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  • Writer's pictureRichard Mailman

Fran Drescher for President... And the power of injecting humanity into all that we do.

When Fran Drescher, the current President of SAG/AFTRA stepped in front of the microphone to announce to the world that the actor’s union would be going on strike, something amazing happened. With all dignity and grace, she was able to inject humanity and compassion into a heated conflict that had already taken an ugly turn. And the world listened. People from all walks of life, not just in the entertainment industry, got the message. It didn’t matter whether you were an Actor or a Plumber, the passion and humanity she brought to that platform made everything she was saying completely understandable and relatable. She triumphed in cultivating a meaningful connection and creating a positive impact on everyone who was lucky enough to hear her speak. Well, maybe not everyone. I’m sure the billionaire CEO’s she was talking about weren’t so happy, but the average Joe, they got it. The transformative power of connecting on a basic human level can enable us to move mountains. Let her be an example that the sheer act of injecting empathy, kindness, and understanding into everything we do should never be underestimated. In our personal life, in our work life and in our creative life.

Years ago, when I first ascended to the position of Producer, I already has years of experience on film and television sets. I knew the hierarchy of things. I was aware of the egos, the difficult personalities, and the competitiveness. But none of those things mattered to me. I tried my hardest to treat everyone equally. To me, there was no difference between a set PA and an executive at the network. I treated everyone I came in contact with, in the same way. With dignity, respect, and as my equal. In the beginning I did it because it was just how I was raised. That’s how I was taught to behave. But as the years went on, I began to realize the power in what I was doing. Kindness and empathy are a universal language that transcends cultural boundaries. By making it a guiding principle in everything you do, you open yourself up to a world of opportunities. Are there some people that it’s sometimes lost on? Sure. But I can almost guarantee you that even if someone is so tone def and wrapped up in their own ambition, somewhere, sometime, what you did or said will make them stop and think.

When I first arrived in New York City as a young artist I immediately became aware of how tough it could be. I bought into the idea that the city was cruel and insensitive, and people were not to be trusted. That’s where my trouble began. In order to “fit in” and “survive” I adapted that type of behavior. It didn’t feel right or true to my nature, but I did it because I thought I had to. Boy was I wrong. Everything became a struggle. My daily interactions with people became difficult and unpleasant. At work I became aggressive and defensive, and as an actor and writer things were going nowhere. When I did manage to make some progress, the rewards didn’t feel well deserved or as a result of hard work and perseverance. They felt tentative, borrowed, and as if they could be taken from me at any moment.

After fifteen years in New York, I made the move to Los Angeles. There were many things that factored into my decision to go west, but I knew that I couldn’t approach it in the same way I had when I arrived in New York. My first job on a film found me on set with a big director whose movies I didn’t like very much. My years in New York not only had me working in the theater but in film as well. I was very much aware of this directors’ work, and I wasn’t a fan. This was a big movie, and I was one of about 100 production assistants hired to control pedestrian traffic on the streets of downtown L.A. Ironically doubling for the streets of Times Square. For days I stood in the background and watched this Director arrive on set, interact with people, and the response they had to him. He didn’t seem happy to be there, and he treated people accordingly. I remember thinking to myself, “No wonder his movies stink.” I’m a firm believer that who you are is reflected in everything you do. Nothing solidified that more than the morning I had my one and only interaction with him. It was brief, but it left a lasting impression. As I arrived on set early one morning, I found myself face to face with him as he walked toward me with his assistant. I instinctively looked up, smiled, and said, “Good morning.” He paused for what felt like an entire minute but in reality, was probably just ½ a second, stared at me and said nothing. But the look of distain and repulsion on his face made me think he was going to spit at me. As he turned and walked away, he angrily said to his assistant “I want everybody out of this area while I figure out this shot.” For the remainder of that shoot, I stood around and listened to everyone complain about what a miserable experience they were having.

Injecting humanity into everything we do, including our work and creative life, is imperative if we want to be successful and have a positive impact on the people and world around us. At work, by cultivating empathy towards our coworkers, we foster stronger relationships, resolve conflicts, and create a more inclusive and understanding workplace. Is it always easy? Hell no! But it’s worth it. If I didn’t honor and respect the people I was in charge of leading, I could never get them to do what I needed them to do. Leaders who prioritize compassion and empathy create a work environment that nurtures employee well-being, encourages creativity, and fosters collaboration. By leading with empathy, leaders inspire their teams, support personal growth, and empower individuals to bring their best selves to work. I found that doing this promotes a culture of trust, openness, and mutual support, which ultimately drives innovation and success.

Injecting humanity into everything we do isn’t just some lofty idea, it’s a mindset that can transform our lives and the lives of those around us. Embracing empathy, kindness, authenticity, and compassion, creates a ripple effect that extends far beyond our immediate interactions. It’s through these deliberate actions that we create and build more interconnected, empathetic, and compassionate relationships and work. By committing to injecting humanity into everything we do, we can make a profound difference in our work and in the lives of others. And oh yeah, Fran Drescher for President!

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