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WorkHuman Takeaway: Teach Our Children Well

by Traci Pesch

Recognize This! – Much of our own human behavior was learned as children. Let’s think carefully about how we are teaching our children to be human.

Amy CuddyWorkHuman 2016 in Orlando was a powerful, exciting experience for many reasons, not least of which was the opportunity to be with, learn from and share the experience with other amazing humans. I have too many lessons learned from WorkHuman to fit into one post, so I will focus on a key takeaway that impacts two of the humans I care about most in this world – my son and daughter.

Keynote speaker Amy Cuddy, author of Presence and popular TEDx speaker on the “power pose,” shared with us how we are hard-wired to express our emotions through our entire bodies. For example, around the world in all cultures, it is a natural physical response to throw our hands over our heads in the traditional victory pose (pictured above). We don’t think about it; we just do it.

Other key body positions that express our emotions are taught, however. Amy explained how, over time, boys learn to spread out in body positions that take up physical space, which shows dominance and power. Girls, on the other hand, absorb lessons on closing in our body positions, crossing our arms, and taking up less physical space. We are unconsciously teaching our girls they have less right to space in the world. This one picture (at right) illustrates both. See how the woman on the right is crowding herself in to take up as little space as possible compared to the man next to her.

Sarah Rose Cavanaugh, my fellow breakout session speaker and Assumption College Psychology professor, shared interesting research on surface acting at work. An element of her presentation that affected me deeply, however, was a video she shared of a little boy, no more than 6 or 7 years old, watching the scene from the movie The Lion King where Simba’s father dies. We watched this young boy as he struggled mightily to not cry during this very sad scene. At such a young age, that boy had clearly absorbed the lesson that boys should not cry or express emotion.

I want something different for my children. I want my daughter, Anna, to take her place on the world stage and proudly take up however much space she needs to achieve her dreams. I want my son, Cameron, to be his full human self in all of our (sometimes messy) emotions without fear that his tears aren’t “manly.”

I want everyone’s children, regardless of gender, to be proud, powerful, victorious, successful, emotional, sad, happy, joyful and every other emotion on the human spectrum. I want us all to celebrate the humanity in the people around us every day.

See human. Be human. Work human. Will you join me?