How To Teach Your Kids To Care About Other People – Caroline Bologna

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As deep-seated divisions, vitriol and disturbing news fill headlines, many people are wondering what happened to the qualities of empathy and kindness in our society.

In the same vein, many parents are wondering how to raise kids who will be a force for love and goodness in the face of bitterness and hate.

HuffPost spoke to psychologists, parents and other experts about how to instill empathy in children.

Talk About Feelings

“The gateway to empathy is emotional literacy,” said Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and the author of numerous parenting books, including UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.

A simple way to foster emotional literacy is by promoting face-to-face communication in the age of texting and smartphones. “Digital-driven kids aren’t necessarily learning emotions when they pick emojis,” Borba said. “Make it a rule in your house to always look at the color of the talker’s eyes because it will help your child tune in to the other person.”

Another key aspect is teaching kids to identify their own emotions early on. “Use emotional language with kids. Say things like, ‘I see you’re really frustrated,’ or, ‘I see you’re really mad,’” Laura Dell, an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati’s School of Education, told HuffPost.

“Before children can identify and empathize with other people’s feelings, they need to understand how to process their own feelings,” she continued. “Once they can identify their own emotion, they’re better able to develop those self-regulation skills to control their own emotions ― and then take the next step to understand the emotions of others.”

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Ravi Rao, a pediatric neurosurgeon turned children’s show host, believes parents should teach feelings as much as they teach things like colors and numbers.

“You’ll see parents walking through the park and taking every opportunity to ask, ‘What color is that man’s jacket?’ ‘What color is the bus?’ ‘How many trees are there?’” he explained. “You can also practice emotion by saying things like, ‘Do you see the woman over there? Does she look happy or does she look sad?’”

Rao also recommends playing a “guess what I’m feeling” game at home by making happy or sad faces and asking your children to identify the emotion. “You just get their brains in the habit of noticing the signals on other people’s faces.”

Once kids have a better sense of emotions and how things make them feel, you can ask them about the emotional perspectives of others. “You can ask things like, ‘How do you think it made Tommy feel when you took his toy?’ or, ‘That made Mommy really sad when you hit me,’” said Borba.

Use Media To Your Advantage

Watching TV or reading books together presents another great opportunity to cultivate empathy, according to Madeleine Sherak, a former educator and the author of Superheroes Cluba children’s book about the value of kindness.

“Discuss instances when characters are being kind and empathetic, and similarly, discuss instances when characters are being hurtful and mean,” she suggested. “Discuss how the characters are probably feeling and possible scenarios of how the situations may have been handled differently so as to ensure that all characters are treated kindly.”

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Borba recommends engaging in emotionally charged films and literature like The Wednesday Surprise, Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Set An Example

Parents need to walk the walk and model empathy themselves, noted Rao.

“Kids will pick up on more things than just what you say. You can say, ‘Pay attention to other people’s feelings,’ but if the child doesn’t perceive or witness you paying attention to people’s feelings, it doesn’t necessarily work,” he explained.

Rao emphasized the importance of parents using language to convey their own emotional states by saying things like, “Today, I’m really frustrated,” or, “Today, I’m really disappointed.” They can practice empathy when role-playing with dolls or action figures or other games with kids as well.

It’s also necessary for parents to recognize and respect their children’s emotions, according to Dell.

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For kids to show empathy to us and others, we need to show empathy to them,” she explained. “Of course it’s tough as a parent trying to get multiple kids to put on their clothes and shoes and get out the door to go to school in the morning. But sometimes it makes a difference to take that pause and say, ‘I see it’s making you really sad that we can’t finish watching ‘Curious George’ this morning, but if we finished it, we wouldn’t be able to make it to school on time, and it’s really important to get to school on time.’”

“It doesn’t mean you have to give in to their wants all the time, but to recognize you understand how they feel in a situation,” she added.

Acknowledge Children’s Acts Of Kindness

“Parents are always praising children for what grades they got or how they did on a test. You can also boost their empathy by letting them know it matters to develop a caring mindset,” said Borba, noting that when children do things that are kind and caring, parents can stop for a moment to acknowledge that.

“Say, ‘Oh, that was so kind when you stopped to help that little boy. Did you see how happy it made him?’” explained Borba. “So your child realizes that caring matters, because you’re talking about it. They then begin to see themselves as caring people and their behavior will match it.”

Expose Them To Differences

“Parents have to help their children grow up and thrive in a diverse society through education about and exposure to others who are different, whether culturally, ethnically, religiously, in physical appearance and ability or disability,” Sherak said.

There are many ways to expose your children to the diversity of the world ― like reading books, watching certain movies and TV shows, eating at restaurants with different cuisines, visiting museums, volunteering in your community, and attending events hosted by various religious or ethnic groups.

“It is also important to follow up such visits and activities with open discussions and additional questions and concerns, if any,” said Sherak. “It is also valuable to discuss differences in the context of our children’s own environments and experiences in the family, at school, in their neighborhoods, and in the larger community.”

Parents can urge local schools to promote cross-cultural awareness in their curricula as well, said Rao.

“We also just have to eliminate jokes about race and culture from our homes,” he added. “Maybe back in the day making jokes about race like Archie Bunker seemed acceptable and part of what the family did when they got together on holidays. But that actually undermines empathy if the first thought a child learns about a race or group of people is something derogatory learned from humor. It can be very hard to then overcome that with other positive messages.”

Own Up To Your Mistakes

“If you make a mistake and behave rudely toward someone who messes up at a store checkout, for example, I think you should acknowledge that mistake to kids,” said Dell. After the bad moment, parents can say something like, “Wow I bet she had a lot on her hands. There were a lot of people at the store right then. I should’ve been a little kinder.”

Acknowledging and talking about your own lapses in empathy when your kids are there to witness them makes an impression. “Your child is right there watching, seeing everything,” Dell explained. “Own up to moments you could’ve made better choices to be kinder to the people around you.”

Make Kindness A Family Activity

Families can prioritize kindness with small routines like taking time at dinner every night to ask everyone to share two kind things they did, or writing down simple ways to be caring that they can all discuss together, said Borba. Playing board games is another way to learn to get along with everybody.

Borba also recommended volunteering together as a family or finding ways that your children enjoy giving back.

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If your kid is a sports guru, then helping him do arts and crafts with a less privileged kid might not be the best match, but you can find other opportunities for face-to-face giving that match their interests,” she explained. “Help them realize the life of giving is better than the life of getting.”

Families might also consider writing down their own mission statements, suggested Thomas Lickona, a developmental psychologist and author of How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain.

“[It’s] a set of ‘we’ statements that express the values and virtues you commit to live by ― for example, ‘We show kindness through kind words and kind actions’; ‘We say we’re sorry when we’ve hurt someone’s feelings’; ‘We forgive and make up when we’ve had a fight,’” he explained.

Lickona also recommended holding everyone accountable to the family values at weekly family meetings centered around questions like, “How did we use kind words this week?” and, “What would help us not say unkind things even if we’re upset with somebody?”

“When kids slip into speaking unkindly ― as nearly all sometimes will ― gently ask for a ‘redo,’” he said. “‘What would be a kinder way to say that to your sister?’ Make it clear that you’re asking for a redo not to embarrass them, but to give them a chance to show that they know better. Then thank them for doing so.”

Another piece of advice from Lickona: Just look around.

“Even in today’s abrasive, angry, and often violent culture, there are acts of kindness all around us. We should point these out to our children,” he said. “We should explain how kind words and kind deeds, however small ― holding the door for someone, or saying ‘thank you’ to a person who does us a service ― make a big impact on the quality of our shared lives.”

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When It Comes To Success In Business, EQ Eats IQ For Breakfast – Chris Myers

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When I was younger, I bought into the fallacy that the “smartest” person always won. I pushed myself to achieve the highest scores, earn the most recognition, and excel in every field.

I worked as hard as I could, but I almost always fell short of my goals.

Growing up, I often found myself surrounded by people who were smarter and far more talented than I could ever hope to be.

This left me feeling as though I was destined for a life of mediocrity, forever destined to live in the shadows of others.

Despite this, I always seemed to excel in the workplace. Throughout my career, from my first internship to my stint in corporate America, I managed to gain the trust and respect of my managers and peers.

As I climbed the proverbial ladder, many of the peers who were undoubtedly smarter than me jeered. They claimed that the people I worked for were idiots and that I was merely lucky. Still, I continued to move forward much to their chagrin.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately, as I’m working to find the right school for my son, Jack.

Jack, it turns out, is exceptionally bright. With an IQ of 145, he’s in the top percentile of intelligence in a traditional sense.

You’d think that having such raw intellectual horsepower would make life easy for him, but it’s quite the opposite. He has all of the typical emotional challenges of a normal seven year old, and then some.

While his IQ is high, his EQ or emotional quotient, is lower than average. As a father, it’s my job to try to raise as well rounded of an individual as possible, and that’s why I spend so much time trying to nurture his EQ.

It turns out, success in both life and business is a matter of emotion, relationships, and character, rather than raw intelligence. In fact, throughout my career, I’ve learned three facts that every successful person seems to remember.

EQ trumps IQ   

Maya Angelou once remarked, that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This certainly holds true in the realm of business. People buy emotions, not products. Teams rally around missions, not directives. Entrepreneurs take on incredible challenges because of passion, not logic.

Fortune follows people who demonstrate a high degree of emotional intelligence, or EQ. While IQ might be largely determined by genetics, EQ can be learned, developed, and refined.

Individuals with high EQ can speak to the soul of another person and ultimately influence their behavior. In the workplace, EQ trumps IQ every day of the week.

Humility goes a long way  

Human beings crave status and recognition above just about all else. This is especially apparent in the workplace, where many buy into the belief that self-promotion is the path to success.

I’ve found that the opposite is true. Humility, it turns out, is central to success.

Everybody falls at some point. You stay humble so that the people around you want to help you up, not knock you back down.

As a leader, I’ve found that people who demonstrate humility in thought, word, and deed tend to rise quickly inside of an organization because people are naturally inclined to help them succeed.

Arrogant, entitled, and prideful employees, on the other hand, tend to fail rather spectacularly. They may be smart, but they’re unable to garner any loyalty from the people around them.

It all comes down to grit

Perhaps the most important factor in determining success is grit.

Grit is just another word for strength of character. An individual or team who displays grit is someone who can take a hit and just keep on going, no matter what.

It’s this resilience that enables successful teams to avoid the pitfalls of depression, lethargy, and apathy that people tend to run into when faced with adversity.

As I look back on my career to-date, I can honestly say that I never gave up. I pivoted and evolved, but I never capitulated.

Many highly intelligent individuals are so afraid of failure and hardship that they never take risks. Instead, they sit back, comfortable and safe while others drive the world forward.

These trailblazers stumble, fall, and fail more than their more risk-averse counterparts, but grit keeps them moving forward.

As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Nothing is simple 

My advice to  my son, as well as the students, friends, and team members I mentor is always the same: nothing in this life is simple.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are. What matters is how you’re able to connect, understand, and inspire other people.

Never think too highly of yourself just because you’re smart. In the end, it’s the people who understand feelings, not facts, who win the day.

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New Study Discovers Neurons That Rewrite Traumatic Memories – Andréa Morris

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An estimated one-third of people will suffer from stress or fear-related disorders at some point in their lifetime. Certain traumatic memories can stick with us and wreak havoc, causing chronic anxiety, depression, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the most successful trauma treatments available is a behavioral therapy called “exposure therapy.”

A method that involves re-exposing the patient to traumatic stimulus in a controlled environment in an effort to break the association of fear or anxiety. A new study out today in the journal Science examines how exposure therapy works on a cellular level and shows the effectiveness of this type of therapy relies principally on recall neurons rewriting traumatic memories.

Neuroscientist don’t yet fully understand how neurons store our memories. The mystery fuels a considerable debate in the field: Do exposure-type therapies work by suppressing a memory trace of fear and replacing it with a new memory trace of calm and safety? Or does the process involve a rewriting of the neurons that are active during traumatic recall?

Although the authors of this new study say suppression may still play a role, they were able to observe for the first time neuronal reprogramming of long-term traumatic memories.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL) discovered long-lasting trauma (remote fear) reduction in the brain is correlated with activation of the same neurons involved in memory storage. Looking at mouse brains, the scientists zeroed in on a group of neurons in the dentate gyrus.

The dentate gyrus is part of the hippocampus; an area critical for memory encoding, retrieval, and abatement of fear. Previous studies show the dentate gyrus plays a crucial role in generating contextual memories of fear. It also appears to generate new neurons, a process called neurogenesis.

The mice in this study were genetically modified to carry a gene that emits a signal–a fluorescent protein–following neuronal activity. The researchers used a fear-training exercise to give the mice long-lasting traumatic memories. This allowed the scientists to pinpoint a group of neurons in the dentate gyrus involved in storing and recall of long-term traumatic memories.

The mice then went to therapy (fear-extinction training) a mouse-in-a-lab approximation of exposure therapy. The scientists discovered that some of the neurons active during the recall of traumatic memories were still active when the rodents no longer showed fear. And the less the mice were afraid, the more cells were reactivated. It’s the first indication that this group of neurons in the dentate gyrus may be involved in storing memories as well as reducing the impact of traumatic memories.

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The researchers put the mice through exposure therapy again, this time reducing the excitability of the recall neurons. With the recall neurons turned down, the mice showed less fear reduction (exposure therapy less effective) compared to the controls. The researchers then dampened the excitability of other neurons in the dentate gyrus, but found these other neurons didn’t seem to influence fear reduction.

Finally, the researchers excited the recall neurons during exposure therapy and saw that the mice showed a decrease in fear, demonstrating that the particular group of neurons in the dentate gyrus involved in recall are also critical for fear reduction.

“Our findings shed, for the first time, light onto the processes that underlie the successful treatment of traumatic memories,” says neuroscientist Johannes Gräff, whose lab conducted the study.

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Emotion Is Your Most Strategic Marketing Tool – Diana Davies

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Emotion is the tool you need to create content that captures the attention of your target audience. You need to engage their brains then their hearts if you want your content to be shared across networks and social media platforms.

The goal of your content goes beyond keeping your existing audience engaged and informed. You want whoever reads your content to love it so much that they feel compelled to share it with their online community.

What will trigger that immediate response? Emotion.

Decision making is not based on logic it is based on emotion. The emotional part of your brain is leading the decision making charge. The logical analytical part of your brain is simply playing catch up and ends up “justifying” a decision that has already been made.

Emotion is a tool that can be used to guide the brain’s response. What is the best way to insert emotion into strategic marketing? Graeme Newell breaks it down very eloquently,

“Start with your clients emotional priorities then show how you can make their dreams come true.”

Knowing your clients emotional priorities is essential to creating content that connects with your target audience at a fundamental level. You need to trigger in their brains a strong feeling of YOU UNDERSTAND ME.

Emotion Is Your Most Strategic Marketing Tool

 

Emotion is the tool you need to create content that captures the attention of your target audience. You need to engage their brains then their hearts if you want your content to be shared across networks and social media platforms.

The goal of your content goes beyond keeping your existing audience engaged and informed. You want whoever reads your content to love it so much that they feel compelled to share it with their online community.

What will trigger that immediate response? Emotion.

Decision making is not based on logic it is based on emotion. The emotional part of your brain is leading the decision making charge. The logical analytical part of your brain is simply playing catch up and ends up “justifying” a decision that has already been made.

Emotion is a tool that can be used to guide the brain’s response. What is the best way to insert emotion into strategic marketing? Graeme Newell breaks it down very eloquently,

“Start with your clients emotional priorities then show how you can make their dreams come true.”

Knowing your clients emotional priorities is essential to creating content that connects with your target audience at a fundamental level. You need to trigger in their brains a strong feeling of YOU UNDERSTAND ME.

Feeling understood is incredibly powerful. It resonates in the brain and forms the foundation of an emotional bond. The same kind of bond you experience with friends and family that “get you”. A place where you feel understood, appreciated and respected. You can create that emotion in your target audience.

Collect emotional insights from your current clients and target audience. When you first meet them are they exhausted, anxious, depressed or overwhelmed? What language are you hearing after receiving your services? Are they re-energized, driven, passionate or ecstatic? These emotional insights become your unique strategic marketing tool.

The content you create will reflect back to your audience the emotions they your audience find themselves currently experiencing and the emotional place they are striving for. What is it about your services that will have an emotional impact on your client? What emotions are they experiencing before and after working with you?

Emotion transforms your strategic marketing from a flowchart into the embodiment of your ideal client.

Emotion Keywords Amplify Content Impact

Henneke Duistermaat wrote a blog post that perfectly captures the importance of adding emotion words to content to increase impact and drive your audience to share.

Capture the emotions that are driving your target audience by collecting insights from direct interviews and online research. If you aren’t sure which emotions to explore initially, a good place to start is by looking at the 8 basic emotions shared within Henneke’s post.

The study of emotion and emotion words is an active area of research. Dr. Watt Smith conducted research which revealed that there is a granularity to emotions that we still haven’t fully captured in common every day usage words.

These emotions are still impacting our daily actions and reactions but we can’t readily describe them. In some instances you may not even realize you are experiencing the emotion until you read about it.

The use of emotions and emotional words will anchor those feelings and frustrations that are bubbling within your audience and link them with something tangible – your content and your strategic marketing.

Emotion will be the tool that builds the relationship between you and your target audience. It will not matter how wonderful and charming you are in person if your online content is full of jargon, acronyms and corporate speak.

Read any article you find about viral content and the one common element that was widely shared is emotion. High arousal emotions provoke action which is ultimately the point of creating content.

You want to build an engaged community that responds to the content you create. You want the likes, retweets, comments and shares. Their response is a direct reflection of your audience insights and knowledge. The more you understand how to engage their brain, the stronger the response you will receive.

Emotion Increases Visual Memory

Our brains process visuals first and retain a memory of them longer.

Use visuals that have an emotional impact to capture the attention of your target audience as they scan through their social media feeds, emails and online reading.

Given how short our attention spans are, you need to use emotion as your primary strategic marketing tool. Emotion will drive the visuals you create, the stories you share and how well your audience remembers your message.

Once you have collected the emotions your target audience is experiencing, you need to create unique visuals as part of your strategic marketing. There are many easy to use and cost effective techniques for creating custom visuals.

A creative visual catches the eye and gets the visitor to stay and explore your website. It can also buy you those few extra precious seconds on social media for a user to stop and actually read your content. A visual marketing strategy is essential for engaging the brain. Adding emotion to your visuals in the form of overlaid text or the use of images that reflect emotion significantly increases how well your content will be remembered.

Emotion is your most strategic marketing tool. Emotion captures the attention of the brain and engages your audience to take action. We already know that content with visuals gets 94% more views than content without visuals.

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The Psychology of Emotional and Cognitive Empathy

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Empathy is a broad concept that refers to the cognitive and emotional reactions of an individual to the observed experiences of another. Having empathy increases the likelihood of helping others and showing compassion.Empathy is a building block of morality – for people to follow the Golden Rule, it helps if they can put themselves in someone else’s shoes,” according to the Greater Good Science Center, a research institute that studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being. “It is also a key ingredient of successful relationships because it helps us understand the perspectives, needs, and intentions of others.”

Though they may seem similar, there is a clear distinction between empathy and sympathy. According to Hodges and Myers in the Encyclopedia of Social Psychology, “Empathy is often defined as understanding another person’s experience by imagining oneself in that other person’s situation: One understands the other person’s experience as if it were being experienced by the self, but without the self actually experiencing it. A distinction is maintained between self and other. Sympathy, in contrast, involves the experience of being moved by, or responding in tune with, another person.”

Emotional and Cognitive Empathy

Researchers distinguish between two types of empathy. Especially in social psychology, empathy can be categorized as an emotional or cognitive response. Emotional empathy consists of three separate components, Hodges and Myers say. “The first is feeling the same emotion as another person … The second component, personal distress, refers to one’s own feelings of distress in response to perceiving another’s plight … The third emotional component, feeling compassion for another person, is the one most frequently associated with the study of empathy in psychology,” they explain.

It is important to note that feelings of distress associated with emotional empathy don’t necessarily mirror the emotions of the other person. Hodges and Myers note that, while empathetic people feel distress when someone falls, they aren’t in the same physical pain. This type of empathy is especially relevant when it comes to discussions of compassionate human behavior. There is a positive correlation between feeling empathic concern and being willing to help others. “Many of the most noble examples of human behavior, including aiding strangers and stigmatized people, are thought to have empathic roots,” according to Hodges and Myers. Debate remains concerning whether the impulse to help is based in altruism or self-interest.

The second type of empathy is cognitive empathy. This refers to how well an individual can perceive and understand the emotions of another. Cognitive empathy, also known as empathic accuracy, involves “having more complete and accurate knowledge about the contents of another person’s mind, including how the person feels,” Hodges and Myers say. Cognitive empathy is more like a skill: Humans learn to recognize and understand others’ emotional state as a way to process emotions and behavior. While it’s not clear exactly how humans experience empathy, there is a growing body of research on the topic.

How Do We Empathize?

Experts in the field of social neuroscience have developed two theories in an attempt to gain a better understanding of empathy. The first, Simulation Theory, “proposes that empathy is possible because when we see another person experiencing an emotion, we ‘simulate’ or represent that same emotion in ourselves so we can know firsthand what it feels like,” according to Psychology Today.

There is a biological component to this theory as well. Scientists have discovered preliminary evidence of “mirror neurons” that fire when humans observe and experience emotion. There are also “parts of the brain in the medial prefrontal cortex (responsible for higher-level kinds of thought) that show overlap of activation for both self-focused and other-focused thoughts and judgments,” the same article explains.

Some experts believe the other scientific explanation of empathy is in complete opposition to Simulation Theory. It’s Theory of Mind, the ability to “understand what another person is thinking and feeling based on rules for how one should think or feel,” Psychology Today says. This theory suggests that humans can use cognitive thought processes to explain the mental state of others. By developing theories about human behavior, individuals can predict or explain others’ actions, according to this theory.

While there is no clear consensus, it’s likely that empathy involves multiple processes that incorporate both automatic, emotional responses and learned conceptual reasoning. Depending on context and situation, one or both empathetic responses may be triggered.

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Cultivating Empathy

Empathy seems to arise over time as part of human development, and it also has roots in evolution. In fact, “Elementary forms of empathy have been observed in our primate relatives, in dogs, and even in rats,” the Greater Good Science Center says. From a developmental perspective, humans begin exhibiting signs of empathy in social interactions during the second and third years of life. According to Jean Decety’s article “The Neurodevelopment of Empathy in Humans,” “There is compelling evidence that prosocial behaviors such as altruistic helping emerge early in childhood. Infants as young as 12 months of age begin to comfort victims of distress, and 14- to 18-month-old children display spontaneous, unrewarded helping behaviors.”

While both environmental and genetic influences shape a person’s ability to empathize, we tend to have the same level of empathy throughout our lives, with no age-related decline. According to “Empathy Across the Adult Lifespan: Longitudinal and Experience-Sampling Findings,” “Independent of age, empathy was associated with a positive well-being and interaction profile.”

And it’s true that we likely feel empathy due to evolutionary advantage: “Empathy probably evolved in the context of the parental care that characterizes all mammals. Signaling their state through smiling and crying, human infants urge their caregiver to take action … females who responded to their offspring’s needs out-reproduced those who were cold and distant,” according to the Greater Good Science Center. This may explain gender differences in human empathy.

This suggests we have a natural predisposition to developing empathy. However, social and cultural factors strongly influence where, how, and to whom it is expressed. Empathy is something we develop over time and in relationship to our social environment, finally becoming “such a complex response that it is hard to recognize its origin in simpler responses, such as body mimicry and emotional contagion,” the same source says.

Psychology and Empathy

In the field of psychology, empathy is a central concept. From a mental health perspective, those who have high levels of empathy are more likely to function well in society, reporting “larger social circles and more satisfying relationships,” according to Good Therapy, an online association of mental health professionals. Empathy is vital in building successful interpersonal relationships of all types, in the family unit, workplace, and beyond. Lack of empathy, therefore, is one indication of conditions like antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. In addition, for mental health professionals such as therapists, having empathy for clients is an important part of successful treatment. “Therapists who are highly empathetic can help people in treatment face past experiences and obtain a greater understanding of both the experience and feelings surrounding it,” Good Therapy explains.

Exploring Empathy

Empathy plays a crucial role in human, social, and psychological interaction during all stages of life. Consequently, the study of empathy is an ongoing area of major interest for psychologists and neuroscientists in many fields, with new research appearing regularly. Lesley University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology gives students the opportunity to study the field of human interaction within the broader spectrum of psychology.

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Under Pressure, Imposter Syndrome Hits Men Harder Than Women – Christian Jarrett

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The idea that some of us experience “imposter syndrome” was first mooted in the 1970s by two US clinical psychologists who noticed the preponderance of high-achieving women who felt they had somehow cheated or fluked their way to success and feared being found out.

Research on the syndrome has since exploded and it’s become clear that many men also experience similar fraudulent feelings. In fact, in their new exploratory paper in Personality and Individual Differences, a team of US and German researchers claim that, under pressure, imposter syndrome may hit men harder than women, triggering more anxiety and worse performance – a difference they speculate may be due to traditional gender norms that place a greater expectation on men to be competent.

Rebecca Badawy and her colleagues recruited hundreds of female and male undergrads studying communication or business in northeastern USA. They measured their levels of imposter syndrome with an established scale that includes items like “Sometimes I’m afraid others will discover how much knowledge or ability I really lack”.

In one study, the researchers gave the students two sets of five verbal and numerical Graduate Record Exam questions (the GRE is used in the US to select students for graduate programmes). After the first set of questions, the researchers ramped up the pressure for half the students, giving them fake feedback that stated they had answered all of the first five questions incorrectly.

Although imposter feelings were overall higher among women, this harsh feedback seemed to especially affect male students with high imposter feelings – they reported higher anxiety, made less effort (as measured by time taken on the task), and showed a trend towards poorer performance, as compared to others given positive feedback. In contrast, female students with high imposter feelings responded to harsh feedback by increasing their effort and showing superior performance.

It was similar in a second study in which heightened pressure was placed on half the students by telling them that their results on five Graduate Record Exam questions would be shown to a professor on their course (the researchers called this a “high accountability” situation).

In this context, men with higher imposter syndrome scores again showed increased anxiety, reduced effort and a tendency toward worse performance, as compared with others who were told their scores would be shown anonymously to a stranger. In contrast, women with imposter feelings were largely unaffected (in terms of anxiety, effort or performance) by the increased accountability situation.

The increase in anxiety, and reduction in effort, shown by men with imposter feelings could be interpreted as reflecting their fear of being found out, combined with a “self-handicapping” strategy – reducing their effort so that they can use this as an excuse to explain the poor performance that they are anticipating.

“Assuming that traditional gender norms hold, males [with imposter syndrome] may have exhibited  stronger negative reactions because they believe that society at large values males who demonstrate high competence and at the same time, do not believe that they can fulfil this standard,” the researchers said.

In contrast, the women with imposter feelings appeared less sensitive to the negative feedback and expectation of review by a professor – if anything, they arguably responded to negative feedback in an adaptive way by increasing their effort. The researchers linked this with the traditional cultural expectation that women should be warm rather than competent.

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 “Being less constrained by gender norm violations and backlash (i.e. they were already expected to perform poorly on competence-based tasks like exam questions), females [with imposter feelings] may have felt freer to attempt to improve their performance (and risk failure) rather than excusing it with lack of time or effort invested,” they said.

It’s hard to know if and how these findings might relate to real-world situations in an  academic setting or workplace. Badawy and her team admit their findings are exploratory and may not generalise. In particular, if their explanation based around gender norms is accurate, one can imagine these norms might vary not just across international cultures, but even between different sub-cultures in the same country – depending, for instance, on the specific gender-based attitudes, beliefs and pressures in different occupations.

These issues aside, Badawy and her colleagues suggest their key finding – of particular male vulnerability to imposter syndrome under pressure – may have practical implications for managers. “If managers of organisational specialists observe evidence of imposter syndrome in male workers currently performing at high levels, they may benefit from making attempts to restore those workers’ sense of agency if they are placed under high accountability situations,” they said.

They added that mentoring by professors or managers, skills training and stretch assignments could be potential beneficial strategies (find more ways to combat imposter syndrome in this 99U article). However, they warned these will only work “if mentors are trained to down regulate their own gender role expectations”.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure by your donations – Thank you.

7 Easy Ways You Can Become More Generous (Without Breaking the Bank) – Jesse Wisnewski

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Even though you may feel like you don’t have enough money to give, there are many ways you can be more generous. And don’t worry. You don’t have the break the bank, rack up debt, or get a second or third job so that you can donate more.

Below are seven simple ways you can become a more generous person with what you have to give. Regardless if you’re not used to giving or you’re just looking to become a more generous person, the list below will help you to get started.

1. Start small

Like many things in life, it’s best to start with small steps. If you don’t have a ton of wiggle room in your budget or a history of donating, then plan on taking small, generous steps at first.

  • Do you only have $5 you can spare?
  • Does giving $20 feel like a stretch?
  • Do you have the ability to donate $150 this month?

It doesn’t matter if you can only give $5, $50, or $500. Start giving whatever you’re able to donate.

Start giving what you have to give

Regardless if you think your donation is little or large, start giving what you have to give. “How can I start small when the Bible talks about tithing?”

Well, that’s a great question, and one we don’t have the bandwidth to answer in this post. But you can read this post to see what the Bible says about tithing: 106 Scriptures About Tithing in the Bible, Giving, and Generosity.

In the meantime, keep the idea about starting small in mind as you read through the suggestions below.

2. Reduce one expense.

 2. Reduce one expense

Before giving as much as you’d like, you may have to cut back on some of your expenses:

  • What is one think in your budget you can reduce or remove?
  • Can you cut your cable bill?
  • Can you reduce your mobile phone services?
  • Is there a miscellaneous expense, like coffee, you can reduce?

Take a few moments to look through your budget to identify one expense you can minimize or delete. To shed some light on how much you should save, take a look at all of the Bible verses about saving money. Now, with the money you save, be prepared to funnel it into a cause, which leads us to the next point.

3. Find a cause

Do you financially support your organization you want to help? What about a local organization, individual, or family who has a need?

However you choose to be generous with your money, it’s crucial for you to know who or what you’re going to support. Not committing to help someone or an organization may lead you not to give at all.

4. Give away stuff

There are times when life makes it difficult to be generous with your money. After paying your bills and putting gas in your car to get to work, you may not have a ton of money left over to give. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean you can’t be generous.

Walk around your home to see if you can find things you can donate or sell so that you can give away the money you earn. You’ll be surprised by how many extra things you have lying around your house.

5. Share your time

There’s more to being generous than giving money.

In other words, God calls you to steward your life for his glory and for the good of others, which includes your time and skills.

If you’re not already volunteering your time, can you spare one hour per week to volunteer at your church or a local organization? How can you use your education, training, or work experience to help someone else?

Take time to think through what skills you have and how you can volunteer your services.

6. Look for opportunities to give

Commit yourself to looking for opportunities to give today. From carrying cash in your pocket or just being open to helping someone in need, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to be generous during the day.

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7. Set up recurring giving.

Arguably one of the easiest ways you can make start making small regular donations is to set up recurring giving. If the church or ministry you support uses Tithe.ly, you can set up a recurring monthly gift for as little as $5.

Whether you set up a recurring donation for $5, $50, or more, take a few minutes today to make an ongoing gift every month.

What step will you take first?

As you respond to the grace of God in your life, you’ll need to start by committing to becoming more generous. Don’t worry about how your giving compares to others or if you haven’t given that much in the past. God is at work in your life today, and I encourage you to respond to his leading in your life as it relates to your generosity.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure by your donations – Thank you.

Psychology – How I Trained Myself to Worry Better – Haley Goldberg

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We’re in a golden age of tracking: We track our steps, our sleep, our time on Facebook and other sites we deem “productivity killers” (looking at you, Instagram). But one thing we still don’t track or think about much: the amount of time we spend worrying.

It makes sense—it’s not like a wrist tracker or Google Chrome extension could measure or sense the time we spend worrying about the future. But if we had something that could track our worry time? I know I’d probably end each day with the 10,000-step equivalent.

Congrats, you worried for a solid three hours total today!

We spend a lot of time worrying. A 2017 survey of 2,000 millennials showed that the average respondent spent the equivalent of 63 full days a year worried and stressed out. That’s like June and July—all lost to worry.

There are many reasons why we worry, but one of the main reasons is simply because we can. Unlike all other animals on the planet, we have the power to look into the future—with all its uncertainty and fuzziness—and reflect. And that stirs up the worry machine as we try to figure out what’s going to happen and how we’ll react.

It can feel productive, and studies show that we often believe worrying helps prevent negative outcomes or helps us find a better way of doing things.

But here’s the thing: Most of what we worry about never happens. A study from the University of Cincinnati showed that 85 percent of what we worry about never actually happens. And the 15 percent of things that do happen? The study showed we’re typically able to handle it better than expected or it teaches us an important lesson, according to the Huffington Post.


Most of what we worry about never happens.


This paradox of worry—so all-consuming yet unproductive—is summed up best by Mark Twain, who famously said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Ease the Worry

So, let’s all just stop worrying, OK?

Just kidding—I know firsthand it’s not that easy. I’ve been told to just “stop worrying” for years and, well, it just doesn’t happen like that. And reaching inbox zero with our worries is actually impossible. We’re wired to have some level of worry to protect ourselves—it’s why we look both ways before crossing the street.


I’ve been told to just “stop worrying” for years and, well, it just doesn’t happen like that.


But the constant worrying about things that haven’t happened or things that aren’t even on the menu for the near future? We can take steps to curb overthinking.

Through trial and error, many late-night Google searches of “how to actually stop worrying,” and talking to other worry-inclined people, I’ve found a few techniques that help me ease worry and cut back on those 63 full days of dread.

Before we get into tips, it’s important to recognize that “worry” and “anxiety” are close friends but very different psychological states. Psychology Today offers a great breakdown of the differences. If you feel overwhelmed by your worries or in anxiety territory, it might be time to seek help from a professional. As someone who worries and has anxiety, I can’t recommend therapy enough.

But now, some tips for the casual worrywart:

1. Turn your ‘what if’ into ‘I can.’

Even if we know most of our worries won’t come to fruition, it still can feel hard to let go of our “what if” scenarios. What can help: refocusing from the “what if” to the “I can.” By that I mean, “I can problem solve” or “I can handle it.”

Dwelling on issues isn’t productive—but problem solving is. “Ask yourself what steps you can take to learn from a mistake or avoid a future problem,” Amy Morin, a psychotherapist, explains in Psychology Today. “Ask yourself what you can do about it.”

But some slippery worries don’t come with a solution—they’re so far in the future, we can’t even take steps in the now. In those cases, it’s helpful to release a little control and focus on “I can handle it.”

It’s a method that works for Joymarie Parker, 30, the co-host of the Joblogues podcast and a self-proclaimed worrier. Parker says when she switches from trying to control the future to trusting she can handle whatever comes, it helps her redirect her thoughts.

“When you can release the need for things to happen one way and accept however they happen, you’ll thrive and you’ll survive in that,” Parker says. “I like to think, ‘This can go really well or not so well, but I’m OK with both of those outcomes.’ And a lot of times when we worry it turns out to be nothing or it was manageable. Whatever happens, we always come out of it on the other side.”


“Whatever happens, we always come out of it on the other side.” —Joymarie Parker


2. Set a time to worry.

Setting a designated time to worry can help you cut back on overthinking and recognize how much time you give those might-happen-but-probably-won’t-but-here’s-what-I’d-do-if-it-did thoughts. It’s a great way to ease into cutting back on worrying without forcing yourself to go cold turkey.

“Stewing on problems for long periods of time isn’t productive, but brief reflection can be helpful,” Morin explains.

Morin recommends setting aside 20 minutes of “thinking time” each day. “During this time, let yourself worry, ruminate or mull over whatever you want,” she writes. “Then, when the time is up, move onto something more productive.”

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I’ve found having a confined time to worry makes me prioritize my worries. It helps me weed out the highly irrational (What if I broke my leg tomorrow?) and focus on the worries that I can act on (What if I don’t finish that project by tomorrow?).


I’ve found having a confined time to worry makes me prioritize my worries.


A set time to think also helps me stay “worry-lite” throughout the rest of the day. If a worry pops up outside of my scheduled time, I swipe it aside like a bad push notification and tell myself to “revisit during thinking time.” And when I do get to my thinking time? Half the time I find myself forgetting what nagged at me earlier in the day—another cue it wasn’t important to begin with.

3. Call your worries out.

Like I said earlier, we tend to love tracking our habits and finding ways to optimize our time. But worrying essentially goes against that goal to get more done in less time. Reminding myself of how unproductive it is to worry actually helps me calm it down.

As much as it can feel like worry is motivating me, or it shows that I care about something, I know 99 percent of the time it’s stopping me from actually living my life. When a worry pops up, I like to challenge it with a “Is this useful?” It helps me connect back to the present me—the “me” who actually has things to do and people to see—and it helps me dismiss the worries that don’t serve me.

I’ve accepted that I’ll never “stop worrying”—I’m a proud worry wart for life. But like my Fitbit shows me how much time I spend sitting, noticing my worries helps me see the time I lose to irrational “what ifs.” Now, I’m starting to reclaim that time.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure by your donations – Thank you.

14 Ways to Improve Your Self-Discipline

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Sadly, your natural genius and an occasional burst of hard work are not quite enough to guarantee success in this life. Great entrepreneurs all have one additional amazing trait in common: discipline. It takes a lot of consistency and determination to get your great ideas recognized and to convert your hard work into dollars.

It is ironic, then, that self-discipline is often a feature that the brightest people among us lack the most. The problem is that there are so many wonderful things to learn about the world; concentrating on any one project can be a big ask.

Related: Why You Need Discipline to Achieve the Good Life

If you’re concerned that your lack of self-discipline is holding you back from fulfilling your full potential, you can remedy this by trying a range of techniques to sharpen your focus. Visualizing the effects of your work, making lists and thinking about the company you keep are all good ways to get started.

Check out the infographic below for further details on these and other methods of honing your self-discipline. Study it today, and you are sure to see the positive results of your new regime before you know it.

14 Ways to Improve Your Self-Discipline

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure by your donations – Thank you.

Emotional Creativity: How We Become Better Creative Thinkers – Brett Steenbarger

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An interesting realization came to me recently: I’ve never achieved a creative insight in a routine setting.

It’s a sobering thought. Think of all the time we spend in routine settings, engaged in routine activities. Consider the typical business meeting, for example. How often have you experienced a creative insight – from others or from yourself – during one of those meetings?

While traveling, however, I’ve experienced many fresh perspectives and generated quite a few new ideas. The more unique the travel destination, such as the glacier shown above, the more likely it’s been that I’ve arrived at important realizations.

The interesting thing is that I never go into those travel experiences expecting or needing creative outcomes. Rather, they seem to come naturally.

Why is it that we can find creativity on a simple walk through the neighborhood, but not in a business meeting where it might be most needed? Why is it that I find the trading floors among financial firms to be among the least creative settings I’ve encountered – so much so that traders and portfolio managers routinely concern themselves with “positioning”: the degree to which trade ideas are widely subscribed?

If creativity were simply an inborn trait or an acquired set of skills, setting should not matter so greatly in the generation of new ideas. When we look at business settings that are successful in cultivating creativity, such as those described by Ed Catmull of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, we find that they feature vigorous debate, laughter, and participation; research trips; and active experiments.  Even during meetings, participants actively move around the room, draw on boards, and try things out. In short, they are actively engaged, emotionally and physically. They are doing and feeling new things, and that helps them generate new ideas.

Just like a trip to a glacier: creativity seems to be a function of fresh experiencing.

A provocative line of psychology research from James Averill, Ph.D. of the University of Massachusetts supports this notion. He has researched what he calls “emotional creativity”: the capacity to experience the world in novel, authentic, and effective ways. Creativity, he maintains, is not limited to the domain of ideas; it is expressed equally in our responses to people, places, and events.

Consider the artist who travels to a beautiful area of the world and experiences a vista with a sense of awe. The combination of clouds, sky, and mountains evoke for the artist an otherworldly sense that becomes the inspiration for a painting. In such an instance, the creative work is facilitated by an emotional creativity: the ability to experience the world distinctively.

Emotional creativity is hardly limited to artists. I recently met with a portfolio manager who was visibly excited about the opportunities in financial markets. I expressed surprise, as most market participants perceived few opportunities at that time. The manager exclaimed that this was precisely why he was excited:

In his experience, the consensus of the herd was never correct and now there was a market consensus – not about a trade but about an absence of trading opportunity! Perhaps not coincidentally, this occurred days before the Brexit vote and considerable dislocations in markets. He perceived the same lack of conviction as other money managers. What differed was his emotional response to the situation.

Averill makes the interesting point that emotional creativity may lie at the heart of spirituality, the ability to experience the ordinary world in extraordinary ways. If we think about how we generate spiritual experiences, whether through the disciplines of meditation or yoga or through religious worship and practice, we can see that a common ingredient is a shifting of our focus and state of awareness.

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If we wish to engage the world spiritually, we invariably exit our daily routines and cultivate distinctive states of consciousness. This is not so far from what happens in the creative business practices described by Catmull: we become more physically and emotionally engaged.

The implications are profound for the business world and for our personal lives. Much of what we do is structured to get things done efficiently by turning activities into habits and routines. Yet it is in the mode of habit and routine that we are least likely to be distinctively engaged with the world emotionally and physically.

Quite literally, our modes of physical and emotional engagement with the world are too dialed-down to generate the fresh perspectives that will enable us to adapt to changing markets and changing business landscapes.

We become better creative thinkers when we become more emotionally creative, and we become more emotionally creative when we actively engage the world in fresh ways. Whether in our careers or our relationships, new doing can catalyze new viewing.

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