of people were doing the exact opposite. They were helping, encouraging, and supporting each other.

When did we start thinking that humans, by their nature, are selfish, aggressive, and angry? In the year 400, Father Augustine popularized the belief that human beings are born sinful. He’s the one who originated the concept of original sin. Original sin is a Christian doctrine that holds human beings, through the fact of birth, inherited a tainted nature that’s in need of regeneration and a proclivity to sinful conduct. We’re born sinful. We’re going to be sinful because that’s who we are.

I was at my daughter’s and son-in-law’s house. I was holding and feeding my grandson, Charlie. I thought about this concept because I knew I was going to do this episode. I was thinking, “Why do we have a belief system that says that even as these perfect little creatures that we’re holding and feeding, and they smiled, and he was cooing, how do we end up thinking that they’re tainted and have original sin?”

In the book, Humankind, by Rutger Bregman states a lot of things that go into that belief system. One of them was that people tried to figure out and explain the catastrophes that were befalling us. This was 50,000 years ago. We started to believe in a vengeful and omnipotent God who was enraged because of something that we had done. That’s when we developed this notion of sin. There were human sacrifices to appease the gods.

The concept of sin became a way of controlling the population. We were starting to live in larger and larger communities. It wasn’t just foraging around. We started losing sight of each other because people living in these communities were farther apart. Because we were living a little bit farther apart in the communities and we weren’t quite connecting as much because we weren’t forging, traveling, hunting, gathering, and bumping into people, we started to suspect people as being cheaters. They were cheating us. They weren’t being true to their natures.

The concept of sin became a way of controlling the population. We were starting to live in larger and larger communities. It wasn't just foraging around. We started losing sight of each other because people living in these communities were… Click To Tweet

The rulers at the time decided they needed something and someone to keep tabs on all these masses. Therefore, we created God. We created deities who were of the vengeful types. These gods were supposed to keep and iron us 24/7. These myths of having this omnipotent God watching out over us allowed us to work together with lots of strangers, thousands and millions of strangers. We developed myths and stories and convinced people to believe these stories. Leaders even armed themselves with the army that backed up these stories. We force these stories on all of us.

Leaders profit when the masses believe that people are bad because if people are bad, they need to be reined in, controlled, and regulated. That belief system worked for the leaders. It allowed them to create armies to protect themselves and their new fortunes. We started to believe that people are bad when, in reality, they’re not. I heard a story a long time ago about a little boy who, back in the 1930s, went to a little ice cream store. This is when ice cream sundaes cost much less than they do nowadays. This little boy walked into an ice cream shop. He sat down at a table. The waitress came over. She put down a glass of water. The little boy asked her the price for an ice cream sundae. She said, “$0.50.”

Leaders profit when the masses believe that people are bad because if people are bad, they need to be reined in, controlled, and regulated. That belief system worked for the leaders. Click To Tweet

The little boy put his hand into his pocket and pulled out some coins. He said, “How much is the dish of plain ice cream?” The increasingly impatient waitress said, “$0.35.” The little boy, once again, counts his coins. He said, “I’ll have the plain ice cream vanilla, please.” A few minutes later, the waitress brought him his ice cream, placed the bill on the table, and walked away. After the little boy ate his treat, he paid the cashier and left.

When the waitress came back, she picked up the empty bowl of ice cream and swallowed hard at what she saw. There, stacked neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. It’s her tip. Her impatience and her belief about kids being selfish caused her to see him in a different way than what he truly was, which was generous. That’s true of kids. Kids are born empathetic and generous.

We have different beliefs about kids, people, and the world because of all the news stories that bombard us, newspapers and on the internet articles, and we turn TV sets. We are watching the news and hearing all the negative stories. It causes us to be more cynical and pessimistic. It raises our stress levels. It makes people feel depressed. There are research studies that show that what I said is true.

Negative Bias

I read a statistic in the book, Humankind, that in Western countries, we average one hour of getting our news per day, which adds up to about three years over our lifetime. We spend three years of our lives listening to the news. There’s something called a negativity bias, where people are more attuned to negative versus positive information. The reason we’re more attuned to negative things is because it causes us to be more alert to make sure there aren’t threats, and that helps us to survive.

There’s another bias called availability bias, which says we can easily recall examples of something. If we can easily recall examples of something, we assume that thing is common. Because we’re bombarded with so many negative stories about war, people, abductions, etc., we think that people are more negative because that’s what’s more available. We don’t balance it enough with positive stories on the news, or things that we read or notice.

Philosopher Rousseau believed that man is naturally good, but it’s institutions that make men wicked. That resonates more with me. It’s interesting that human beings were better able to cope with the harsh climate changes and the conditions of the last Ice Age because we had developed the ability to work together. Cooperation became more critical to survival than competition. It was less survival of the fittest. It was more about the survival of people who are cooperative. Human beings crave connection, togetherness, interaction, and interdependence.

I read in the book, Humankind, that hunter-gatherer societies rarely, if ever, had war. There are thousands of these cave paintings about hunting bison and horses and riding horses and gazelle. There’s not one depiction ever found anywhere in the world that depicted war. Nomadic forages, which is what we used to be a long time ago, were concerned with being free from the authority of others. These societies hated inequality. They used to shame people to keep their members humble and generous. They didn’t like hoarding. If people got greedy, they were exiled and kicked out of the group, and thus, they were less likely to reproduce and pass on these aggressive personality traits. That was true thousands of years ago.

Bystander Effect

There’s also an interesting concept called the bystander effect, where there were some stories in the book, Humankind, about people who lived in an apartment complex would hear a shooting. Something was going on downstairs. When people thought they were the only ones who heard somebody else’s cry for help, people always rushed to help. They almost always rush in to try and help the other person. If they think other people also heard the problem, they’re less likely to act because they assume that other people will help that person.

There’s a huge study. It’s a 2011 meta-analysis of studies on what bystanders do in emergencies. One hundred-five studies over 50 years were looked at. They found that when people thought they were the only ones who heard that cry for help, they did help. If they thought there were others around, they thought they didn’t need to help because it makes more sense to let somebody else take charge. They were afraid to do the wrong thing. They were afraid of being censored, or they didn’t think anything was wrong because they didn’t see anybody else acting, but when they were alone, they helped.

Raising Daughters | Humans Are Naturally Good
Humans Are Naturally Good: When people thought they were the only ones who heard that cry for help, they did help. If they thought others were around, they would think they wouldn’t help because they would let somebody else take charge.


If an emergency is life-threatening, the research showed, and if bystanders can see other people and they can communicate with each other, and they aren’t isolated, they get an inverse bystander effect. Having additional people around that they could see and talk to caused over 90% of people to help each other out in those situations. The natural response is to help others.

I work with girls in classrooms, camps, and retreats, and we do role-plays to talk about that bystander effect. We’ll have three girls sitting in a circle on the floor with one empty spot in their little circle. That’s their “lunch table.” We have this other girl walk in and say, “Can I sit down?” We, ahead of time, tell one girl in the circle, “I want you to be the disrespectful girl that says no, you can’t sit here. Tries to leave her out and exclude her.” We tell the other two kids, “Do whatever you want.”

The first time we tell the other two who are sitting there follow along with a leader. The girl walks up and says, “Can I sit down?” The disrespectful girl says, “No, you can’t. There’s no room here.” The other kids chime in. You can’t sit here. We’re waiting for somebody else. They go along with it. We stop the role play, and we ask the rest of the kids who are watching, “Why do you think people go along with the mean girl? You know it’s not right to leave people out. We all know that. That’s not our nature, but sometimes we do it. Why do you think the two girls in that thing might have done that? Why in life do people do that?” The girls will throw out a whole bunch of reasons why.

They might be afraid that if they don’t go along, they’ll be the next victim. The girl, who’s the “mean girl,” holds a lot of power because they’ve been given her power. They’re intimidated. They don’t want to be the next target. There are a lot of reasons they come up with about why bystanders do what they do. We also ask, “Why do you think someone would be the mean girl? Why does someone act that way?” They come up with a whole list of reasons why. They get in that person’s shoes for a moment to see things from their perspective. It’s valuable.

We do the role-play over again. We tell the “disrespectful girl” to do the same thing. We tell the two other girls, “This time, do whatever you want. Do whatever you think you would want to do. Ready, set, go.” The girl walks up, “Can I sit down?” The disrespectful girl says, “No, you can’t. There’s no room here.” It’s fascinating to watch what the other girls do. One of them will typically say, “Why can’t she sit here?” They start showing ways that you can stand up for a friend.

We’ll stop and say, “What’d you notice? How’d you notice that she stood up for her friend?” We’ll do the role-play over and over again and have different people come up and show us different ways you could stand up for a friend. What’s always happens is there’s something. They may say, “Let’s go to another table.” They’ll walk off with that girl.

The other girl who was sitting there almost always followed because the girl’s courage inspired her. We call these people guardians. They leave being a bystander who goes along with it, and they become a guardian. That’s powerful for girls to be able to practice. “How can I learn to have the guts? How can I do that? Give me some words that show us some examples.”

Studies have shown that by eighteen months of age, kids are eager to help each other out, and they ask for nothing in return. Studies have shown that kids as young as three, if given a cake and told to cut it up, they divide the cake equally. By six years of age, they would rather throw a slice away than let one person have a bigger piece. That’s inbred. That’s who we are as a people. That’s who kids are, and that’s who we are.

People are born empathetic. We’re good at getting in other people’s shoes. Empathy is something that we feel for people who we’re close to and have contact with. We’re more empathetic with people that we know and have had contact with. When we shine our attention onto a victim, somebody we don’t know, it makes us blind to their perspective because they fall outside of our view, which is why, in our role play at my camps, we ask girls to get in other shoes, even in the shoes of the “bully.” They can start to understand people better, which makes them more empathetic.

Raising Daughters | Humans Are Naturally Good
Humans Are Naturally Good: People are born empathetic. We’re good at getting in other people’s shoes. Empathy is something that we feel for people who we’re close to and have contact with.


Rosenthal Effect

When I did my year of fellowship training in Boston with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton years ago, I learned about something called the Rosenthal Effect. In the original experiment, they had rats that. There were two teams of researchers who were working with them. One group was told that their rats were brighter, faster, and performed better. The other group was told, “You have the dumb rats.”

They put these rats through these different mazes. They found that the rats of the students who thought that their rats were smarter did better. What they saw when they looked back at the film was that when they thought that their rats were brighter and faster, they were handled differently. They were treated more warmly and gently. That’s what allowed them to get through the maze quicker.

There have been experiments with elementary school kids where a teacher was told before the school year that these certain kids have a much higher potential. They’ve performed better on IQ tests, and they threw them into the classroom. By the end of the school year, the kids that the teachers thought had higher IQs did better, performed better on tests, and got better grades. They found that the kids who had been labeled as the smarter kids got more attention, encouragement, and praise. That, in turn, changed how those kids saw themselves. They performed better. The researchers labeled this as the Pygmalion effect. Teacher expectations do influence students.

Here’s a true story about a university professor who, years ago, sent his students out into a Baltimore low-income area. He interviewed 200 boys. The students predict their chances for a successful future. When the students went out there to interview the kids, they were shocked at the poor conditions the boys came from. They predicted that 90% of the boys would have some days spent time in prison. Several years later, the same professor sent another classroom of students to find out how those predictions came out. Were they correct?

Of the original 190 boys who were interviewed, only four had been imprisoned. How had these boys overcome their adverse conditions? More than 100 of them remembered one high school teacher, Miss O’Rourke, as having been an inspiration in their lives. After a long search, they found this teacher, Sheila O’Rourke. When she was asked to explain her influence over her former students, she was puzzled. All I can say she decided is that I loved every one of them.

Ms. O’Rourke looked at all of her students in the same way. She didn’t do what they call the Gollum effect, which was the negative expectations of people changes how we treat them. If we have a negative expectation of somebody, and that includes kids, we look and smile at them less. One of the mechanisms behind racism is that we have lower expectations of Black kids. Our expectations define our attitude about people, and it influences our behavior towards them. I worry that kids now are being categorized at ever younger ages. That includes things like sports and education, and those with more or less promise are treated differently.

The Gollum effect is people's negative expectations change how we treat them. If we have a negative expectation of somebody, that includes kids, we look and smile at them less. Click To Tweet

I remember one of my nephews. When he was in kindergarten, he was on a soccer team. It was a boy and girl mixed team. They had two teams evenly mixed. At the end of the year, both the teams did okay. The next year, they had two boy teams and two girl teams. It was interesting that somehow, all the better athletes and the better soccer players from the year before were on one team, and the lesser athletic kids were on another. That was arranged by the coaches and politics with parents. Those kids got better, and the other kids did not. They made that decision after one year of soccer in kindergarten.

The same thing’s happening with these travel clubs’ select sports where kids are put on a track. I don’t like it because we treat kids differently. They’re coached and seen differently from the start, even though some kids develop later. If we believe that kids aren’t as good and people can’t be trusted, that’s how you’re going to treat people. You will get what you expect.

I read a story from Anthony DeMelo years ago about a farmer who was working in this field one day when a stranger approached him. This traveler said, “What folks live in the next town?” The farmer replied, “What folks live in the town you left?” The traveler said, “These are horrible people. They were dishonest, selfish, and rude. It was hard living there.” Looking up, the farmer shook his head and said, “I’m sorry to say that’s what you’ll find in this town too.” A fellow moaned and walked on.

Later that same day, another traveler walked down the same road and saw the farmer. He also stopped and called out, “What people live in this town?” The farmer again asked, “What people lived in the town you left?” The traveler, this time, had a different story. He said, “The people were thoughtful, kind and friendly. I hated to leave them.”

The farmer put down his hoe, extended his hand, and smiled. He said, “I’m pleased to say that’s about what you’ll find with the folks here.” The traveler returned a smile, shook the farmer’s hand, and headed towards the town towards his new home. Our attitudes are critical in how we see people and how we treat people.

The Humankind book had an interesting study from Britain that showed that 74% of people identified more closely with values like being helpful and honest, things like justice versus wealth, and justice more important than status and power. Seventy-four percent of people identified with those values of honesty, justice, and helpfulness, but 78% of these people thought that other people were more interested and self-interested in things like status, power, and money.

They themselves identify with the more positive qualities, but they think other people do not have those qualities. If you treat kids, employees, and neighbors as if they’re responsible and reliable, they will be more responsible and reliable. The inverse is also true. Our human nature and inclination is for solidarity and cooperation.

Raising Daughters | Humans Are Naturally Good
Humans Are Naturally Good: Our human inclination is for solidarity and cooperation.


I told you all the story a little while back in a previous episode, but it’s worth repeating. There were two travelers one day who were passing through a small town. They stopped at a little diner for coffee. They noticed a man before them in line bought two cups of coffee, but he left with one. They saw several other customers do the same thing. They also noticed that each time an extra cup was ordered, the barista placed a piece of paper on the wall that read a cup of coffee.

A few days later, the travelers returned to the café. They saw a bedraggled man in tattered clothes enter the café. He pointed to the wall with the papers. The barista smiled and nodded. He poured the man a cup of coffee, and the man walked away. They took one of the pieces of paper from the list and threw it into the trash can. Only then did the man realize the kindness of the people who’d ordered the day before. When we see generosity like that, it is contagious.

I’ve talked in previous contexts about mirror neurons in our brains that notice what other people are doing. If we’re around people who are angry, we tend to be more angry. If we’re around people who cheat, we tend to cheat more. If we’re around people who smoke, we tend to have more inclination to smoke. If we’re around people who are kind and generous, we tend to be more kind and generous.

That goes along with our nature. A man named Thomas Pettigrew did a massive study of 515 other studies from 38 countries. His research provides overwhelming support that contact with other people works to help us to get along. Contact with other people engenders more trust, solidarity, and mutual kindness.

Getting to know people and having contact, I mentioned that in a previous episode about the trenches in World War I and how the soldiers were on the front lines. When they met people from the other armies from Britain and Germany, they saw how much they had in common. They would’ve stopped the war at that moment. It was people who had, who were farther away from the trenches, the generals who were, you know, miles away in other places. Those are the ones who kept the war going because they didn’t have contact with people.

Having contact helps people see the world through the other person’s eyes. We become more tolerant of strangers. Contact is contagious. Kindness is contagious. It helps us rethink our own biases if we see others acting differently than what we think they’re like based on stories in the news and prejudices. We can overcome our negative biases by reminding ourselves to assume the best in other people, and most people mean well. Is that going to be true 100% of the time? Of course not. We’re going to occasionally be cheated by somebody, but that doesn’t mean we can’t trust everybody.

Kindness is contagious. It helps us rethink our biases if we see others acting differently than what we think they're like based on stories in the news and prejudices. Click To Tweet

There are some things we can do to overcome our biases. I like thinking of the concept of looking at kids in their highest light instead of their labels. James Hillman wrote a book years ago called The Soul’s Code. I love that book. He had a good metaphor, which was learning to see kids as an oak tree when all you have before you is an acorn. If you can see kids in their highest light, you’ll treat them differently than if you see them as being negative or through their negative labels like ADHD or not as smart, or you see them as being mean or bossy. Look at kids and everyone in their highest light.

I remember a long time ago, I saw a video of Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He did a nice role-play, which I do with kids a lot. He had a person sitting at a table with him. They locked hands and put their elbows together. He told the other person that every time Stephen Covey would get the other person’s hand to touch the table, the other person would have to give him a $1 and vice versa. He said, “Let’s see who can win the most money in a minute.”

They locked arms. He said, “Ready, set, go.” The other man tried as hard as he could. Stephen Covey let him put his hand on the table. The man was like, “Okay, $1. Let’s do it again. Ready, set, go.” The man tries with all of his might to push Covey’s hand down, which Covey lets him do. After 3 or 4 times of that, the man started losing his oomph. He was confused. Why wasn’t he fighting back? Why wasn’t he competing? Within a short period of time, the men figured out that the best way for them to both earn money was to have no resistance. They would go, “1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3.” Back and forth. That’s a win-win mentality.

What I say to kids is, “If you want to create win-win, more cooperation, and thus better relationships with people, it only takes one person in that duo to come with that mentality, and you can win them over.” It takes a lot of maturity and wherewithal to go there thinking, “I have full faith that if I operate under this win-win mentality, if I put the other person’s needs as high as mine, if I truly want them to win as much as me, and if I do that, I can win them over into that thinking along with me.”

We can all do that. We can all drop some of the competition that we are in love with in this country and start thinking more about win-win. Human beings tend to care more about people who seem like them. We’re wired that way. Making contact with people allows us to get to know people and their stories. We realize we have way more in common with people than we thought and more common than we have differences.

We do that exercise with kids in our school program and summer camps. We’ll have them pick someone. If they’re in a classroom, they’ve known each other for years. We’ll say, “Pick somebody to sit with that you know the least well in this class. You’ve known them. You’ve been in class, but you haven’t spent as much time and sit with them. We’ll give you 5 or 10 minutes to figure out all the things that you have in common.”

We tell them to think about foods, experiences, vacations, and hobbies. Find as many things as you can that you have in common. 5 or 10 minutes later, we can have the group come back. They sit with their partners. The two of them will list all the things that they found they had in common. It’s almost always the case with almost every duo that they find anywhere from 5 to 10, at least things that they have in common.

One kid will be a sporty kid, and the other one might be more of a not sporty kid. They don’t hang out as much. At recess, the sporty kids are playing soccer, and the other one is doing something else. They think in their minds, because of those superficial differences, “We wouldn’t be good friends because we don’t have much in common.” When they sit down together, even though the sports thing may not be a commonality, they both like to draw. They both like going to the beach, cooking, and riding horses. They find all these things that they have in common. Boys that ever cut through a classroom’s clicky stuff start treating each other differently because they see each other as more similar.

We need to start with the belief that people are good, cooperative, helpful, and empathetic by nature. We need to also connect with people and use a common language. There’s a great quote by Nelson Mandela who said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Nelson Mandela was able to see good in people that most people would be judged as beyond redemption. He was willing to see past superficial stuff and labels. He was able to transcend biases about people. Instead, he took the person for who they were right there in front of him. He had contact with people. Because he did and had a belief that people were good, he saw that in people. You’re more likely to get that behavior back from people. I want us all to rethink our beliefs about humankind like Rutger Bregman asked us to do in his book Humankind: A Hopeful History because there is a lot of research and data that shows that we are good and kind and generous by nature.

Raising Daughters | Humans Are Naturally Good
Humankind: A Hopeful History

Let me finish here with the concept of the Ubuntu. Archbishop Desmond Tutu would say, “Peace can be found in the African concept of Ubuntu.” Desmond Tutu says, “Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home.” Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence. We are made for the family.

When you have Ubuntu, you embrace others. You’re generous and compassionate. Archbishop Desmond Tutu also says, “If the world had more Ubuntu, there would be no war. The powerful would help the weak. That is where peace is to be found.” Look at other people and your kids in a different way. Your kids and their world will change over time. Thanks for stopping by here at Raising Daughters. Always feel free to pass these on. I always appreciate that. Check out all the things that are on my website at I’ll be back here with an episode. Thanks so much for reading.


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