Home All Walking the Talk II: Seeing What Others See

Walking the Talk II: Seeing What Others See

written by Louis Alloro 29 November 2009

Louis Alloro, M.Ed., MAPP '08, is a cofounder of a 6-month Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology Program, Fellow at the Center for Advancement of Wellbeing at George Mason University, and founder of SOMO Leadership Labs, a community intervention. Web site. Full Bio.

Articles by Louis are here.

It’s all by matter of connection. Empathetic relationships are what predict successful lives. George Vailliant has shown this in the Harvard Men’s Study of Adult Development and in his PPND article, Yes I stand by my words: Happiness is Love, Full-stop

What we need are more superheroes in the world, real-life superheroes that can inspire us to take pathways to greatness – to live with more altruism, compassion, and love.

My Facebook photo

My Facebook photo

Who I Am Being

I try to be one of these people and have been thinking lately that the key is to speak peoples’ language, to start from where they are. But this is a challenge I face in my own life, working with some clients – even speaking with friends and family.

Just the other day at the Thanksgiving, I found myself in a rather heated political debate, being called “Just another stupid liberal” by my loved ones, many of whom are staunch supporters of Glen Beck and the Tea Party. In an effort to see, I am reading Beck’s “A Christmas Sweater” and I like the values he purports: family, faith, and forgiveness. Perhaps the difference between what he espouses and Positive Psychology is not so much in the definitions we use, but the assumptions we make in the defining.

Dr. Karen Reivich frequently says that “Positive psychology is about being more flexible and accurate with how we see the world.” It’s about seeing the world with increased perspective and a growing compassion for what others see. As world citizens, I believe our roles are in part to help each other with a process of seeing that can move our eyes from the scarcity of fundamentalism to the abundance of social justice.

“There’s no such thing as justice,” one of my family members said as she passed the turkey. “Not with that belief system,” I responded.

What We Need

We need Social-Emotional Leaders

We need Social-Emotional Leaders

Who am I to be telling you what we need? The perpetual dilemma in psychology is whether it is descriptive or perspective. In many environments, people are good about being prescriptive: Take this pill (at the doctor’s); Pass this test (at school); Profit, profit, profit (at work).

But with the paradigm shift inherent in positive psychology, we, too, need to shift our belief systems. It’s not always about doing – it’s also about feeling, which we know is related to thinking.  If I believe the only way I’ll feel better is by taking a pill, then I’ll take the pill. We also know the power of the placebo.

So, what we need most to be able to walk the walk collectively is a real effort to change our assumptions about the way the world operates and the way we think it “ought to be.” These assumptions are often subconscious, not even appearing on our radar screens. They are expectations we have created – stories we tell ourselves about how it should be. By becoming conscious of them, we can ask, “Are these beliefs serving us any longer? Are they what we need?” Let’s be Social-Emotional Leaders and help each other do this.

Human Innovation

For the last fifty years, we have evolved technically. If you only knew some of the things I could dial up from my iPhone! But have we evolved socially? Emotionally? Are we better connected?

Psychologists like John Gottman are designing interventions that help build this capacity for better relationships. It’s all in the realm of strength-based living: tuning in and powering up. Chris Peterson sometimes says, “When we know what we know, why do we live as we do?” That is, even with all of this positive research, it is difficult for us to change habits of thought and behavior (a) because as William James said back when, “Habit is the enormous flywheel of society,” and (b) changing these habits individually inherently affects the systems in which we are a part because my feeling and thinking and behaving influences your feeling and thinking and behaving. We are interconnected.

A 2007 article in The Quarterly Review of Biology took a look at a theoretical foundation for sociobiology in terms of multilevel selection theory, a way to understand the evolution of cooperative and altruistic behaviors. Professors David Sloan Wilson and Edward O. Wilson write, “group-level adaptations are seldom locally advantageous and, therefore, must be favored at a larger scale to evolve.”

To read about how I propose to affect larger change at local levels, visit my blog where I write about Peter Senge’s Learning Organizations.



Alloro, L. (2008). Shift Happens: Using Social-Emotional Leadership to Construct Positive, Sustainable Cultural Change. Capstone project for the MAPP degree at the University of Pennsylvania. Available at Scholarly Commons.

Wilson, D. S. & Wilson, E. O. (2007). Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Sociobiology. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 82 (4), 327-348.

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M.K. 30 November 2009 - 2:13 pm

After reading “The Three Degrees of Influence and Happiness,” posted by Timothy T.C. So on November 18, I can’t help but notice connections to this article. I agree that the innovation of the individual is the first step towards group innovation. Do you see the human innovation building upon the emotional contagion theory? Additionally, we most certainly need more superheroes, but is self-proclaiming ourselves as superheroes setting ourselves up for criticism from non-believers? Though we may exemplify the good life in an attempt to be a superhero, how should we respond to those who do not share the same values and therefore do not see us as a superhero? How can we convince non-believers in positive psychology to change their habits through simply descriptive rather than prescriptive measures? Perhaps the innovation of the individual is the first step, and others will look towards our positive examples.

Louis Alloro 1 December 2009 - 12:46 pm

Hey MK – You’re right. Lots of relationships here with what I write and what Timothy writes. He’s much better at including scientific data. I love the Framingham research. And YES! This is connected to contagion. Human innovation is contagious, which is why I say we need more superheroes. Perhaps I should have better defined superheroes…sans ego. We all have certain strengths, right? What if captializing on my strengths made me a superhero to someone that needed to learn those strengths? What if that person’s strengths made him a superhero to me, in areas where I need to learn? To grow? This is not a hierarchy. It’s a “holocracry”, where everyone can win, total nonzero sum.

Through the innovation of the individual, groups we comprise will be stronger. Social-Emotional Leaders also function as superconnectors (Tipping Point, Gladwell) to bring facilitate positive change in local environments, learning organizations. No one can go at this alone, it’s a collective effort.

I don’t know we need to talk about “believers” and “nonbelievers” for positive psychology. May be the language is too correlated with religion to be productive. The data tells its own story. We tell our own stories, too, which is how we connect to other people. It’s in this very connection where trust and faith and value become what’s real, what’s chosen, and what’s necessary. It’s where we see what others see.


Ps…Anyone good at self-regulation? Contact me, I can help you with the humane and transcendental strengths like love and hope. We can be Aristotelean Friends!

BEVERLY PANE 5 December 2009 - 11:54 am

While having a discussion with Sandy, my hairdresser she asked me if I would rather be ‘right’ or ‘happy.’ I didn’t have to think about the question and replied HAPPY. What would you rather be?
Love you always, Auntie B.

Louis Alloro 8 December 2009 - 9:47 am

Auntie B-

Thanks for stopping by.

I’d rather be happy, too. Being right is all relative. Being happy is absolute.

Love you too,


LAuren 20 December 2009 - 3:47 pm

Hmm. I have been contemplating habitual behavior patterns since the beginning of the holiday season, or maybe, for the past 20 years…somewhere in between. I have noticed that it is when my buttons get pushed that I spill over into habitual beahvior, or when I am feeling like I have done enough and now I want the other person to “wake up”. I wish that I could say that I am through this stage, but I am not…will keep you posted…..
love, Lauren

Louis Alloro 22 December 2009 - 7:35 pm


Thanks for your raw honesty. I know what you mean–that you want the other to “wake up.” I do too, sometimes. But what we know: it’s never the other. It’s us. The only way to look is inward and think: What’s the lesson? Where’s the growth? How ‘do I be’?

Thanks for keeping me posted.



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