The Emotional Dunce

I just finished listening to the audiobook for A Whole New Mind by David Pink and parts of it were very eye-opening. Pink posits that we are leaving the information age and that we are facing the same dilemma as when we entered it. The main jobs of the age are being phased out as they are either being automated or outsourced overseas. To remain relevant, workers must embrace new skills. This means combining the left-brain skills of the information age with right brain qualities like creativity, inventiveness, and empathy. I do try to focus on skills at each end of the spectrum, but the section on empathy was pretty interesting to me.

Empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another. While it’s useful in many work situations, I was especially intrigued by the discussion about trying to use empathy around difficult coworkers. While it might seem like difficult coworkers are just trying to be confrontational or keep you from getting things done, that’s probably not the case. In reality, they’re most likely trying to do their best to reach the same objective as you. they just go about it differently. It helps to try to understand this mindset and find common ground.

One way to try to be more empathetic is to try to read the expressions on someone’s face to see what they’re feeling.  Particularly of use is the reading of micro-expressions. Microexpressions, first explored by Paul Ekman, are the fleeting, involuntary expressions we make in reaction to events. They’re also a good way to spot if someone is lying and determine their true emotions. Take this test and see how good you are at reading expressions! Turns out I’m pretty bad at it, but I’ll get better.

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