Tag Archives: Ethics

Five Lessons About How To Treat People


Five Lessons About How To Treat People
— Author Unknown

1. First Important Lesson – “Know The Cleaning Lady”

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

“Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

2. Second Important Lesson – “Pickup In The Rain”

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home.

A special note was attached. It read: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.”

Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.

3. Third Important Lesson – “Remember Those Who Serve”

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10 year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked. “50¢,” replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

“Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. “35¢!” she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left.

When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

4. Fourth Important Lesson – “The Obstacles In Our Path”

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand – “Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.”

5. Fifth Important Lesson – “Giving When It Counts”

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”.

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Courtesy of INSPIRE21


Why Your Gut is More Ethical Than Your Brain


Why Your Gut Is More Ethical Than Your Brain

By Dan & Chip Heath


July 1, 2009

If you’ve ever been part of a discussion on ethics, in school or elsewhere, chances are you didn’t spend much time talking about your feelings. It’s believed that to live ethically, we must engage our reason, which reins in the whims and follies of emotion. Ethics, then, is heavy on Spock and light on Sally Struthers. But what if unethical behavior is actually spurred, rather than prevented, by reason?

Consider a provocative series of experiments conducted by Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto. He put test subjects into interactions with an anonymous partner where they had two options: to treat their partners fairly or to lie to them. If they decided to lie, they would gain at the expense of their partners.

Before making the decision to cheat or be fair, the test subjects were given some guidance. Some were encouraged to think rationally about the situation and to ignore their emotions. Equipped with this advice, the great majority (69%) analyzed the situation and con-cluded that they should screw their partners. Others were primed to “make decisions based on gut feelings.” Their guts were pretty trustworthy: Only 27% lied.

There’s a twist: Even though the study shows that we would be treated better by people who trust their feelings, we’re leery of them. When people were given a choice to interact with a rational decision-making partner or a gut-trusting one, 75% chose the rational partner.

Zhong concluded that “deliberative processes can license morally questionable behaviors by focusing on tangible monetary outcomes and reducing emotional influence.” If only such behavior were limited to the lab.

In reality, it seems to have played a role in the Great Economic Kidney Punch we all just suffered. Mike Francis worked at Morgan Stanley before the economic collapse. He bought up scads of questionable mortgages, including some of the NINA (no income, no asset) variety, meaning that the bank giving the loan would not verify the customer’s income or assets. The customer applying for the loan knew his answers wouldn’t be checked, so he didn’t face much risk in declaring, say, a $300,000 salary as a Taco Bell night manager. (What can I say? The people love my gorditas.)

As reported on This American Life‘s must-listen episode, “The Giant Pool of Money,” Francis said that, with the NINA loans, the banks were “setting you up to lie. Something about that feels very wrong. It felt wrong way back then, and I wish we had never done it. Unfortunately, what happened … we did it because everyone else was doing it.”

When you’re getting rich, it’s pretty easy to soothe the ol’ gut. If you need a rationalization, your mind will provide one. For instance, many bankers clung to their analytical models, which “proved” that their investments would be okay even if default rates reached historically high levels. Unfortunately, because it had never occurred to the bankers of yesteryear to give $500,000 loans to minimum-wage workers, the historical models weren’t all that accurate. You’ve got to love the logic, though: Historically, the most weight I’ve ever gained in a year was 2 pounds, so I might as well start eating a quart of Ben & Jerry’s every day for breakfast.

Looking back on the subprime-mortgage debacle, it seems the only accurate information in the whole ecosystem was Francis’s bad feeling. And one suspects other people had it, too. What if a few dozen others in the chain had listened to that feeling?

A different industry provides a lesson in the value of heeding your gut about ethical choices. In 1987, Paul O’Neill took over as CEO of Alcoa, the world’s largest producer of aluminum. On his first day, he announced that no one who worked at Alcoa should ever be hurt at work. The acceptable rate of accidents was no accidents. This raised a lot of eye-brows. Working with aluminum is a dangerous business, and there are plenty of ways to get injured. And Alcoa already had a good safety record, in the top third of companies. O’Neill recalls the skeptical hallway conversations among senior managers: “When the next tough economic time comes, he’ll shut up about this.”

He didn’t. O’Neill walled off the topic of safety from the “deliberative processes” that Zhong warned about. “If anyone ever calculates how much money we’re saving by being safe, they’re fired,” he told his team. Safety wasn’t a priority; it was a precondition. He told people, “From now on, don’t budget for safety.” O’Neill’s resolve paid off. Alcoa became one of the safest companies in the world, despite the aluminum industry’s inherent risks.

Guts aren’t perfect. For instance, we tend to feel so much empathy for individuals that it can doom our efforts to be impartial and consistent. But in the business world, we’ve tipped too far toward pure rationality. We need an emotional counterweight — and we already have it. When you’re in an ethically loaded situation and your gut talks, listen to it.

Dan Heath and Chip Heath are the best-selling authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Want to share a Made to Stick column with your team? Go to fastcompany.com/madetostick.

A version of this article appears in the July/August 2009 issue of Fast Company.

Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson


this is awesome
By Robert T. Gonzalez
Nov 28, 2011 12:59 PM 341,699 100
Must Watch: An Out-of-Character Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson

This is excellent. Back in 2010, an out-of-character Stephen Colbert sat down with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson at Montclair Kimberly Academy to talk for 90 minutes about science, society and the universe. Yesterday, the Hayden Planetarium posted the interview on its website for all to watch.

The interview starts a little more than 6 minutes in. Topics addressed include:

-Why there is something instead of nothing (in ten words or less)
-The ethics of man/animal hybrids
-The “complexity” of evolutionary processes versus the tenets of creationism
-Whether science is a thing, a way to look at the world, or both
-Lab-grown meat
-The plausibility of a multiverse
-The importance of promoting science literacy
-The latest discoveries in astrophysics, including Mars farts — something we wrote about earlier today.

The traffic generated by the posting of the interview took its toll on the Hayden Planetarium’s servers, so the video featured here is streaming from YouTube — but be sure to show the HP some love.

Video by The Hayden Planetarium via teridon
Colbert & Tyson via