Jen Hancock is an author, speaker, Humanist – specializing in Humanistic leadership and parenting programs.
Jen is considered one of the top writers and speakers in the Humanist world today. Focusing on critical thinking, personal ethics and personal responsibility, Jennifer’s “dynamic” and “captivating” presentations will leave you “a good deal better informed and always inspired.”
Her experience as a leader in both the corporate and non-profit sectors makes her an ideal guest for just about any audience.
MO: Where does your passion for Humanism come from and how did you initially become interested in this particular philosophy?
Jen: I was actually raised as a Humanist though we didn’t use that term, which isn’t unusual because the term was only coined to describe this philosophy about 100 years ago. Prior to that there were Humanists, but people just called it being a good person. In Africa, the philosophy is called Ubunto or Utu, depending on the language. I am a third generation freethinker on both sides of my family. I was taught to be honest, compassionate and responsible. I was also taught the importance of critical thinking. Put the values and the critical thinking skills together and you have Humanism.
MO: What are some practical applications of Humanism in day to day life?
Jen: Humanism can be applied to every aspect of life and with great success. Consider the impact Humanism has had on psychiatry for instance. We no longer talk about Humanistic psychology as Humanistic. It is just psychology now. But less then 100 years ago, we treated mentally ill people poorly. It wasn’t unusual for people to be treated for demonic possession. We understand now , through the use of science, that there are such things as mental illness and that they can be treated. People suffering from mental health problems aren’t evil, they are sick and deserve our compassion. That is the impact Humanism has had on psychiatry. There has been a similar advancement in the field of medicine since Humanistic medicine became popular. There is also Humanistic architecture, Humanistic sociology, Humanistic nursing, humanistic parenting and humanistic business management.
Basically, whenever you applied compassion based ethic with reality based problem solving driven by critical thinking and combines it with a strong sense of personal responsibility; you are going to get good results. The reason is because solutions to problems are going to be compassionate, they are going to work because they are based in reality and they are actually going to be carried through. Humanist activists, though there aren’t many of us have literally transformed modern society. The human and civil rights movements were driven by Humanist thinkers. Women’s rights too, also driven by Humanists. It turns out that some of the most influential people in modern society have all been Humanists. They just didn’t advertise that fact because Humanism is a personal philosophy. It’s how we personally view the world. We are ok with people approaching the world differently from us.
MO: What are some ways that businesses can become more Humanistic in their approach?
Jen: The philosophy can be applied on a personal and on an organizational level. The personal application is how you as a leader choose to interact with your fellow employees and the people who work for you. A Humanist will do their best to treat everyone as compassionately and ethically as possible. This leads to higher levels of personal satisfaction. On an organizational level, a humanistic approach will help you solve problems more effectively precisely because you will be making an extra effort to figure out if what you think is your problem is actually your real problem. You will also be using critical thinking to figure out which of your potential solutions will have the best chance of success. Additionally, you will be approaching all problem solving with an intent, not just to make money, but to make the world a better place for everyone. This will result in decisions that will not only help your bottom line, but help you not be part of the problem.
MO: What are some of the advantages of practicing Humanistic leadership?
Jen: 1) The number one benefit is better problem solving. The amount of time that is wasted chasing assumptions rather than taking the time to find out if your assumptions are based in reality or not would astound you. Just taking the time to make sure you are solving your real problem will put you head and shoulders ahead of your competition. Also, taking the time to figure out which of your potential solutions will not only work but that will help you achieve your other objectives, will again, help you be more successful.
2) Your interpersonal relationships, including your relationships with your employees will improve. When you understand that everyone you work with and for is a real human being, it changes everything.
3) And perhaps the biggest benefit is integrating your ethics into your work life. Most people want to feel satisfaction in their work. But all too often, they feel like they have to leave their ethics at the door to conduct business. You don’t have to. You can integrate them into how you conduct business and you will not only be happier, you bottom line will benefit as well. Because all things being equal, most people would rather do business with someone who is ethical than with a jerk.
MO: What’s the best feedback that you have ever received after a giving a talk?
Jen: I made an old man cry once, but in a good way. I was talking about how our interpersonal relationships are important. How compassion for others is important. It is how we treat one another that really matters. He raised his hand and started talking about his family and his memories of his wife and he started crying. He just wanted to share with me how much he had been touched by what I had said and that I was right. It is how we treat other people that matters. It is what gives our life meaning. That incident has stuck with me and it keeps me going when I think about giving up and doing something else. When I remember his response to my talk, I know that what I have to say is important for people to hear.
MO: Can you talk about the inspiration behind publishing, The Bully Vaccine –a guide designed to help parents help their children more effectively cope with bullying? What advice would you give to a family struggling with a bullying issue?
Jen: Like most people, the recent suicides as a result of bullying upset me. I knew I had good advice for people who were just beginning to deal with someone difficult. However, I didn’t want to write something unless I knew I could help people who were being tormented to the point of suicide. It was when I realized that I had been stalked and so, yeah, I knew what it was liked to be chronically harassed and that I could offer something to those kids that would actually help that I decided to write the book. It’s more accurate to say I felt I had a moral obligation to write the book. I have a unique approach to the problem. As a Humanist, I deal with difficult people the same way I deal with all of my problems: through a combination of compassion and science. Basically, the skills I teach in the book are how to train a bully to no longer bully you using known operant conditioning techniques. And yes, it does work. These are so easy to learn even my kindergartener was able to implement them successfully. The task now is to get this book into the hands of parents and kids who need it. Parents should be teaching their kids these skills as soon as they enter school. These are teachable pragmatic skills anyone can learn. We should not just be sending our kids to school and hoping they will learn what they need to learn on the fly. That’s like throwing a kid into a pool and hoping they will learn how to swim. Some do, but most don’t. My book helps parents teach these skills and will teach kids what they need to know if they are being chronically bullies as well. Imagine if almost every kid in school learned how not to be bullied when they are kindergarteners. Bullies wouldn’t learn how to bully because no one would be bully-able. If we could accomplish that, imagine what society would be like when these kids became adults. That’s my dream. I’m hoping people can help my by purchasing a copy of my book and donating it to their local library so that kids who need this resource can have access to it. Thanks!