Jun 4, 2018

Study finds the limits of putting oneself in another’s shoes (instead, ask and listen)

Posted by in category: futurism

Important — “Understanding the mind of another person is therefore enabled by getting perspective, not simply taking perspective.”

I still remem­ber the time I tried to com­fort one of my best friends when her father died. Because I’d lost my own par­ents years before, I thought I under­stood her pain. But, when I offered sym­pa­thy, she balked. Her father’s death had been tran­scen­dent, filled with love and fam­i­ly con­nec­tion. She didn’t feel pain; she felt at peace.

Try­ing to see where anoth­er per­son is com­ing from is often tout­ed as a key to empa­thy. If we imag­ine our­selves in their shoes, the think­ing goes, we’ll be able to pre­dict their feel­ings and their behav­ior, bridg­ing the gap between self and oth­er. This is con­sid­ered a skill—sometimes called “the­o­ry of mind”—that begins in child­hood and devel­ops through­out our lives, help­ing us to nav­i­gate social sit­u­a­tions gracefully.

But a new­ly pub­lished study (see below) sug­gests that try­ing to take anoth­er per­spec­tive may be less ben­e­fi­cial than we think—at least when it comes to tru­ly under­stand­ing anoth­er per­son. The alter­na­tive? Direct ques­tions and answers. If peo­ple can’t read each other’s minds, then we need to use our words.

Read more

Comments are closed.