What do you think?
Can the application of positive psychology on a broad scale create more positive cultures - habitual, common patterns of interaction that facilitate getting more of what's really important in life for more people? I've run across several items recently that have made me think about this. (I include excerpts and links below.)
Here are the items that have stimulated my thinking:
An article in Der Speigel (http://bit.ly/rp9FbUl) focused on the cultural differences that make it much easier for a business to succeed in Estonia than in Greece. It begins with the story of Loukas Nakosmatis, a Greek who started a wholesale rose business in Greece four years ago and ultimately failed due to the habit of his customers of finding ways to make him deliver flowers on credit, then never paying. The article goes on:
As he tells his story, Nakosmatis is sitting outside under a blue evening sky, with Elias, Kostas and Krikor, fellow Greek expatriates, in front of the "Artemis," a small street restaurant he has opened in the pedestrian zone of the Estonian capital Tallinn. The business is going well, and Nakosmatis has begun to pay off his debts. A waiter is serving the guests at the next table: souvlaki, a mixed grill platter, Ouzo and Greek salad.
It's one of the few summer evenings in Tallinn when it's warm enough to eat outside. Half of the dozen or so small tables in his restaurant are taken by Japanese, Finns, Danes and Dutchmen, but there are no Estonians. A meal at his restaurant is too expensive for them, says Nakosmatis. Then he describes the two Estonian women he hired as waitresses.
"They are hardworking, honest and never late," he says. The group of Greek men falls silent for a moment. "Strange country," says Elias.
Second, and also focused on business, in the Nov. 3 Wall Street Journals, Daniel Henniger wrote a column basically questioning whether US Presidential candidate and governor of Texas Rick Perry had much to do with Texas' economic success in recent years, or whether it came from a difference in culture between Texas and states like California and New York:
In 1990, one of the world's biggest companies, Exxon Mobil, left New York City for Dallas. Exxon's former CEO, Lee Raymond, says the move in part was indeed about costs and New York State's notoriously overbearing tax authority. But it was also about working amid a culture of competence. "It's just the attitude in Texas of getting things done and doing them well," he says.Mr. Raymond remarks that the economic policies that in time trapped the Northeast and Rust Belt in spirals of decline never touched Texas. But this is about something beyond low taxes and no unions: "In Texas the people tend to be farmers or individual businessmen, and they have this attitude: We have to make do with what we have and work together to get things done and survive. It's can-do. That attitude permeates everything there."
Finally, in a somewhat different vein, a post at Instapundit (http://bit.ly/vvTH9h) dealt with manners in the "South" (US). It included this email from a reader:
As a recent (female) Yankee transplant to the south, I can’t speak of past southern manners, but I can speak of what I’ve seen and experienced since I’ve been here. It’s been nothing short of culture shock, in a wonderful way. I work in a retail store where it’s occasionally required of me to help customers out to their cars with heavy packages. I have no problem with this, but I have yet to seen a man let me take the heavier box, and if I try to, they won’t let me. My male co-workers won’t curse in front of me, or even discuss “inappropriate” subjects without first saying “excuse my language” or “pardon me for this”. I routinely have customers tell me not to worry about helping them with heavy packages, and that I should make the guys carry them. I’m called “ma’am”! (And occasionally, “darlin’”, which is also perfectly acceptable.) I’m treated like a lady wherever I go, not just another random customer. I rarely have to open a door for myself, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been offered assistance to my car when my arms are full after grocery shopping, from both men and women alike.
And the women are no less polite and warm-hearted. They’re happy to have a quick chat or offer an opinion on something if asked by a random stranger. They’ll politely catch your attention if you’re dropped a penny or a piece of paper from your purse to return it. They seem to have a big, wide, authentic smile and a kind word for everyone. They say “Please” and “thank you”, and mean it. And most shockingly, those mothers who bring their young children with them into the stores actually discipline them to make them behave, and will even apologize to the employees if their kids are being unruly.
I’m amazed and grateful for a culture that teaches such manners. If this is a decline in southern manners, then I can only imagine what they were like at their peak.
Estonia_1573 - Tower Top by archer10 (Dennis) from Flikr