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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Are Empathy & Musical Appreciation Related to Social Skills – Brenda Kelley Kim

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Are music, empathy, and social information processing in the brain related? A new study from researchers at Southern Methodist University-Dallas and UCLA suggests there is a connection.

The study looked at people who are “high empathy” meaning they are affected emotionally by the feelings of others and lower empathy people who are not as emotionally invested in the actions of others. The role of processing music in the brain is complicated, and many neuroscience research projects have looked at the relationship between how we encode music in the brain and our actions in social situations.

Zachary Wallmark is an assistant professor in the SMU Meadows School of the Arts as well as the lead author of the work. “High-empathy and low-empathy people share a lot in common when listening to music, including roughly equivalent involvement in the regions of the brain related to auditory, emotion, and sensory-motor processing.” They aren’t exactly alike however and the areas where there are differences are relevant to social situations.

Wallmark and his colleagues used previous research that showed about 20% of the population is considered highly empathic. Their responses to social and emotional stimuli are much more pronounced than those who have typical levels of empathy. In the study, people who were more empathetic, processed music in an area of the brain where social stimuli are processed. In these individuals, music is treated in the mind liked a “pleasurable proxy for a human encounter” or, in other words, like spending time with other people and interacting.

The study cohort was a group of 20 UCLA undergrad students. They underwent fMRI scans while listening to music they liked or disliked as well as pieces of music with which they were familiar or unfamiliar. An fMRI is a functional scan, meaning it captures images of the brain and its activity while the patient is performing some cognitive task. The participants chose the pieces of familiar music before the study began.

While many neuroscientists and music professionals have always posited that a connection exists between music and empathy until now no studies could document the differences in the brain. In addition to the differences between empathy levels and the social aspect of music, there was also a difference in levels of reward activity in the brain. Listeners who were more empathetic showed more activity in the brains reward center than those who had lower levels of empathy. Highly empathic individuals seem to feel the music more intently than others.

Marco Iacoboni, a co-author of the work, is a Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Director of the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Lab at the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center UCLA where the scans were carried out. He stated, “The study shows on one hand the power of empathy in modulating music perception, a phenomenon that reminds us of the original roots of the concept of empathy — ‘feeling into’ a piece of art.

On the other hand, the study shows the power of music in triggering the same complex social processes at work in the brain that are at play during human social interactions.” The research is published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. The video included shows how some perceive music as a “social fix.” Check it out.

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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”.

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What Is Empathy & How To Cultivate It – Vivian Manning

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Some folks are able to watch the latest racist incident or school shooting unfold on the news late at night, roll over and go right to sleep. Yet, plenty of others can’t watch the news past dinnertime, for the pain and agony they witness seeps too deeply into their skin and all hope for sleep is lost.

The cause for taking the suffering of others so personally? The blessing and curse of empathy. According to Dictionary.com, “empathy” is described as “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.”

Roman Krznaric, author of “Empathy: Why it Matters and How to Get It,” describes the difference between empathy and sympathy: “Sympathy is feeling pity or sorry for someone, but without that extra step of grasping what that person is going through, or how they are experiencing the world,” he says.

Being an ’empath’ versus being empathetic

There’s also a difference between feeling empathy for others and being an actual “empath.” Judith Orloff, MD, author of “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People,” identifies as an empath and describes them as “emotional sponges who are so sensitive, they tend to take on the stress of the world.”

The gift of feeling empathy, or being an empath, is that you care deeply for others and want to help, says Orloff. However, the downside of empathy is it can be mighty exhausting. “Empaths have an extremely sensitive, hyperreactive neurological system,” she explains. “We don’t have the same filters that other people do to block out stimulation. As a consequence, we absorb into our own bodies both the positive and stressful energies around us.”

Is empathy a skill or an ability you’re born with?

Orloff says the ability to feel empathy is a little bit psychological tendency and a little bit neurological wiring. “It’s hypothesized that empaths may have hyperactive mirror neuron systems (the compassion neurons in the brain) and they work on overdrive feeling compassion,” she says.

According to Krznaric, your capacity for empathy is likely a question of nature and nurture. “Research suggests that about 50 percent of our empathic capacities are genetically inherited and the rest we can learn, because empathy is not simply a matter of wiring,” he explains, adding that adversity can also lend itself to the development of an empathetic nature.

“I recently met a stand-up comic who has lived with cerebral palsy all her life. She has an amazing empathy with people who not only have physical disabilities, but who get marginalized by society in other ways,” he says.

Orloff also mentioned how adversity contributes to an empathetic nature: “A portion of empaths I’ve treated have experienced early trauma such as emotional or physical abuse, or they were raised by alcoholic, depressed or narcissistic parents, potentially wearing down the usual healthy defenses that a child with nurturing parents develops.”

Empathy can be a struggle in this society

David Sauvage, an empath performance artist who consults with corporations and entrepreneurs on building more empathetic cultures, says the basis of empathy is emotional self-awareness — which isn’t a skill fostered by today’s achievement-driven culture.

“The average person in our culture doesn’t have much empathy toward others because we prioritize everything other than emotional well-being,” he explains. “How often are boys told to ‘suck it up?’ How often are girls told they’re ‘acting crazy?’

How many times during the course of the day do we feel like we shouldn’t feel a certain way, so we hide our sadness only to feel shame around that sadness? There’s no healthy balance between the negation of people’s feelings and the acceptance of people’s feelings. The only way to cope is to disassociate,” explains Sauvage.

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How to Help Your Child Develop Empathy – Claire Lerner

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Empathy is the ability to imagine how someone else is feeling in a particular situation and respond with care. This is a very complex skill to develop. Being able to empathize with another person means that a child:

  • Understands that he is a separate individual, his own person;
  • Understands that others can have different thoughts and feelings than he has;
  • Recognizes the common feelings that most people experience—happiness, surprise, anger, disappointment, sadness, etc.;
  • Is able to look at a particular situation (such as watching a peer saying good-bye to a parent at child care) and imagine how he—and therefore his friend—might feel in this moment; and
  • Can imagine what response might be appropriate or comforting in that particular situation—such as offering his friend a favorite toy or teddy bear to comfort her.

Milestones in Empathy

Understanding and showing empathy is the result of many social-emotional skills that are developing in the first years of life. Some especially important milestones include:

  • Establishing a secure, strong, loving relationship with you. Feeling accepted and understood by you helps your child learn how to accept and understand others as he grows.
  • Beginning to use social referencing, at about 6 months old. This is when a baby will look to a parent or other loved one to gauge his or her reaction to a person or situation. For example, a 7-month-old looks carefully at her father as he greets a visitor to their home to see if this new person is good and safe. The parent’s response to the visitor influences how the baby responds. (This is why parents are encouraged to be upbeat and reassuring—not anxiously hover—when saying good-bye to children at child care. It sends the message that “this is a good place” and “you will be okay.”) Social referencing, or being sensitive to a parent’s reaction in new situations, helps the babies understand the world and the people around them.
  • Developing a theory of mind. This is when a toddler (between 18 and 24 months old) first realizes that, just as he has his own thoughts, feelings and goals, others have their own thoughts and ideas, which may be different from his.
  • Recognizing one’s self in a mirror. This occurs between 18 and 24 months and signals that a child has a firm understanding of himself as a separate person.

What You Can Do To Nurture Empathy in Your Toddler

Empathize with your child. Are you feeling scared of that dog? He is a nice dog but he is barking really loud. That can be scary. I will hold you until he walks by.

Talk about others’ feelings. Kayla is feeling sad because you took her toy car. Please give Kayla back her car and then you choose another one to play with.

Suggest how children can show empathy. Let’s get Jason some ice for his boo-boo.

Read stories about feelings.

Some suggestions include:

  • I Am Happy: A Touch and Feel Book of Feelings
  • My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
  • How Are You Peeling by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers
  • Feelings by Aliki
  • The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
  • Baby Happy Baby Sad by Leslie Patricelli
  • Baby Faces by DK Publishing
  • When I Am/Cuando Estoy by Gladys Rosa-Mendoza

Be a role model. When you have strong, respectful relationships and interact with others in a kind and caring way, your child learns from your example.

Use “I” messages. This type of communication models the importance of self-awareness: I don’t like it when you hit me. It hurts.

Validate your child’s difficult emotions. Sometimes when our child is sad, angry, or disappointed, we rush to try and fix it right away, to make the feelings go away because we want to protect him from any pain. However, these feelings are part of life and ones that children need to learn to cope with. In fact, labeling and validating difficult feelings actually helps children learn to handle them: You are really mad that I turned off the TV. I understand. You love watching your animal show. It’s okay to feel mad. When you are done being mad you can choose to help me make a yummy lunch or play in the kitchen while mommy makes our sandwiches. This type of approach also helps children learn to empathize with others who are experiencing difficult feelings.

Use pretend play. Talk with older toddlers about feelings and empathy as you play. For example, you might have your child’s stuffed hippo say that he does not want to take turns with his friend, the stuffed pony. Then ask your child: How do you think pony feels? What should we tell this silly hippo?

Think through the use of “I’m sorry.” We often insist that our toddlers say “I’m sorry” as a way for them to take responsibility for their actions. But many toddlers don’t fully understand what these words mean. While it may feel “right” for them to say “I’m sorry”, it doesn’t necessarily help toddlers learn empathy. A more meaningful approach can be to help children focus on the other person’s feelings: Chandra, look at Sierra—she’s very sad. She’s crying. She’s rubbing her arm where you pushed her. Let’s see if she is okay. This helps children make the connection between the action (shoving) and the reaction (a friend who is sad and crying).

Be patient. Developing empathy takes time. Your child probably won’t be a perfectly empathetic being by age three. (There are some teenagers and even adults who haven’t mastered this skill completely either!) In fact, a big and very normal part of being a toddler is focusing on me, mine, and I. Remember, empathy is a complex skill and will continue to develop across your child’s life.

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How Women Can Rebound From a Huge Work Mistake – Career Contessa

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Made a mistake at work? Don’t freak. Follow this strategy to fix it. I still remember the first mistake I made in my professional career. I was a White House intern and I was asked to edit an Excel document filled with addresses for the president’s Christmas cards.psychology of

There must have been thousands of addresses on the sheet, and I was supposed to edit the informal phrases — like “St.” and “P.O. Box” — to their formal equivalent (“Street” and “Post Office Box”). I wanted to find a quick solution, so I used the “Find and Replace” feature to quickly find and replace all informal words with the formal ones. It might have been a great solution, but I made a mistake — I didn’t realize that many names would also be changed as a result. So, Steven Potter became Streeteven Post Office Boxtter.

Unfortunately, mistakes happen. They happen in your personal life and they are bound to happen in your professional life, too. Some mistakes may even be out of your control — but what you can control is how you react and recover from your mistake.

Luckily, I was able to learn an effective and appropriate strategy for fixing a mistake early in my career. Here’s what I learned.

1. Calm down.

Making a big mistake is unnerving, and you’ll be able to think more clearly if you’ve calmed down first. I recommend taking a walk around the block or listening to your favorite song. Take a few deep breaths and reassure yourself that everything will be OK. You’ll be better at thinking clearly and finding a solution to the problem if you are calm.

2. Identify a solution.

Don’t come to your manager or team with a problem. Come with a solution. In my case, the solution was restoring the document to the original draft. Auto-restore wasn’t working, so I decided I would stay late until everything was fixed. Identify two or three ways that you can fix your mistake.

Don’t start implementing the plan until after you talk to the team. They may have suggestions, and will probably want to be kept in the loop as you move forward. Regardless of the outcome, people will be impressed by your proactivity and willingness to take accountability for the mistake.

3. Tell your manager.

It will be much better if the news is coming from you, not someone else. Don’t try to hide your mistake in the hope that no one will find out. Calmly explain the mistake and outline your plan for fixing it. Take responsibility and don’t blame other people. Even if it is a group mistake, be accountable for your part in it.

Your manager and team may have constructive criticism and feedback. Listen carefully to the feedback and show that you’ve acknowledged it. One good technique is to repeat what your manager has said to you. It shows that you are listening and also will help you remember the feedback in the future.

4. Create an action plan.

Reflect on the mistake and how you handled it. Create an action plan for how you can improve in the future. For example, if you missed an important client deadline, write down three or four ways that you can stay more organized. You might write all of your deadlines on a Post-it Note on your computer screen, while also adding them as tasks on your calendar, so you get an email reminder a few days ahead of time. You could also ask team members how they stay organized, and adopt some of their habits.

5. Move on.

Making a mistake may decrease your confidence. It’s important to recognize that you are human, and mistakes happen. Reframe the mistake in a positive light by acknowledging how it’s led you to make changes that will improve your performance in the long run. As James Joyce once said, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” Don’t take yourself too seriously.

I had to see the humor in my situation. I still sometimes sign Facebook posts or emails to my White House intern friends as “Streeteven Post Office Boxtter”. At the end of the day, the holiday cards went out, and it wasn’t the Excel spreadsheet that stole Christmas.

It’s helpful to remember that mistakes often happen when you are stressed out. Make sure to take good care of yourself and practice self-love at work. Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone handles them maturely. Follow these five tips to gracefully and maturely handle and learn from your mistakes in the future.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – Thank you.

Real Reason You Should Make Empathy Your Mantra – Lambeth Hochwald

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The capacity to understand or feel what others experience AKA ’empathy’ isn’t usually a word that’s associated with business but it should be because good bosses know that empathy is one of the best management tools they have.

But Michael Ventura, author of Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership (Touchstone), publishing this week, believes this word is one that can help us better connect to clients, attract the right talent, ignite a spirit of creativity and identify opportunities for growth and there are three definitive ways to up your empathy quotient.

I’m a big proponent of this word and consider it a mantra in all of my interactions, whether I’m interviewing someone who may not be as media-trained as a corporate bigwig or a vendor helping me sort out a billing issue.

That’s why I really wanted to speak with Ventura, an entrepreneur and creative director who founded Sub Rosa, a strategy and design practice, in 2009. He considers it his mission to demonstrate the ways in which empathy–the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes–can be the key to your company’s innovation, growth and success.

“Empathy isn’t about being nice and it’s not about pity or sympathy either,” Ventura says. “It’s about understanding–your consumers, your colleagues and yourself–and it’s a direct path to powerful leadership.”

How to Step Up Your Empathy

To put yourself on that path, solicit feedback on your own leadership and create moments where you and your team can talk candidly about their needs and how they best thrive.

“Until we make an investment in ourself and the people we work with, we are at a disadvantage,” Ventura says. “Candid conversation, thoughtful listening, self-observation and a willingness to improve/evolve our approach as we grow are all key factors in delivering empathic leadership to our organizations.”

In looking back at the work he has done with his clients over the years, Ventura says that his best work was done when he and his principals were at their most empathetic selves.

“We got out of our own shoes and met with the people with whom the work intersected, whether that was consumers, partners or shareholders,” says Ventura whose firm counts among its clients a variety of Fortune 500 companies (GE, Google, Nike), the United Nations, the Obama Administration and start-ups like Warby Parker.

And, like any good coach knows, the way you get the most out of your players is by knowing how to inspire and motivate them, Ventura says.

“Some may benefit from instruction, while others thrive on pressure,” he says. “Great leaders take the time to truly understand their teams and bring forth leadership that matches their needs and aligns to the overall goals of the company.”

The ability to apply empathy and understand the ways in which it applies to leadership and staffing decisions is ‘where the rubber meets the road,’ Ventura says.

This means looking deeply at company values, the ways teams are structured, the way meetings are run and the way products are developed.

Focus on the Four Ps

“Everything that is core to your business can be considered,” he says. “We typically bundle these into four ‘Ps’ – people, processes, principles and product/service. Taking that empathic point of view that you’ve unearthed in your research and conversations can help to infuse these core pillars of the business with more meaning.”

Best of all, even the most cynical hardwired entrepreneurs can learn to be more empathic but there is one caveat: “Empathy is a muscle like anything else and if you don’t use it, it will atrophy,” Ventura emphasizes.

And, ironically, empathy begins with a look in the mirror.

Ventura stresses that it’s key to find ways to get out of your own perspective every day. This includes talking to people who are unlike you on your team.

“Journaling, meditation or other forms of self-reflection are key tools that you can use to better understand your own personal biases,” Ventura says. “This can also help you come to grips with your own limitations while still leading with confidence and empathy.”

If everyone who reads our articles, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

How This Therapist-Entrepreneur Is Starting A Global Movement Talking To Strangers – Melody Wilding

How much of your day do you spend listening to other people? I don’t mean half-heartedly nodding along while you mentally multi-task. I mean actively being present with another human being. These opportunities for connection are becoming increasingly rare in our hyper-connected world where distractions abound.

It’s difficult to stay focused long enough to listen to the people you love, let alone engage thoughtfully with someone you disagree with, whether that be your boss, a difficult colleague or someone whose political affiliations differ from yours.

Yet we’re facing a loneliness epidemic spurred on by disconnection. Being heard, feeling seen and getting validation are not only crucial components of good communication, but they are also essential for mental health.

Sidewalk Talk is an initiative that attempts to bridge the gaps we face today and give voice to marginalized emotions, people and communities. A team of volunteers take to city streets across the globe, simply sitting outside in chairs, eager to listen to any stranger who comes along wanting to chat. In these high-conflict times, Sidewalk Talk is attempting to use listening to heal, which is why when I first heard about the project, I knew I had to get inside the mind of the woman who started it, Traci Ruble.

In this interview, she discusses her inspiration for starting Sidewalk Talk along with the powerful ways the initiative is serving diverse, marginalized communities. Traci, a seasoned psychotherapist, also breaks down practical tips you can use to become a better listener, even in stressful situations.

Melody Wilding: You’ve been a psychotherapist for 14 years. What inspired you to start Sidewalk Talk?

Traci Ruble: Sidewalk Talk was not a heady decision.  It was inspired.  The inspiration was Psychological, Social and Spiritual all wrapped up in one.  Presidential elections were getting vitriolic in 2003.  In response, I had a profound call that we needed more love and equanimity in our political conversations.  Years later, gun violence (the Sandy Hook Shooting and the Charleston shooting), knocked me over.

All I wanted to do was hear directly from people why we were shooting each other.  Finally, the results of the Trayvon Martin case pushed me to finally sit and offer free listening on the sidewalk. I wanted to step out of “preach or teach” mode and wanted to hear directly from folks we frequently don’t listen to.  It felt like the right way for me to be in community to perhaps create some connection and justice.

Ruble: We call Sidewalk Talk a community listening project because it is everyone’s project. We pull this project off for very little money per year and it has grown because members in various communities across the world have taken our street listening guidelines and launched their own Sidewalk Talk chapters.  It is also a community listening project because when we sit on public sidewalks we become community glue.

We take over a sidewalk and next think you know, you will have every member of the community represented, sitting side by side, being heard.  A few months ago, in San Francisco, we had two young black women (who didn’t know each other but became friends after), a homeless vet, a gay activist, an older female Asian executive, and a young white male ‘tech bro’ all sitting shoulder to shoulder, being listened to.

 The whole community was included and had a place to belong in the same space, as equals.  Now that, that was profound.  That is the dream vision.  But along the way, the community inside Sidewalk Talk, as an organization, is one powerful place of belonging, growth and inclusion , as well.

Wilding: You talk a lot about the power of human connection. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from listening to strangers on the street?

Ruble: Most important lesson hands down: listening non-defensively is way easier than reacting or avoiding and it is pleasurable.  Who wouldn’t want to change their behavior in the direction of ease and pleasure? But it isn’t easy and it takes practice.  So often when we listen, we don’t know how to have boundaries so we can feel “emotionally contaminated” by people.

 We react or avoid altogether. We need to practice “being with” people while also holding neutrality and lenses on possibility.  I don’t mean phony “mantra type” positive thinking but the hearing the whole person under this story where possibility exists.  When people feel the best parts of them seen in troubled times, they often rise to the occasion.  But it is delicate.

Too much lightness can feel patronizing and not helpful so listening for the whole person and leading with curiosity, not the need for this person to feel differently than they do is quite a muscle to flex.  If we don’t learn better listening, we don’t develop the capacity to face the problems the world is facing today. Moreover, we can remember, from this practice of listening on the sidewalk, how much we need to also take the time to really connect to those closest to us.

Wilding: What are the qualities of a good listener? Why is it so important that we learn how to listen more effectively?

Ruble: Good listeners first and foremost know how to hear someone’s story while remaining calm and objective.  If we don’t stay boundaried and calm we go into black and white thinking where one person is right and one person is wrong and now the conversation is one of power and might rather than human connection.  But, if you grow the capacity to remain calm and prevent your body and brain from  going into “danger” mode when someone disagrees with you, you will be able to lead with curiosity and inquisitiveness.

I don’t think I have to tell you why that is important.  I remember one of our listeners had someone say the person they admired most in the world was Adolf Hitler.  She was Jewish and her parents were gay.  She stayed listening and was able to really understand why he admired Hitler and she felt liberated through the understanding, not angry.  What she discovered was fascinating. First, he was young and had never heard of the holocaust.  Second what he admired about Hitler was his charisma.

This young man was living on the street and in his mind, someone like Hitler could keep him safe from the harms he had been facing on the street and the abuses he suffered in his past.  So she reflected back to him “You really admire people who you believe could make you feel safer in your life?” and just like that this young man and this listener have a connection.

Wilding: How can someone become a better listener with difficult people, especially if that’s their boss, clients, or colleagues?

Ruble: As adults, our brains have the capacity to hold nuance but so often we take differences personally and our nervous systems get hijacked.  Work adds another layer of complexity because our livelihood is felt to be on the line.  This is the place where I earn the money to feed and clothe myself so the link to a potential threat response in the nervous system is heightened. What to do about all this?  First,practice calming your nerves before entering into any difficult dialogue. It is why mindfulness practice is such a zeitgeist right now.

When you are ready to engage, First, label the behavior that doesn’t work for you not the person.  When you get an “ick” feeling from a boss, client or colleague ask yourself,  “What do I want to feel when I am around this person?” Write it out.  Next, only interact with them when you are prepared to be a steward for the feelings you want to be having.

Don’t forget, people are usually difficult for us because they trigger our own material.  Even the jerkiest of colleagues provide us with opportunities to grow.  So see if you can actively practice finding attributes about them you do like.  Our negativity bias and triggers from the past may have us zeroing in on the thing that we are annoyed by.  You just cannot trust everything your mind tells you.  Stretch yourself out of the black and white thinking of “all good” “all bad” and actively see the whole person in this colleague of yours.

Finally, when you do sit down to talk (not on text message or email please) take absolutely nothing personal.  Easier said than done but seriously, such an invaluable life skill. That sharp tone of voice, that one-upmanship in a meeting, that broken agreement….it is data, not death. There is possibility if we can listen with objectivity combined with kindness.  There is virtually no possibility when we listen with reactivity and anger.

Wilding: What’s your vision for the future of Sidewalk Talk?

Ruble:  Some exciting and big changes.  We have gone in and done some one-off corporate trainings.  Now we are doing corporate listening trainings combined with events on the sidewalk with the hope of leaving behind an intact Sidewalk Talk chapter put on regularly by that company.

It is great team building.  We are also starting a couples listening project where couples come out and do some listening training with each other and then we hit the streets together.  Novelty is really good for couples relationships.  So is purpose and meaning. Finally, we are getting help doing some real data-driven impact studies.  We see our impact on health, community, workplace productivity, and implicit bias. We are very excited to begin applying for larger grants to expand and start doing cross cultural listening tours through different cities around the globe.

 

If everyone who reads our articles, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.