Imitating another person’s actions to experience the other person’s emotions is a critical link for understanding the mind’s of others. Sharing attention. Not engaging close and personal with another renders us less socially intelligent.
To understand others one must get over themselves— your own experiences, beliefs, attitudes, emotions, knowledge and visual perspective.
A man on one side of a river shouts to a man standing on the other side, “ Hey, how do I get to the other side of the river?” The other man responds, “You are on the other side of the river.” When talking to another person, you have to adopt that person’s point of view. The man on the side of the river violates a skill so basic in social interaction that you take it almost for granted.
It is easy to feel that we are at the center of the world. Others generally cut us more slack than we would imagine, because they are not ruminating on our mistakes as much as we are ourselves. Folk Wisdom, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Just because you are looking at the same thing doesn’t mean that others evaluate it as you do. Forgetting this can be costly.
Beliefs are not the only lens that can alter your perceptions. Knowledge can also do it. The lens of the expertise works like a microscope, allowing you to notice subtle details that a novice might not catch but also sharpening your focus in a way that can allow you to miss the bigger picture and make it difficult to understand a novice’s perspective. The problem is that it’s hard to know when you are being affected by your own expertise and when you are not. The lens problem affects anyone who has unique knowledge of anything. You do not overcome the lens problem by trying to imagine another person’s perspective. You overcome it by actually being in that perspective.
When the researchers calculated the volunteer’s accuracy they found that those who could only see the storyteller, were significantly less accurate than those who could only hear the storyteller. Emotions were carried primarily on the speakers voice not on the body language.
Knowing another’s mind requires asking and listening. The gains from getting perspective directly instead of guessing about someone’s perspective can be big.
Getting someone’s perspective you not only need to listen, you need to verify that your understanding is correct. Native Americans have a method called the “talking stick.” When different tribes had a dispute, they would discuss them. Only the person holding the talking stick is allowed to talk. When he is finished, he hands the stick to the other, who would first have to reiterate the first speakers position to that person’s satisfaction. Only when the first person felt understood could the next person make his point. This fosters listening. Reiterating someone else’s point to their satisfaction you will find out if you have understood correctly or incorrectly.
Only by recognizing the limits of our brain’s greatest sense will we have the humility to understand others as they actually are instead of as we imagine them to be
Ron Winnegrad has been a Perfumer and teacher for 46 years. As a perfumer, Ron has been able to express the world he sees through a rainbow of olfactive and emotive visions. As a teacher, Ron has helped others to see fragrance through his own multi sensorial lens.