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Disinformation and social engineering thrive in the absence of empathy

 
 

The first version of this story appeared on ASKSonnie.INFO

 
 
My soc med timeline is still topped with condescending politics, and it’s irritating because LinkedIn was not spared. These posts sow fear saying (1) PH is doomed because of BBM, and to avoid another 2022,  (2) the unschooled should be restricted to vote.
 
I’d like to express my dissenting opinion on these two schools of thought and suggest a better alternative to win non-believers to our political belief.
 
 

Why I don’t share the doomsday view (yet) of the Philippines.

 

  1. We only have two options: pull apart or pull together. I did not vote for BBM, but I chose the latter because the people had spoken, and I have faith in Filipinos’ maturity to do the same after giving them the space to grieve.
  2. Despite the condescending behavior of some kakampinks, they have demonstrated what bayanihan, patriotism, and volunteerism are for the country. This movement is not going away anytime soon. As expected, the movement will be transformed into an NGO.
  3. There are large numbers of Filipinos who are yearning for good governance. I don’t think they will slumber in the next 6 years.
  4. Though I have yet to hear concrete plans to address the country’s problem, except for the unity theme. I would like to believe that the incoming admin will assemble a competent team to manage the economy and other issues of the country. I will give him the time and space given to all new Presidents to get the ball rolling.
  5. Regardless of who we voted for last elections, we share the same love for the country. To me, that should be enough to pull us together after the bitter campaign period
  6. And if BBM’s objective is to rebuild the Marcos name, I don’t think he is stupid to repeat the errors of his father and the post-EDSA politicians.

 
 

Why strip the uneducated of their right to vote because they chose Marcos

 
First a respected thought leader,  Manuel L. Quezon III, also a liberal, doubts the unschooled swept Marcos to victory.
 
the higher the education the more likely to vote Marcos
 
Secondly, I feel that while there are die-hard Marcos fans, there is also a handful who were turned off because of condescending behavior. As a result, it’s possible that some cast a protest vote.
 

 
And thirdly, I also thought of putting a stricter qualification for voters when ERAP was elected President.  I changed my mind when EDSA 3 happened.
 
The circumstances that led to EDSA 3 are similar to our current scenario. Then, despite ERAP’s victory, academics, the middle class, and the wealthy had a hard time accepting it. This resulted in EDSA 2, in which the impeachment was terminated and ERAP was removed from Malacanang. However, the masa reassembled, resulting in EDSA 3 which became violent. Because of our attachment to people power over election results, we became a laughingstock at that time.
 
I realized that a better way to deal with this group is empathic leadership, along with improved education and effective social services.
 
 

A condescending attitude doesn’t convert.

 
Prior to the election, an acquaintance asked me how to convert Leni’s unbelievers to her side. I said the thought leaders should engage with empathy, and avoid a moral high chair approach (do not get this wrong, cancel culture and a scornful attitude thrives in both camps).
 
Let me explain
 
I used to lead the HR of a labor-intensive company where 70% of the manpower was blue-collar employees. These are either elementary graduates, HS level, or HS graduates.
 
They were dubbed palengkeros and utak squatters by enraged educated staff because, during parties, these employees would take more food than they could eat and place it in plastic bags to take home, nauubusan ang iba ng pagkain. They also said these employees were hard to deal with and their behavior is borderline arrogant.
 
While I agree with this observation, these people are also fiercely loyal to people who gained their trust, rightfully or wrongfully.
 
I was a greenhorn manager when I took over as HR head at the company. When I started, I had no idea that the employees were in the process of organizing a union. So, when we received the notice for election certification, management bombarded me with questions about why this had happened. Though I was only an observer of the process, I immersed myself in employee exchanges to learn the compelling reason why they had to organize themselves. I discovered that their issues could have been quickly resolved, but because the trust level is zero due to the neglect and the condescending attitude of some managers, they opted to self-organize.
 
 

In this experience, I learned that thought leadership without empathy is pointless in people management

 
Empathy can be cognitive, emotional, or compassionate. Cognitive simply means you understood the context of their behavior, while emotional is a notch higher because you also felt their emotions.  The highest form is compassionate empathy because you did something to address what you understood and what you felt.
 
Application:

I regularly facilitate (leadership) mentoring for our barangay’s chairman and kagawads. I became aware of the various health issues these officials are experiencing, but I also learned that they are NOT part of the annual physical examination or any health program of either the LGU or the national government (except the Philhealth card that is preloaded with P15k that they can only avail once).
 
As a local, I have witnessed their dedication, transparency, and above-average management of our community, particularly during the pandemic. In previous years, the barangay received several awards.
 
I understood (cognitive) why they would prefer to self-medicate rather than go to public hospitals unless it was an emergency. I also felt their pain (emotional) because, despite their dedication, they were frequently criticized. They also risk developing mental and physical illnesses while performing their duties, but they do not receive commensurate government health benefits.
 
So I contacted my acquaintances in high places of government to see if there was indeed no program for them and what could be done. Similarly, I asked entrepreneur friends if their organizations could do some sort of CSR initiative for deserving Barangay officials (compassionate).

Another lesson I learned as a young manager is that the noisiest is not always the majority.  In this story, the majority of employees, who kept their opinion to themselves, don’t want to organize, thus, the company remained union-free.
 

Empathy, Pareto Principle and Politics

Does the Pareto Principle Apply in Politics?


The lessons from this experience defined my approach to influential leadership moving forward in my career. Though I made silly approaches to win an argument, gain support and force people to submission in the short term,  establishing a sincere connection with the people is still the way to go.

  1. I accommodated some invitations from these people even at simple gatherings; I  brought lutong bahay food and ate with them in numerous lunches; Doing these and others so I could take a look at the lenses that they are using, and understand why such lens is being used
  2. I also learned from my mentor that the best way to sincerely connect with people is to make your presence felt on any of these life’s emotional milestones. (1) Death in the family (2) Wedding of employee (3) Childbirth.
    On one occasion, I was in a hospital with an employee when her sister died after an attempted rape and robbery. You can’t help but feel their horror and pain, it gave me sleepless nights for about a week.
  3. And whenever we would conceptualize programs, or introduce new policies, we anchored the implementation from a humane standpoint (hr in hr or human rights in human resources)

 
Taking these anecdotal tips from personal experience, I leave these thoughts to ponder:
 

In the marketplace of ideas, people will not always agree with us, but they may still follow our lead because we are empathic.

 
 

And where there is a lack of empathy, social engineers and disinformation artists will fill the void.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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BlogWatch receives the “Best Story” Award for the First Data Journalism PH 2015 from the Open Knowledge Foundation and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism  for their story on “Aid Monitoring: Citizens’ Initial Efforts in the Wake of Typhoon Yolanda” . Forbes Philippines also received the same award.

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