Thursday, May 27, 2010

Want more empathy? Read more fiction!

Just read an article about an interesting study which found that: "People who frequently read narrative fiction scored higher on tests of both empathy (the ability to understand and identify with another person's feelings) and social acumen (the ability to make quick judgments of people and situations)." In addition, the study found that "frequent reading of non-fiction was associated with poorer empathy and social acumen." As I've written in previous posts, empathy is one of the cornerstones of Emotional Intelligence and EI (or EQ) has been shown to be a crucial leadership skill.

With that in mind, thought I'd share the most recent fiction that I thoroughy enjoyed.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery is about a concierge in a French condomium building. She tries diligently to hide her true self from the residents and is found out by a new resident. The other narrator is a young resident who is planning suicide. Quite a look at how we perceive one another and the impact simple kindness can have on others.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is the story of orphaned twin brothers who are raised by two doctors in Ethiopia. Those who traditionally don't read fiction, and are fascinated by medicine and the history of Ethiopia will enjoy this novel. As you get caught up in the story, you'll also be likely to develop empathy for the characters.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Use sensory recall when things heat UP!

In February I wrote about how effectively Olympic athletes use visualizations and promised another post about how we can use visualization to calm ourselves when dealing with a stressful situation or person. Get ready to rela-a-a-a-x.

Think of a place where you feel very calm. You might be hiking in the mountains, fishing, on a beach, reading a book, playing music, soaking in a tub of bubbles─it's a different place for each of us.

You want to be able to recapture the feeling that you have when you are there. Actors call it sensory recall and use the technique to get into the mood of the scene or the emotions of their character. You can use it when things heat up!

Try it with me. Get comfortable and shut your eyes. Recall everything you can about your favorite relaxing place—getting in touch with all your senses.
• Take a deep breath. What do you smell?
• What do you hear?
• How does the air feel? What are you touching or wearing?
• What do you see?

I'm about to head to Rancho La Puerta─a health spa in Mexico where I lead programs for guests and staff. I also enjoy a lot of exercise, eat wonderful food, meet delightful people, take lots of naps and rela-a-a-a-x. Here are some of the scents, sounds, sensations and sights of the Ranch:
• The scent of rosemary, lavender and flowers, flowers, flowers.
• The sound of the breeze rustling through the palm trees and the trickle of water in the many pools.
• The warm sun and my favorite orange hoodie that's so soft.
• Beautiful Mount Kuchumaa, the rolling meadows, the gorgeous grounds.

All it takes is the scent of lavender and I'm back at Rancho La Puerta─totally relaxed. What will take you back to your favorite place (Yes, some people call it their happy place!) when you need to get there? And I mean quickly!