Monday, 27 June 2011

Monkey see, Monkey do - Why can't we?

Empathy - The ability to understand and share the feelings of another person - is one quality that we have been taught to have since childhood. I'm sure everyone of us would have felt the emotions, that the presence or absence of empathy, brings to us. I was under the impression that empathy or putting oneself into the other person's shoes or being on the other side of the table or whatever you call it, is a skill that every human being should try and develop, till I started reading "Just Listen" by Mark Goulston. It was interesting to know that it is not a skill that a person develops but instead it is wired in his brain. In fact that is something that we inherited from our ancestors during the evolution.

It has been proved by scientists who studied specific nerve cells of macaque monkeys that, these monkeys' brain cells reacted in the same way when the monkey performed some action and when it watched some other monkey perform the same action. V.S.Ramachandran explained in his ted talk that if we could remove the skin cells that senses the touch and sends the signals to brain, the reactions in the brain would be the same, if we were touched or if we watch someone else being touched. To the brain, it is all the same.

Every human being has this ability to empathize another person and expects the world to reflect our feelings as well (at least a little). Or in Mark's words
Each time we mirror the world, it creates a little reciprocal hunger to be mirrored back.
But most of the time we fail to do just that and it might create an impact in the other person called "mirror neuron receptor deficit".  When people experience it, they feel that they are left alone and depressed. Most of the techniques, to get through people,explained in this book is just about making people feel felt. When we mirror people's feelings/emotions it makes them feel less alone, which brings some relief to them, which in turn makes them feel more relaxed. As a result they'll be more open to listen to us and willing to work with us. I believe that this simple science must be very useful and handy to everyone of us who need to collaborate with a bunch of people day in and day out.

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