Why do we judge (and continue being judged)?

“You know me, not my story. So don’t judge me!”

“Before you judge me, why not take a good look at yourself?”

“Never judge someone. They’re fighting their own battles.”

These are some common statements we see and hear most of the times. As educated and rational beings, we know that we should not be judging others. But why do we still continue to judge people? We do not like being judged, yet we continue to judge people. Worse, we judge people for judging us. Oh, the irony!

Why should we not judge?

Yes, it is true that we should not judge others. That is true, because we do not know the entire story behind whatever is happening, and judgement of the object or a person would cloud our perception. Forming a narrative based on only half of the story does not really help in fostering and nurturing the relationships that are essential and close to us.

On contrary, judgement – most of the times – are the ones that creates a half-image of the whole, and prevent us from looking at the bigger picture. This myopic sight would trouble our interpersonal relationships – be it personal or professional.

There are a lot of arguments for why we should not judge anyone, or anything, because we probably have only seen it from our lens, and formed our own narratives based on our worldview. This is not necessarily right or wrong, but the bottom line is that it does not show the whole bigger macro-perspective.

But why do we judge?

We will at least in our lifetime remain judgmental of others because that is how our brains have evolved from the past.

Since the times when humans lived in caves, there was always a constant fear of wild animals, a conflicting tribe comprising of physically strong counterparts, natural disasters, and even unknown diseases. Therefore, this judgement of the unknown was an essential skill required not just for surviving, but for thriving too. The initial judgement of “friend or foe” kicked in to understand whether the “unknown” was a potential threat and danger to us or not. And if it indeed was a threat, our ancestors trained their brains to trigger the “fight or flight” response as a way of our survival mechanism.

This combination of reactions to stress is also known as the “fight-or-flight” response because it evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling people and other mammals to react quickly to life-threatening situations. The carefully orchestrated yet near-instantaneous sequence of hormonal changes and physiological responses helps someone to fight the threat off or flee to safety.
– Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School

This “fight or flight” mechanism was a medium for humans to evolve into social groups. As social beings, this practice of judgement was vital for cavemen to establish functioning tribes. Without judgement, the tribe would cease to exist.

Learn how the “fight or flight” mechanism works here.

The best we can do is understand how these judgements are formed and what the judgmental thoughts tell about us.

The way you measure yourself is how you measure others, and how you assume others measure you.

Mark Manson, author, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

As Mark says, “the yardstick we use for ourselves is the yardstick we use for the world.” This is why we judge others. Suppose we judge someone for being late, this probably means that we value punctuality. When we judge someone for their appearance, it tells us that we emphasize on the physical outlook. When we judge someone for being disrespectful, it tells us that our principle operates by being respectful towards others. When we judge someone based on their riches, it is just that we value those riches. Simple.

Judgement of others tells us more about ourselves than about them. If we only start noticing by what parameters we judge others, we can understand that those parameters are of importance to us. We can’t stop judging people, but we can surely know more about ourselves with this process. Thus, being mindful and thinking about your own judgements will open doors to understand your own self. This will, however, require a lot of patience as well as practice.

Coming back to the question – will we ever stop judging? Short answer – NO. This judgement is something that is developed with our brain during our evolution, so it is next to impossible for humans to stop judging. However, we can become mindful of our judgements, reflect back on those judgements, and use it as a key to self-awareness in understanding our own priorities, parameters, and principles.

So judge all you want, but be mindful about the narratives being formed, and what those narratives tell you about yourself.

Worries worth taking

Are any worries worth taking in life? Superficially, NO. Even Gaur Gopal Das, Indian lifestyle coach and motivational speaker, asks not to worry about any problems in life because we can either do something or not do something about it. However, on a deep and thorough perspective, maybe there are some worries that are worth scratching brains for.

After coming back home from a different-than-usual haircut, people around me had vivid perceptions – some appreciating the change, and some finding it harder to accept I spent my time and money for nothing. Some even asked why I was so worried about my appearance. I immediately wondered, “just because you are not interested in your appearance doesn’t mean I should not be worried about mine“. That’s when my mind hit this question – “Could there be worries worth taking?”

The Upside of Worrying

Kate Sweeny, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, claims that not all worries are destructive despite its negative reputation. Sweeny and her team led to a research that concluded with surprise benefits of worrying – when done in right amount, it may motivate people to engage in behaviors that are potentially beneficial to their health. Sweeney further suggests that it seems both too much and too little worry can interfere with motivation, but the right amount of worry can motivate without paralyzing.

Worry has been defined in both negative and neutral terms. Edward Watkins, a clinical psychologist and mood disorder researcher at the University of Exeter points out, “By worrying about something, we are more likely to think of reasons to take action and be motivated to do something.” Furthermore, researchers argue that there is a “finite pool of worry“, so anxiety about one matter can inhibit concern about others.

Sweeny points out that alike any emotion, worry also serves a function. Sweeney adds, “It’s a signal. It’s essentially pointing us towards something that might be coming and it’s drawing our attention there. It’s motivating us to ideally prevent the bad thing from happening or at least prepare for it.

Sweeny says that flow has been especially useful for coping with the stresses of COVID-19. Flow is a state of absorption with moderate challenge and a means of tracking progress – “zoning in” rather than “zoning out”. In Sweeny’s and colleagues’ preliminary research on the mental wellbeing of Chinese people not yet quarantined, flow was associated with reduced loneliness and more health-promoting behaviours.

So could there really be worries worth taking?

Understanding the upside of worrying, we can conclude there could be worries worth taking – especially those worries that will help us to engage in behaviors helpful to us, but not at the cost of harming others.

When we worry about something, it might be telling us that it is important for us. When we start noticing about what makes us worry, or what worries usually surround our mind, we begin to understand how we prioritize and value that instance.

For example:

  • If one can observe how much they have sacrificed their late night sleep for the latest edition of Euro Cup to support either Italy or England in the finals, they would understand how much they value football and entertainment.
  • When someone works late night and worries about how their sales pitch in front of a big corporate client, it can be noticed that person really does care about performing their best and getting the deal.
  • When someone continuously talks about buying a new apartment and moving out of their parent’s house, it can be understood that freedom and independence is of importance to them.
  • If one can observe how many plans they’ve made to visit new places during the weekends, they can understand how much they value traveling and creating new experiences.

However, the important point here is while we would be worrying about these worries because they’re important to us, others might or might not be able to understand and relate it the same way. Hence they can easily discard our worries or find it difficult to contemplate why we are involved in it so much. It needs to be understood that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure .

For instance from the earlier evidences,

  • Someone who has no interest in football wouldn’t understand why one is sacrificing their sleep for a game between two countries that has no connection to them.
  • Someone who doesn’t really value their job wouldn’t understand why someone else is working late night and putting so much of effort to that sales pitch presentation.
  • Someone who is comfortable enough to live with their parents wouldn’t understand why someone else is so bothered about finding an apartment and spending hard earned money just on rents.
  • Someone who would rather stay indoors wouldn’t understand why someone else would like to go around new places and meet people they don’t know for the sake of just enjoyment.

This leaves us with a very important thought to reflect back:

What are we worrying often about? What does it tell us about ourselves as a person? And are we discarding others’ worries just because we are not invested in it? And the most important one – What are the worries worth taking?

Read Next: The Diagnosis Pitfall

Toxic Positivity – The Dark Side of Bright Side

Relax, bro! Why are you always so pessimistic? Don’t think all that negative stuff. Come on, be positive, man. It’s going to be alright, be happy!

This statement has undertones of a classic toxic positivity. I’ve heard this (or similar) phrase a lot whenever I shared about my problems, setbacks, and failures. In all honesty, this was my go-to phrase and an automated advice for anyone who shared their problems with me as well. This advice largely never worked for me, and I’m pretty sure it has not worked for others as well.

Given that we all hear these phrases every now and then, and given the internet world full of motivational instagram posts & pinterest images, the toxic positivity is not only futile in solving our problems, but also creates additional problems for us.


Those thoughts that pops up and makes us feel worried, guilty, and/or ashamed is termed as “intrusive thoughts”. All those thoughts of “What if I’m not as good as others think?“, “Why am I always a burden to others?“, “I’m the worst person in the world” are examples of intrusive thoughts which can cause distress, since its nature might be upsetting. Even if one is of a sound mind and free from mental health issues, it is possible to be struck by intrusive thoughts out of nowhere.

So why do we have intrusive thoughts? Turns out, these thoughts are what kept humans alive, with our brain’s flight or fight response. Our brains have evolved to keep us safe by continually scanning for dangers. These thoughts are the results from danger scans.

What keeps the thought going? Simple – we try to avoid it. That is what keeps the thought going. The more we try to push it away, more it sticks to us.

Learn about thoughts escalation here.


Simple exercise:

Whatever you do, do NOT think about GIANT RATS. Just don’t. DO NOT THINK ABOUT GIANT RATS. I repeat – DO NOT! Master Splinter? I said don’t!

How did it go?

This is a common brain paradox – If we are trying to avoid a thought, our brain focuses on it more. Scumbag brain!

This is exactly why the “don’t think about it” advice never works. If you suppress thinking about your ex, you’ll eventually think more about him/her. This study on paradoxical effects of thought suppression proves that when you’re asked not to think about something, it actually makes you more likely to think about it.

As Mark Manson, author of ‘The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck’ writes, “Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame.


Toxic or forced positivity – Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, a clinical psychologist, explains this term as the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’ emotional pain or difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset or “positive vibes”.

Toxic positivity can take many forms: It can be a family member or a friend who chastises you for expressing frustration instead of listening to why you’re upset. It can be a suggestion to “look on the bright side” or “be grateful for what you have” by completely discarding the problems.

In this time of COVID-19 global pandemic, the situation is even more dire. This pandemic has intensified the already unprecedented and uncertain future, and our automated reflexes is most likely to be overly optimistic or positive to avoid accepting a dreaded reality. Let’s accept – our lives aren’t just roses, but with thorns as well. And as Susan David, PhD says, “We will find ourselves in situations where we will feel anger, sadness and grief and so on. Unless we can process, navigate and be comfortable with the full range of our emotions, we won’t learn to be resilient. We must have some practice dealing with those emotions or we will be caught off guard.


Several studies (Gross and Levenson, 1997) show that suppressing thoughts and hiding or denying feelings leads to more stress on the body and/or increased difficulty avoiding the distressing thoughts and feelings

In Gross and Levenson’s study, research participants were divided into two groups and shown disturbing medical procedure films while their stress responses were measured (e.g., heart rates, pupil dilation, sweat production). One group was asked to watch the videos while letting their emotions show whereas the second group of subjects were asked to watch the films and act as if nothing were bothering them.

The result? Those participants who suppressed their emotions (acted as if nothing bothered them) had significantly more physiological changes . The emotional suppressors may have appeared cool and calm but on the inside their stress was erupting!

Courtesy of The Psychology Group, you can find how to turn toxic positive advices to non-toxic acceptance and validation here.

Let’s understand – suppressing, denying, and avoiding does not work. Sometimes, we need to ACCEPT the negatives. Furthermore, as mentioned in this paper, the ability to regulate our emotions is associated with greater well-being, income, and socio-economic status. Accepting the negative, and navigating what our emotions are telling us is the step forward to overcome this spiral of intrusive thoughts & toxic positivity rumination. Also, tragic optimism can be the antidote to toxic positivity. I’ll explain more about this in my next post.

Remember: It’s okay not to be okay.


The Diagnosis Pitfall : How even experts can fall in it?

The Diagnosis Pitfall

A woman – visibly in panic and grief – runs into the emergency room with her two years old daughter, who was experiencing severe stomach pains.

Normally, the ER (Emergency Room) doctor & the team would have started running tests for diagnostics. However, in this particular case, the ER doctors shifted their attention from the two-year old daughter to the mother, because the mother appeared to be overly concerned and seemed like a parent who would overreact. The doctors sent the mother-daughter home, dismissing any signs of impending severe dangers.

The woman returned the next day. While the ER doctors know how vital it is to carefully listen to the parents while treating infants, the doctors were now even more justified that the woman was overreacting, and labeled her as “hypochondriac”. Once again, the ER doctors sent them home, without proper tests and diagnosis.

The third day – the woman is back at the hospital with her daughter. It was only when the toddler lost consciousness, the doctors realized something was terribly wrong; but by then, it was already too late to save the precious life of the two-year old.

The moment the ER doctors labeled the mother “hypochondriac”, they fell into this pitfall of “Diagnosis Pitfall”, or “Diagnosis Bias”.

(Story adapted from Ori & Rom Brafman’s “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior”)

How can skilled, educated, and experienced doctors & physicians make such a disturbing decision? They go through years of rigorous training and intense practises because they’re responsible of saving someone’s life. But is it possible that even these knowledgeable doctors & physicians fall into the diagnosis pitfall?

Turns out, they can.

They’re humans after all. And our reliance on our cognitive process is vulnerable to biases, which makes treatment and diagnosis errors more likely than we think.

The journal article from Jill G Klein (associate professor of Marketing at INSEAD) published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) explains about the five pitfalls in decision making about diagnosing and prescribing. The five common pitfalls are – i) Representative Heuristic, ii) Availability Heuristic, iii) Overconfidence, iv) Confirmation Bias, and v) Illusory Correlation.

Studies based on both simulated cases and questionnaires show that doctors are susceptible to decision making biases, including insensitivity to known probabilities, overconfidence, a failure to consider other options, the attraction effect, and the availability heuristic. The good news is that training in these dangers can reduce the probability of flawed medical decision making.

Caroline Wellbery, MD from Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, District of Columbia explains in her paper about the diagnostic bias and prevention strategies.

Diagnosis Pitfall

For a list and explanation about 50 various cognitive and affective biases in medicine, click here.

The Diagnosis Pitfall : How do you fall in?

In the above story, the doctors fell into the diagnosis pitfall in the moment they labeled the patient as “hypochondriac”.

When we label a person or situation, we put blinders to all evidence that contradicts our diagnosis. The “experts” at times are blinded by their past experiences, and could be fixated on the new event being the same as their past events. This happens to all of us. When we tend to selectively focus only on a part of the event that triggers our inner advice monster, we succumb into this trap of diagnosis pitfall. When we listen to someone sharing their story, and a part of it resembles our past event, we quickly prescribe them what had worked for us without realizing their situation might be completely new.

“When we tend to selectively focus only on a part of the event that triggers our inner advice monster, we succumb into this trap of diagnosis pitfall.”

There are usually three parts in falling prey to this biasness, viz. i) selective focus, ii) awakening inner advice monster, and iii) putting blinders to evidences that contradicts our diagnosis. Selective focus is when we tend to pick up only the selected event that resembles our past experiences and then zone-out the rest. Then, we subconsciously awaken our inner advice monster to prescribe what worked for us in the past, and finally, we do not look up enough evidences and factors that can contradict the advice we are about to prescribe.

The Diagnosis Pitfall : How do you get out?

To overcome this diagnosis, we need to understand how we get in first. Once we understand the “getting in” part, we can become aware of this dangerous pitfall, and the cost of this pitfall could be catastrophic. Being aware of our cognitive biases is the step one of overcoming any biases.

Second, understanding the three steps of falling prey to the diagnosis pitfall is essential. The answer to “getting out” of this pitfall is hidden in the route to “getting in” this pitfall. To overcome selective focus, we need conscious and empathic listening. When someone is sharing their situation, it’s not only the words that we should be paying attention to. Empathic listening is about letting the speaker know that we are genuinely interested in listening to them, we understand their problem as well as how they feel about it.

Taming the inner advice monster could be hard, but not impossible at all. To tame our advice monster, what we want to do is replace our advice-giving habit with a new habit: Staying curious. It’s as simple — and as difficult — as that.

Only when we have listened empathetically and not awakened our inner advice monster in between, we can then finally look for prescriptions. However, we should also be aware to look out for evidences that contradicts our prescriptions. In addition to vouching for “how this advice could work for you because it worked for me”, we should also seek to answer “how this advice could not work for you”.

Each person and each situation is different. Therefore, practicing a beginner’s mindset – or “shoshin” – could be crucial to overcome this pitfall. As Dr. Tracy Ochester (author of ‘Attitudes of Mindfulness: Beginner’s Mind’) puts it, “when we adopt the mind of a beginner, we endeavor to look at things as if for the first time, free from the influence of the past or speculation about the future. We open ourselves to what is here now, rather than constructing stories about what we think is here”.

Read Next: Don’t think outside the box

The Desire Continuum

The actions we take are the results of either conscious or sub-conscious desires deep-rooted within us. As Anthony Robbins says, “All communication is either a loving response or a cry for help“, our behaviors – including our communication – are guided by our needs and desires. Some desires are met, and some remains unmet. This stretching continuum shows us our own “Desire Continuum“, which could be a useful tool to build our self-awareness.

When our desires are continually met, we start desiring more. After all, human wants and needs are unlimited. When we’re not mindful about what we have in our possession, we tend to shift more to the ‘Greed‘ side of the desire continuum. We would simply want more – possessions, belonging, power, affiliation – just more of anything.

Contrary to it, when our desires are continually unmet, we tend to shift more to the ‘Anger‘ side of the desire continuum. When we don’t get what we desire for long, frustrations and anger starts kicking in, which would eventually cloud our judgement towards anything.

Desire Continuum

The Origin – Desire Continuum

काम एष क्रोध एष रजोगुणसमुद्भव: ।
महाशनो महापाप्मा विद्ध्येनमिह वैरिणम् ।।

Chapter 3, Verse 37 of the Bhagavad Gita translates into: The Supreme Lord said: It is lust alone, which is born of contact with the mode of passion, and later transformed into anger. Know this as the sinful, all-devouring enemy in the world.

While the Bhagavad Gita puts both greed and anger as our enemy, we could be more mindful of our own desires – and its swing to either left or right of the desire continuum.

Also Read: Don’t be yourself, consider adaptive authenticity

Self-Reflection questions to ask ourselves:

  1. What are our immediate desire(s)?
  2. What would be our long-term desire(s)?
  3. Are our desire(s) being unmet or intensified?
  4. If we get angry easily, what are our desire(s) that is unmet?
  5. What do we usually ‘greed‘ about?
  6. Do we notice any trend of intensified desire(s) in ourselves?
  7. What triggers do we notice in context to our desire(s) being met or unmet?

Answering these questions might not be the end, but it sure is a part of an enhanced self-aware journey.

Happy Dashain 2077, everyone!

Lazy Humans & Principle of Least Effort

Why do people just leave their partners in relationship rather than working and solving the differences? Why do people make excuses rather than taking accountability of their own works? Why do people assume things rather than communicating and comprehending? Turns out, the answer to all these human behaviors can be explained by one profound law – “The Principle of Least Effort“, among other possible factors.

What is Principle of Least Effort?

In 2004, Zao Liu and Zheng Ye (Lan) Yang conducted a study to understand the Texas A&M distance learning graduate students’ preference for seeking library resources, and the reason behind those preferences. The conclusion found that – no brainer – the Internet was the most used, while libraries were the next most used resource for conducting class research. The study found that the Principle of Least Effort was the primary behavior model of the most distance learning students, because of their strong preference towards easy and fast information retrieval.

This is what Principle of Least Effort is all about. In pursuit of reaching from point A to point B, humans will mostly choose the path where the least effort is required.

Principle of Least Effort

In this image, the desired path – the trail created on the grass – reflects best about this behavior of humans. Even though there doesn’t seem to be significant time saving while going by or around the pole stuck in the middle of the walking path, humans will evidently choose to go diagonal and walk forward and take a 90-degree turn (well, thanks to Pythagoras too!).

Human Behavior & Principle of Least Effort

So how does this Principle of Least Effort reflect in human behaviors?

Known as a “deterministic description of human behavior”, this principle applies largely on day to day human behaviors. As long as the work gets done or the result is achieved, humans will resort to using least of their efforts.

For instance, when we would need a certain clarification about our new diet plans, we would want to reach out and ask a dietician specialist. However, if we have someone generalist nutritionist nearby us, we would prefer to consult the generalist near to us than reaching out to the specialist three blocks away, as long as the generalist’s answers are within the threshold of acceptability.

Similarly, let’s say we want to listen to one of our favorite songs. Rather than reaching to our phone, unlocking it, opening the music app, searching for the song and then playing it, a lot easier work would be to summon Siri (or any other voice assistant) and ask it to play the song. The result is the same – the favorite song is played, but the steps and efforts to reach it is drastically different.

Ever wondered why the language has changed to chat vocabulary? “I’m rolling on the floor laughing” has become “ROFL“, “want to” has become “wanna“, “going to” has become “gonna“, “mathematics” has become “math“, “airplane” has become “plane“, and even “vocabulary” has become “vocab“. These language changes are also explained by the same principle, because speakers simplify their speech in various ways.

I’ve heard people claim they downloaded an app to turn off their TV while they were comfortably warm on their bed rather than getting up and looking for the TV’s actual remote. Genius! Result achieved with minimal effort – i.e. Principle of Least Effort.

Using Principle of Least Effort to our Advantage

Understanding this principle tells why people seem like they’re lazy, while they’re not actually lazy. They merely do things that are considered or labeled as lazy.

Let’s understand, our brains need energy to run. Computers are powered by either AC or DC current, while automobiles are powered by petrol, diesel, or electricity. Unlike these machines, our brains don’t have those sources of current to power on. Our brain is dependent on sugar as its main fuel. Glucose, a form of sugar, is the primary source of energy for every cell in the body. Because the brain is so rich in nerve cells, or neurons, it is the most energy-demanding organ, using one-half of all the sugar energy in the body.

Therefore, our brains need to conserve energy, and it does so by achieving results and getting work done with lowest possible efforts. If you remember why you felt drained and fatigue by focusing on those numbers and spreadsheets for one hour, this is because your brain used up a lot of energy.

Also Read: Rakhi Celebrations: From Behavioral Lens

This principle can be particularly used in change management, by making change easy for people to adopt to. By making changes easy to adopt to, we can expect less resistance and more acceptance. These changes could be anything – changing habits, changing organizational culture, or even changing design of a product.

Tania Luna and Jordan Cohen – in their HBR article – talk about this principle of least effort with the help of “The Banana Principle“, where by in an office meeting, bananas always are consumed first, and oranges at last. Although it’s not that bananas are objectively more delicious than oranges, the bananas nick their win with one simple feature – they’re easy to peel.

So, when you opt for any major or minor changes in your personal or professional life, keep the Principle of Least Effort in mind. Given several paths to the same destination, we pick the easiest. Consequentially, what we need to think more about is finding ways to make positive changes with least effort, and negative changes more effortful. Remove barriers of efforts for positive behavioral changes, and add more barriers of efforts for negative ones.

Rakhi Celebrations : From Behavioral Lens

हाम्रो संस्कृतिमा आजको दिन रक्षा बन्धन मनाउंछौ, यो “राखी” भनेर किन अरुको संस्कृतिमा हामी अन्धभक्त भएर पछि लाग्न खोज्दै छौं ?

Translation: In our culture, we celebrate Raksha Bandhan, why are we blindly following others’ culture with the name of “Rakhi”?

After some mindless scrolling of my news feed enjoying my dark-textured black tea, this particular post made me stop, re-read it, and think.

If you do not know about this festival, click here.

To be fair, I have witnessed a lot of “Rakhi” celebrations and pictures in my social media (mostly on my facebook, twitter & instagram) today. It seemed like the people celebrating “Rakhi” and tying the thread to their respective brother(s) this year were in larger quantity than in the past years. I wouldn’t want to deep dive into religious history and cultural accounts about this festival because foremost, I’m not an expert in these matters; and second, my interest is more drawn by the human behavioral aspect of this “increasing” tendency of “Rakhi” celebration. So why do people adopt this foreign culture?

Turns out, it’s basic human behavior.


As Zalmy (2017) writes in his opinion, festivals – in general – act like stress relievers and help us balance our emotions. Festivals provide us with the opportunity to come together with family, relatives, and friends together in a bond of love. Phelps (2016)’s article published on FestivalMag supports this argument by saying that festivals could help reduce stress levels.

Rakhi” is the celebration between siblings. Researches have shown that bonding with siblings act as a hidden resource in therapy. A research article published by Lewis in 1990 in Journal of Strategic and Systemic Therapies concludes with clinical examples describing three ways to involve siblings in therapy: as participants, consultants, and mutual nurturers. A logical conclusion here is that the “Rakhi” festival, which celebrates this therapeutic experiences through bonding, is justified across all cultures, not just to any one particularly.

Another research article published by Cicirelli in 1989 in Psychology and Aging has come to a finding that closeness of the bond to a sister (by both men and women) was related to less depression.


There’s a famous dialog from the movie Red Sparrow, “Every human being is a puzzle of need. You must become the missing piece, and they will tell you anything.

Whatever any particular person thinks, feels, and does is the reflection of his/her needs being either met or unmet. And as Dr. Marshall Rosenberg quotes, “When we are in contact with our feelings and needs, we humans no longer make good slaves and underlings.

When we are in contact with our feelings and needs, we humans no longer make good slaves and underlings.

– Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life

To better understand the human needs, we can either look inside the “Needs Inventory” of The Center for Non Violent Communication (CNVC) or Max-Neef’s classification of fundamental human needs.

My older article on the pandemic and human behavior was based on the fundamental needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused few fundamental human needs to be unmet – especially the need for recreation (leisure), need for affiliation, affection, and connection.


So, the increased number of “Rakhi” celebrations can be accredited to the fulfillment of these needs. People needed to have fun after the 100+ days of lockdown. They needed to feel connected on a different way with their siblings, because the bonding eventually contributes to a better mental-health and overall well-being.

To overcome this need for recreation and connection, people blended in the “foreign” culture with their own. One can’t really point fingers at anyone.

If you’re wondering why do people “under-value” our own cultural practices, then a quick answer to that would be “Path of Least Resistance (or Principle of Least Effort)“, and I will explain it in my next article. Stay tuned!

Update: Read the Principle of Least Effort article up here.

Don’t Be Yourself; Consider Adaptive Authenticity

“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

This Oscar Wilde’s quote is a common career/life advice most self-help gurus give in today’s context, where ‘authenticity’ has been more of a buzz-word. Before pointing fingers, I’ll admit myself first – I have given this advice plenty times in the past.

However, I needed to overcome my own confirmation bias, and thus, I was determined to look beyond the obvious for this small self-help sentence of being authentic. Borrowing words from Simon Feldman’s book, Against Authenticity, he writes, “Being yourself – this ubiquitous dictum seems like a marvelous philosophical wisdom, but also an empty truism“.


A lot has been talked about being yourself and having authenticity. There also has been scholarly articles and podcasts about authenticity being a double-edged sword, but most of us choose to willfully ignore it possibly due to our own cognitive biases. In general, these articles talk about how people misuse “being oneself” to justify their selfish actions and behaviors (in short, being a jerk).

You can’t show up in boxers for a job interview, and say “I’m being myself”, can you?

Also, most humans have lost their own credibility when they stick to their own definitions and boundaries of “authentic” personality. People also use authenticity as an excuse to not stretch and grow, or explore more of their own capabilities.

Professor Herminia Ibarra’s research (also published in HBR Article, “The Authenticity Paradox”) suggests that when people are promoted and have a fixed mindset to their own boundaries of being authentic, they would be at greater risk of failing in their new role. Authenticity generally revolves around the triad of i) being true to yourself, ii) maintaining strict coherence between what you feel and what you say/do, and iii) Making value-based choices. However, Professor Ibarra also states a too-rigid definition of authenticity can create problems than do good. Here’s how:

Having a too-fixed definition of authenticity can cause more problems.

“Being yourself” isn’t necessarily a bad advice. But it does turn bad when this is just pasted out of context. This doesn’t really tell us what to do exactly. This ambiguity itself might be a narrative for starting a snowball effect, thereby causing larger problems.


Organizational psychologist Adam Grant vouches about authenticity being a double-edged sword in his podcast. Grant articulates that being authentic without boundaries, status, and empathy would be non-valuable.

I’ve myself realized – especially at times of workshops & trainings – that just “being myself” didn’t work in fostering the connections between me and my audience. I needed to “be one of them”, whilst not losing a major portion of my authenticity. I had to customize myself to be one of them, speak their language, articulate in a way they could comprehend, without having to completely sacrificing my own-self. This is what I prefer to call “adaptive authenticity“.

We need to understand that being ourselves with everyone we meet and disclosing too much of our thoughts and feelings to everyone would be a credibility-killer. Being aware, and adapting to the people and environment and customizing our own actions and behaviors could be a point to start with.

Furthermore, without earning a “status”, our authentic self might not be appreciated. Research have shown a dark side of authenticity in organizational life – it’s only as you progress up the career ladder that you have the license, power and opportunity to be authentic. It takes time for people to earn “idiosyncrasy credits”. Idiosyncrasy credits are what allows us to deviate from group opinions, but a negative credit balance means being our authentic-self might not be appreciated.

Without a qualm, empathy is a big component in being our own authentic self. We can consider asking ourselves a simple question, “How does my actions (resulting from me being myself) affect the other person?” But before all these talks of “being authentic”, we need to look into ourselves, for a detailed self-assessment and self-awareness.To begin with, I would vouch people to listen to Socrates’ advice of “Know Thyself“, and then only go to Oscar Wilde’s advice of “Be Yourself“.

Will We Be Able To Trust People The Same Way?

The COVID-19 global pandemic caused by novel coronavirus has already impacted the world in a much adverse way. From causing global lockdowns to changes in human behavior, the virus has managed to make us rethink the way we act, work, and overall live our life.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended social distancing as one of the most effective ways to decelerate the spread rate. This has already imperiled one of the primary needs of human beings – physical touch and intimacy. One of other major concerns revolves around the question, “Will we be able to trust people the same way?”

Let’s dissect.

It is completely normal for humans to question a new environment, situation, event, object, or another human being. This is because the new environment comes with uncertainty, which jeopardizes our needs for control and sense of security. And not only new people, the skepticism grows towards known people, who have come in contact with unknown environments, too. With this scenario in mind, the surficial answer to the question reaches to “NO!”, but there is more to this picture.


Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman write about the 3 elements of trust – positive relationships, good judgement/expertise, and consistency. Positive relationships are about balancing results with concern for others, generating cooperation between others, resolving conflicts, and giving honest feedback in a helpful way. Good judgement and expertise is about anticipating and responding quickly to problems, using knowledge and expertise to achieve results, and even others seeking after their opinions. Finally, consistency is about walking the talk, honoring commitments, keeping promises, and willing to go above and beyond the regular call of duty.

Frances Frei’s TED Talk also gives a similar three elements of trust, viz. the trust triangle – authenticity (I experience the real you), empathy (I believe you care about me and my success), and logic (I know you can do it; your reasoning and judgement are sound).

Professor Dan Ariely in his paper, The Trust Factory, explains about five different trust generators – i) The long game: established relationships, ii) The glass door: transparency, iii) The why factor: intentionality, iv) The counterpunch: revenge, and finally v) The common goal: aligned incentives.

In simple words, he explains these five trust generators as:

i) With consistent partners, people are more trusting.
ii) We are more comfortable when we can see what’s going on behind the scenes.
iii) We are judged less harshly if we suffer as we struggle with moral dilemmas.
iv) The possibility of punishment helps us avoid relationships in which one side is more vulnerable than the other.
v) Sacrificing some income for the benefit of the other party can be an incredibly powerful act.


Simply put, a lot of factors affect whether we trust or do not trust another person, organization, object, or a situation. Summarizing these different literatures, I firmly believe trust comes from consistent acts demonstrating genuine concern for others, keeping others’ best interests at heart, and logical actions with transparent intentions.

Trust Framework


In the worst case, we will see everyone with the same lens – “Could s/he be the carrier of the virus?” We might be skeptical towards the family member who has been in three different meetings throughout the day. We will certainly raise an eyebrow on that customer who looks ill and is continuously coughing without covering their mouth. We might even hesitate to shake hands with a new colleague who just joined the work today.

But the point is that all these do not necessarily stop us from trusting people ever again. Yes, we will be cautious and aware. We will change our behaviors in pursuit to co-exist with the virus. But we will not stop trusting people altogether. The key lies in how we communicate with people. The messages we are sending across needs to mention that we are genuinely concerned for them, have their best interest at heart, and act logically with transparent intentions. We need to recognize the other person’s dilemma, and also need to explain ours.

This might sound absurd at the beginning but certain changes are bound to happen, and happen for the overall good.

Physical Touch: Will we lose it post COVID-19?

Touchwood, let’s hope the pandemic fades quick.

While Noor Tasnim from Duke Global Health Institute was expected to stay in Guatemala for eight weeks, she worried if she would ever fit in. Her advisor, Dr. David Boyd, recommended her to greet every stranger she walked by. Noor goes on to write in her news article that by acknowledging others in the community and having that acknowledgement reciprocated, she felt connected to the locals. Little did she know that such a common greeting could be so powerful.

This makes us wonder, “how do we generally greet our friends, family, or loved ones?” It has mostly been a hug, handshake, fist bump, shoulder bump, or a kiss. Sometimes, just a smile from distance works too. Mostly, the physical touch is important.


Dacher Keltner, Ph.D. – the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley – writes that everyday incidental gestures such as pat on the back, or caress of the arm are our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion. In his article published in September 2010, he explains that “to touch is to give life”.

Furthermore, in this journal article published by French physiologist Nicolas Guéguen, he instructed the professor of a 120-person statistics class to give the same verbal encouragement to any student who volunteered to solve a problem at the front of his classroom. But to a randomly selected group of students within the class, the professor also gave a slight tap on the upper arm when speaking to them. Guéguen compared the volunteer rate of those who were touched to those who were not, and found that students who were touched were significantly more likely to volunteer again. In fact, roughly 28 percent of those who were touched volunteered again, compared with about nine percent of those who were not. This demonstrates the positive effect of touch in schools, and how important touch is in communicating positive emotions.

Even in business meetings, handshakes are considered an important part. In a working paper published by Harvard Business School, Juliana Schroeder and Jane Risen of University of Chicago, and Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton of Harvard University conducted four different studies. These four different studies revealed that handshakes made people feel comfortable initiating negotiations, led to increased cooperative behaviors, obtained higher joint outcomes, crafted more agreements, and in together promoted the adoption of cooperative strategies and influenced negotiation outcomes.


While personal touch and intimacy itself is one of the basic human needs, coronavirus hits hard at this very basic human need. Preventing the spread of coronavirus requires hand washing and social distancing. Those are the basics – wash your hands with soap water for at least 20 seconds regularly, and maintaining social distance. As Harvard Medical School elaborates the term social distancing it goes like, “For an individual, it refers to maintaining enough distance (6 feet or more) between yourself and another person to avoid getting infected or infecting someone else.”

This could be the biggest behavioral shift and a major problem for humans, in general.

MIT Technology Review’s editor in chief, Gideon Lichfield, advocates in his article that we are not going back to normal, and social distancing could itself be the new normal – upending our way of life, in some ways forever. Peter Hall – the Professor of School of Public Health and Health Systems at University of Waterloo – advocates in his article published in World Economic Forum that the vaccine will eventually arrive, but in the meantime, epidemics like COVID-19 can be prevented by increasing the prevalence of precautionary behaviors in the general population that impede its spread.

In similar lines, the BBC Future also predicts that we – humans – will be less touchy-feely and far more wary, and the transition will feel strange. It also goes on to say that we may find ourselves more comfortable with keeping people at a distance from us when we greet them.


The Independent newspaper published an article back in 2015 stating that handshakes during business negotiations work even when one of the parties involved is a robot.

A scientific study found that when two people who may be located thousands of miles apart communicate through a robot, shaking hands with the machine and communicating the physical act still encouraged co-operation and mutual understanding.

As per the research team, even though the handshake was virtual, it created a sense of connectedness between both people as they experienced the sensation of grasping a hand with a vibration generated through a controller. They further go on to mention that the findings could provoke a revolution in the art of conducting a video conference or Skype interview.

Also Read: Will we be able to trust people the same way?

Robin Dunbar, emeritus professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, goes on to say that physical contact is a part of the mechanism we use to set up our relationships, friendships, and family memberships. As published in this BBC Future article, Dunbar has some words of hope. “Touch is not the only mechanism used for physical bonding,” he says. Evolution from our primate progenitors has given us new ways to feel a connection with others that also trigger endorphins. “They’re things like laughter, singing, dancing, telling stories, religious rituals and so on,” he says – “the things we use in our everyday social interactions.”

While we might remain more cautious about physical contact for the time being, physical – or – social distance doesn’t really mean we can’t feel close.