Category Archives: Relationships

The Way to Finding Powerful Human Connection

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~

human connectionHuman connections can bring so much value to our lives. Relationships give us a sense of belonging in a group, a sense of identity within the group and reason not to feel lonely. We learn from others’ experiences and insight, and we learn together by pursuing new experiences alongside those we befriend. Our fear is diminishing how far we tread beyond our doorstep. We don’t smile at strangers like we used to. How much are we missing out on by not taking that chance? – Terri

The Way to Finding Powerful Human Connection By Leo Babauta

As I write this, I’m sitting in a cloud-filled rainforest at a retreat in Ecuador, surrounded by the calls of thousands of tropical birds and creatures, dense lush greenery, and some of the most open-hearted human beings I’ve ever met. Before I came here, I had some anxiety about meeting everyone, worried what they might think of me, worried that I would be awkward at talking to everyone or not fit in. This anxiety made me not want to come. That would have been a huge mistake. I realized that I was telling myself a story about how bad I am at public speaking, at meeting new people, about how unworthy I am of others liking me. This story was not helpful and was getting in the way of me doing something with the potential to be amazing. So I asked myself if it was definitely true, and the answer was, “I don’t know.”

That “I don’t know” scares me. I decided I had to look at the “I don’t know” in a different way — so I told myself instead, “I don’t know, and I would love to find out. Who knows what I’ll discover?”

This helped me to get on the plane, and then I was forced to meet an entire group of 24 strangers. And I could see them as 24 people who were potentially going to judge me … or I could see them as fellow human beings, who have aspirations and who struggle, who have love for others and frustration and anger, who want to be better people and who are disappointed in themselves that they are not, who want to make a difference in the world and feel guilty that they procrastinate, who are beautiful but who judge themselves, who are so different from me in many wonderful ways but who at their core have the same tender heart of humanity beating with strength and fragility, just like me.

I met them and smiled. I felt the anxiety coming up again, but I turned with curiosity to them. I felt myself wanting to run away and be alone and comfortable, but I tried to find their aspirations and struggles. I opened my heart to them, and they came in with kindness. And changed me. And made the effort of overcoming my fear and anxiety of being judged and failing completely worth the effort, a thousand times over.

Human connection is not so common in our age of connectivity. We see lots of people but find our little cocoons to hide in. We don’t realize we’re craving a deeper connection with others until we find it. 

It’s hard to connect because cultural norms get in the way — we’re supposed to talk about the weather and sports and the news, but not our deepest struggles. We’re supposed to say cool or witty things, but not share our greatest hopes for our lives or the person we want to become. It’s hard, but human connection is one of the most powerful forces available to us. We don’t realize we thirst for it, but we do, and the thirst is deep. When I find a real human connection, it nourishes my soul, changes me, moves me to tears. I can’t count how many times I’ve cried this week. My heart feels raw, in a way that opens it up to further connection.

So how do we connect, when it’s so hard? I’d like to share some thoughts:

  • Put yourself in a place with people with your interests. This retreat is filled with people trying to change their lives and interested in mindfulness. That’s such a rare thing, to be with a group of people like this, but we each made the intentional choice to come here. Find a group like that — at a small conference, a retreat, group meetings, a running club, a tech meetup, anything. Do some online searches for ideas, but say yes to at least one.
  • Overcome your resistance. I always find resistance to meeting up with people and big resistance to coming to give a presentation and meeting with a bunch of strangers. The resistance can keep us from ever getting out of our comfort zones. Don’t let it. The benefit of connection is so much greater than the resistance that you should push through it.
  • Smile, and be curious. When you meet these scary strangers, open yourself up. Smile, ask them about themselves, try to find out more. People often appreciate a good listener, and questions can start a conversation and keep it going.
  • Share when you can. While listening is better than talking, I’ve found that when I can be vulnerable and share my fears and struggles, people feel they can do the same. This is when you make a real connection, getting below the surface. It takes a little skill to know when you can open up, and how much you can share — you don’t want to share your deepest secrets as soon as you meet, but you can slowly open up, as the other person does the same. Some people are not comfortable opening up, so don’t push it too deep or expect everyone to want to make this kind of connection, but be open to it.
  • Open your heart. These are other human beings in front of you — and they have tender hearts and pain and hope just like you do. Open your heart and see who you find in front of you and appreciate who you find. Be yourself, and trust that you are worthy of others’ love as well. Let others in. Give hugs.
  • Connect in groups and one-on-one. If you’re at a conference or in a big group of 20 or more people, it can be hard to really find a connection. I much prefer one-on-one, so I’ll try to turn to someone and start a private conversation if they’re open to it, getting to know them better. I also value small group conversations, from three to six people, and think they can be great bonding experiences and a lot of fun.
  • Don’t hide in your phone. Many of us have the tendency these days to use our phones when we’re in crowded public spaces, but when you’re going somewhere (like a conference) that has a lot of people, it’s a big mistake to shut yourself off. Instead, seek interaction, even if you feel awkward about it. I like to start off with a simple question, or sometimes with a simple joke that diffuses the tension.
  • Practice makes you better and more comfortable at it. I’m certainly not the world’s best conversationalist, nor the most comfortable talking in a group. However, I’m better now than I have been in the past, because I’ve been purposefully practicing over the last decade or so. I still have a long way to go. But it’s amazing to see the progress I’ve made, and the more I do it, the less nervous I get.
  • Use each other do dive deeper and find clarity. If you can have good one-on-one conversations, or even small group talks, challenge each other to go deeper into your struggles and challenges, aspirations and life purposes. You’ll often find a lot of clarity in these talks.
  • Use each other for continued support. I often offer to give someone accountability if they say they’ve been struggling to deal with a habit. Or if we’re both struggling with something, we might try to support each other’s efforts to overcome the struggle in the near future.
  • Make an effort to keep in touch. If you make a real human connection, find a way to keep up the conversation, and even meet again in person if it’s possible. If it’s not possible, make a skype date so you can talk face-to-face.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, nor to be any kind of expert. I still get nervous and awkward. But these ideas have helped me, and I hope they help you. Because simple connections with wonderful human beings have changed my life this week, and the power of the love from these connections has left me completely devastated.

The Practice of Intentional Dialogues

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~


The Practice of Intentional DialoguesIt is so important to find methods for communicating with your partner to build trust and closeness. Leo Babuta’s article below describes the practice of Intentional Dialogues. 
This practice asks you to listen to your partner, and respond back with words showing that you heard what was said, and at times repeating back what you heard. I can remember a few scenarios in which I was so frustrated with my partner, but when I did take the time to understand and to make sense of why he did things a certain way, it made a world of difference with my feelings about the situation. Of course, there’s more to it, so I encourage you to read the full article below about Intentional Dialogues and practice it yourself. ~Terri

Relationship Salve: The Practice of Intentional Dialogues By Leo Babauta

A couple months ago, I started a daily practice with my wife Eva called the Intentional Dialogue process, aimed at helping us become better at talking about difficult issues. Now, Eva and I have a great marriage, and we love each other deeply. But like any couple, sometimes we feel frustrated or hurt by the other person, or sometimes we don’t feel we’re being heard. Every person in a long-term relationship knows what I’m talking about. In fact, this same dynamic applies to any long-term friend, any family relationship with a good degree of intimacy. Difficult conversations are touchy.

Things shifted drastically when I learned something simple and yet profound, from talking to renowned relationship/men’s coach John Wineland a couple months ago …

Most couples violate a basic tenet: I’m not going to make you feel wrong.

Think about that for a minute. When we get into an argument, we’re basically making our loved one feel like they’re wrong. We might say, “Sure, but actually …” and then go on to explain how their point of view or actions are all wrong. When we criticize them, we’re saying they’re wrong. Who likes to feel this way? It can especially hurt when our trusted partner is making us feel wrong. And if you’re like most couples, you might be doing this every day.

So how does the Intentional Dialogue process help with this? It helps you communicate to your partner (and really try to believe yourself) that they are not wrong. That how they feel makes sense.

The Intentional Dialogue Process

I’m not an expert on this process, but here’s how we’ve been practicing it:

  1. Have one person be the “sender” and the other be the “receiver”. If one of you has a frustration, you ask the other person to have an Intentional Dialogue. By agreement, the other person can ask to do it later when they’re not busy, but they have to pick a time within the next 24 hours. Commit to doing this process when the other person needs you.
  2. Prepare for your role. The sender should give some thought to how they might concisely state their frustration in the beginning. The receiver should do their best to show up ready to listen and empathize and to put aside their own story about whatever the issue is so they can hear the other person’s side. This can be difficult.
  3. The sender shares and the receiver listens. When the dialogue starts, the sender shares what they’re frustrated or hurt about, by saying something like, “When you did this, I felt this way.” And then continues to try to share their experience and perspective. The receiver just listens, trying to really understand their partner with an open heart, without trying to explain themselves. Just try to understand.
  4. The receiver mirrors and confirms. When the sender is done talking, the receiver should try to mirror back what the sender said, in the sender’s words. Yes, that can mean just repeating what they said, without putting it into your own words or interpreting it. Try to be true to what they said. It helps them feel heard and can help them show you where you misheard them. If the sender has a lot to say, they might do it in chunks, allowing the receiver to mirror the first part of what they have to say before going on to the next part.
  5. The magic words are: “That makes sense.” When the sender is done talking, and the receiver has mirrored their words and gotten confirmation that they got it right … that’s when the magic happens. That’s when the receiver simply says, “That makes sense.” Those three words are what the sender really wants to hear. Now, the receiver doesn’t have to agree with the receiver, he or she just has to see that it’s understandable that they feel this way, given their perspective. That’s all. If you’re really trying to understand the other person’s perspective, you can see that they’re not crazy, that how they feel makes sense.
  6. The receiver then does empathy. Next, the receiver will try to give empathy to the sender, after saying, “That makes sense.” For example, “It does make sense that you’d feel that way … I imagine you felt hurt when I did that, maybe you were hoping I’d be more supportive, and you felt abandoned, rejected by me, frustrated that I wasn’t listening to you. And when I didn’t want to hear your side and just accused you of complaining again, that probably felt like I didn’t want to understand you, and felt like I was judging and criticizing you for feeling the way you do.” At the end of this step, the receiver says, “Did I get that right? Is there anything else you wish I had said?” And the sender can then fill in any holes or correct the receiver’s perceptions. That’s it!
  7. You can switch roles if needed. At this point, if the sender feels heard and understood, the receiver might want to share their side of the story. And so he or she can ask to switch roles and then start the process from the beginning.

The Benefits of the Process

You might notice that in the above process, there’s no solution seeking, just understanding. So how does this help if there’s no resolution to the conflict? What Eva and I have found is that this process changes everything. We start to respect the other person’s point of view, we feel understood and not frustrated, and we feel a sense of intimacy and trust with each other. That’s profound. It really changes how we feel about each other, how we relate to each other. It means we can work together with trust to find a solution, but sometimes we don’t even need a solution because all we really wanted was to feel understood.

A 40-Day Practice

John recommended a 40-day challenge … commit with your partner to do this Intentional Dialogue process every day for 40 days. It means deliberately practicing every day, even when you’re not having a conflict. The idea is that once you learn the process and gain trust in each other to work through the process, you’ll be more likely to use it when there is a conflict. And more skilled at doing it by then.

Eva and I did it for several weeks, but then got derailed by a series of visitors that threw off our schedule. We’re getting back on track and are committed to using this process to strengthen our relationship. But even doing it for a few weeks … it changes things a lot.

I hope you’ll give this a shot. It’s my hope that you’ll find the intimacy and trust that Eva and I have found.

You Never Have to Put Anyone Out of Your Heart

~ Rick Hanson's Wise Brain Blog ~

never put anyone out of your heartWe all have difficult people in our lives and some of us have more than our fair share. I really appreciated Rick Hanson’s method for coping with this. He asks us to keep our heart open, even in the midst of dealing with difficult people. He doesn’t suggest that we continue getting taken advantage of or to accept abuse, but he does want to encourage us to maintain connections and openness. You never have to put anyone out of your heart. ~ Terri

The post Put No One Out of Your Heart appeared first on Dr. Rick Hanson.

We all know people who are, ah, . . . challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn’t like you, a partner who won’t keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right now I’m thinking of a neighbor who refused to pay his share of a fence between us.

As Jean-Paul Sartre put it: “Hell is other people.”

Sure, that’s overstated. But still, most of a person’s hurts, disappointments, and irritations typically arise in reactions to other people.

Ironically, in order for good relationships to be so nurturing to us as human beings – who have evolved to be the most intimately relational animals on the planet – you must be so linked to others that some of them can really rattle you!

So what can you do?

Let’s suppose you’ve tried to make things better – such as taking the high road yourself and perhaps also trying to talk things out, pin down reasonable agreements, set boundaries, etc. – but the results have been partial or nonexistent.

At this point, it’s natural to close off to the other person, often accompanied by feelings of apprehension, resentment, or disdain. While the brain definitely evolved to care about “us,” it also evolved to separate from, fear, exploit, and attack “them” – and those ancient, neural mechanisms can quickly grab hold of you.

But what are the results? Closing off doesn’t feel good. It makes your heart heavy and contracted. And it primes your brain to be more tense and reactive, which could get you into trouble, plus trigger the other person to act worse than ever.

Sometimes you do have to hang up the phone, block someone on Facebook, turn the channel on TV, or stay at a motel when visiting relatives. Sometimes you have to put someone out of your business, workgroup, holiday party list – or bed.

In extreme situations such as abuse, it may feel necessary to distance yourself utterly from another person for awhile or forever; take care of yourself in such situations, and listen to that inner knowing about what’s best for you. But in general:

You never have to put anyone out of your heart.

How?

When your heart is open, what’s that feel like? Physically, in your chest – like warmth and relaxation – and in your body altogether. Emotionally – such as empathy, compassion, and an even keel. Mentally – like keeping things in perspective, and wishing others well.

Feel the strength being openhearted, wholehearted. Be not afraid, and be of good heart. Paradoxically, the most open person in a relationship is usually the strongest one.

Get a sense of your heart being expansive and inclusive, like the sky. The sky stays open to all clouds, and it isn’t harmed by even the stormiest ones. Keeping your heart open makes it harder for others to upset you.

Notice that an open heart still allows for clarity about what works for you and what doesn’t, as well as firmness, boundaries, and straight talk. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama are famous for keeping their hearts open while also being very effective.

Seeing all this, make a commitment to an open heart.

In this light, be mindful of what it feels like – physically, emotionally, mentally – to have your heart closed to a particular person. Be aware of the seemingly good reasons the reactive brain/mind throws up to justify this.

Then ask yourself, given the realities of this challenging person, what would have been a better path for you? For example, maybe you should have gotten more support from others or been more self-nurturing, so you wouldn’t have been as affected. Or spoken up sooner to try to prevent things from getting out of hand. Or managed your internal reactions more skillfully. Maybe you’ve done some things yourself to prompt the other person to be difficult. Whatever these lessons are, there’s no praise or blame here, just good learning for you.

And now, if you’re willing, explore opening your heart again to this person. Life’s been hard to him or her, too. Nothing might change in your behavior or in the nature of the relationship. Nonetheless, you’ll feel different – and better.

Last, do not put yourself out of your heart. If you knew you as another person, wouldn’t you want to hold that person in your heart?

How Dogs Help People Get Along Better

How Dogs Help People Get Along BetterI have had many dogs in my life, and I have often experienced the mood boost and support that can come from spending time with a furry creature. Their warmth and fluffiness have been life-supports in times of need. This article explains the research suggesting why dogs help people and can be a benefit in many types of situations.I also had a dog named Casey who was the most friendly and loving dog I ever knew! – Terri

How Dogs Help People Get Along Better

By Jill Suttie | March 6, 2017 A new study suggests that when dogs are around, groups are closer, more cooperative, and more trusting.  

My dog, Casey, is one of my favorite beings on the planet. Not only is he extremely cute, his presence calms me, makes me happy, and helps me to meet new people…especially when I take a walk with him.

My husband and I often joke that if everyone had a dog like Casey, there simply wouldn’t be any wars—the assumption being that everyone would just get along if he were around. Now, a new study suggests that we might be onto something.

Researchers at Central Michigan University gave small groups tasks to do with or without a companion dog in the room. In the first experiment, groups generated a 15-second ad and slogan for a fictional project—a task requiring cooperation. In the second experiment, groups played a modified version of the prisoner’s dilemma game, in which individual members decide whether to cooperate with one another or to look out only for themselves. All of these interactions were videotaped.

Afterward, participants reported on how satisfied they felt with the group and how much they trusted group members. In addition, independent raters analyzed the video recordings, looking for displays of cooperation, verbal and physical signs of bonding or closeness, and expressions of vulnerability that indicated trust.

Regardless of the task, groups with a dog showed more verbal and physical signs of closeness than groups without a dog. Also, raters observed more signs of cooperation during the first task, and group members reported that they trusted each other more during the second task, if a dog was in the room.

These results suggest that there is something about the presence of a dog that increases kind and helpful behavior in groups.

“When people work in teams, the presence of a dog seems to act as a social lubricant,” says lead author Steve Colarelli. “Dogs seem to be beneficial to the social interactions of teams.”

Why would that be? Could it be that dogs make us feel good, which then impacts our social behavior?

To test that idea, the researchers asked independent raters to watch 40-second videos of the groups edited from the first study—with the sound off and no evidence of the dog in the room—and to note how often they saw indicators of positive emotions (like enthusiasm, energy, and attentiveness). The raters noticed many more good feelings in groups with a companion dog in the room than in groups with no dog, lending some support for their theory.

Although the dogs didn’t seem to impact performance on the group tasks during this short experiment, Colarelli believes that the observed social and emotional benefits could have impacts on group performance over time.

“In a situation where people are working together for a long period of time, and how well the team gets along—do they speak together, have rapport, act cooperatively, help one another—could influence the outcome of the team, then I suspect a dog would have a positive impact,” he says.

Of course, not everyone likes dogs, and some people may even be allergic. Colarelli says that we shouldn’t just start bringing dogs into every workplace—there would be a lot of factors to consider.

But his work adds to a body of research that suggests that dogs impact social interactions and personal well-being. Past studies have shown that people accompanied by dogs tend to elicit more helpful responses from others and that dogs in the workplace can reduce stress. Though most of this kind of research has been done on individuals or pairs, Colarelli’s study shows the positive impacts of dogs may extend to groups.

While the study is relatively preliminary, Colarelli believes that his results tie into another area of research finding positive effects when people are exposed to natural elements—which he thinks could include dogs and other animals—on wellness in the workplace.

Perhaps it’s time I consider letting Casey come to our next staff meeting…for everyone’s sake.

Why it’s important to CARE

~ Prepare-Enrich.com ~

grass_mower
In our last post we talked about the “expectation filter” and how unrealistic and/or uncommunicated expectations have a tendency to change our perception of, and possibly even be detrimental to, our relationship.

However, wouldn’t it be somewhat of an unrealistic expectation in itself to think that we would never set expectations for our relationship or our partner?

The fact is, having expectations can be a good thing. Expectations not only create accountability and establish boundaries, but they can also inspire us to be better people, if not for ourselves then for our partner.

So then what’s the problem? Shouldn’t that mean that the more epic our expectations, the greater our opportunity for growth? Well, not necessarily.

Imagine that you and your partner have just purchased your first home together. You can’t wait to have more space after living in a one-bedroom apartment for 3 years. With more space, however, comes more work—new places to collect clutter, more rooms to keep clean, plus the entirely new addition of yard work and house maintenance! You’re both aware of these new tasks, and you both have expectations for how they’ll get done.

Cue the ominous tones.

You expect that you’ll split the work based on skill and interest. Your partner expects that you will simply tell him/her which tasks to take care of as they come up.  The thing is, you have not shared these expectations with each other. So now your lawn needs mowing, and you’re waiting for your partner to do it because he/she is the more outdoorsy one; meanwhile your partner is thinking you’re going to do it since you’ve not delegated the task to him/her.

Cue the chorus of “But I thought you were going to do it!”

As you can see, this situation can be avoided by communicating (assertively and respectfully, of course) about your expectations. This accomplishes two things: 1) It makes both of you aware of each other’s expectations. 2) It allows you to adjust expectations so that they are more likely to be met. To put it simply, remember the acronym CARE: Communicate About Realistic Expectations

Through communication, you might realize that you are both harboring unrealistic expectations: perhaps your partner’s work schedule will make it difficult for him/her to always get the mowing done in a timely manner, and your partner might realize that it would be unrealistic and inefficient to wait to do tasks until you ask. Together, you come up with a new, more realistic expectation that the task will be shared—whomever is available when it needs to be done will do it.

As long as you communicate about what you expect from your relationship and each other and make those expectations reasonable and realistic, you not only develop positive habits such as assertive communication, you also create an environment conducive to both relationship and personal growth.

Not enough

~ Prepare-Enrich.com ~

Today, I woke up and thought, I didn’t get enough sleep. I got ready for the day, made breakfast, and ran out the door thinking, I don’t have enough time to get to work by 8:00am. Once I got to the office, I glanced at my schedule for the day and thought; I don’t have enough time in the workday to complete all of these tasks.

My common thought throughout this morning was “not enough.”

It’s really unfortunate that my first four hours of this beautiful Tuesday were spent feeling largely inadequate.

I recently read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, a researcher who focuses on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. This book resonated with me for a variety of reasons, but one idea in particular spiked my interest with its applicability into the context of relationships – the idea of “not enough.” Thinking back to my experience this morning, I’m sure you can relate, but I started wondering if others can relate to this feeling of inadequacy in their relationships?

I’m not successful enough.not enough

I’m not communicating enough.

I’m not attractive enough.

I’m not smart enough.

I don’t support my family enough.

I don’t encourage my husband enough.

These ideas infiltrate our minds through mainstream media and social media. We see couples romanticized in television episodes and idealized in #RelationshipGoals posts. Sometimes, we compare our relationship to past relationships or to a fantasied idea in our mind. We even compare our relationships to previous versions of themselves – which isn’t healthy either. If you are like me and sometimes feel like you are “not enough,” then you probably have spent some time comparing and contrasting your relationship and yourself.

Brené takes this idea of “not enough” and identifies three components: shame, comparison, and disengagement. She also provides hope – feeling “not enough” can be challenged with awareness, commitment, and work.

My husband and I are committed to our marriage and each other; we exemplify this by working on our relationship a lot – a perk of the job I suppose! In spite of that, I feel burdened by shame, comparisons, and disengagement. This burden translates to feeling “not enough.” From checking in regularly with my husband, I know, every so often, he feels this way too. What I’m realizing is that we need to focus more on being aware. We need to become more mindful of when we feel shame, over compare, and disengage.

If we become more aware, be vulnerable in the process, and knock out some of that “not enough” feeling, I know our relationship will be stronger.

How Anxiety Reduces Empathy

~ Greater Good Science Center ~

One afternoon in Dublin, I found myself running through the airport, convinced I was about to miss a flight for the first time in my life.

My anxiety surged at the sight of a long security line, but luckily an airport official ushered me to the front. I didn’t care how the waiting passengers felt about my preferential treatment, and I don’t remember much about the people I encountered during that nerve-wracking afternoon. I was thinking only about my goal: to get home.

In short, my empathy for others plummeted as my anxiety mounted—and a recent paper helps explain this phenomenon by linking anxiety to egocentrism. In doing so, it provides yet another reason why cultivating empathy is so crucial.

In a series of six studies with more than 1,300 total participants, researchers from universities including Harvard and Columbia induced anxiety, anger, disgust, surprise, or pride in participants by asking them to write about a past experience when they felt one of those emotions. (Some participants did nothing or wrote about how they typically spend their evenings, generating a neutral feeling.)

Then, participants were tested on perspective taking. In one study, they specified whether a book placed on their right side (but someone else’s left) was on the right or left side of a table. In another, they indicated the position of a green light from their perspective and someone else’s.

In a third, they had to figure out whether the recipient of an email would read it as sincere, when they had privileged information suggesting it was sarcastic. In yet another experiment, they read scenarios like the one below and filled in the blank as quickly as possible:

Anna made lasagna in the blue dish. After Anna left, Ian came home and ate the lasagna. Then he filled the blue dish with spaghetti and replaced it in the fridge. Anna thinks the blue dish contains (lasagna/spaghetti).

In these studies, participants who were feeling anxious or surprised were more likely to give the egocentric answer—or take longer to answer from someone else’s perspective—than those who were feeling angry, disgusted, proud, or neutral. In other words, the stressed people had trouble seeing things from another’s point of view: I know the blue dish contains spaghetti, so Anna must know, too. And the more anxious they were, the more egocentric they became. (On questions that didn’t involve perspective taking, they didn’t perform any worse than the other participants.)

The finding that anxiety and surprise increased egocentrism was, well, surprising—particularly when the self-focused emotion of pride did not.

Why was this happening? The researchers found a clue in a final pair of studies: Participants were also more egocentric after induced to feel uncertain, and surprise and anxiety are both associated with uncertainty. While anger makes us certain in our righteous indignation, anxiety and surprise make us unsure of what’s going on and what will happen next. And when we feel uncertain, we tend to fall back on what we know to be true—namely, our own perspectives and feelings.

Although Anna’s lasagna might not seem particularly relevant in the grand scheme of things, these findings point to a disturbing possibility. If our stress-filled lives generate more moments of anxiety, that means our perspective taking is routinely compromised—and with it, part of our ability to empathize and connect with others.

Now more than ever, we need to train our empathy muscles. Consider trying these science-based practices, particularly if you’re prone to anxiety:

  • Active Listening: Listen better and express active interest in your conversational partner, making them feel heard and understood.
  • Shared Identity: Think of someone who is very different from you, and then try to imagine all the ways that you two are similar—seeing them as an individual, not an out-group member.
  • Mindful Breathing: Focus attention on your own breathing to cultivate awareness.

That day in Dublin, I caught my flight. I also learned a lesson in empathy. No one wants to live life as if they’re constantly late for a plane, too stressed to look around and connect with others. We’re much better off cultivating empathy, building connection, and accepting that what will be, will be—missed flights and all.

This article generated controversy among our readers on social media. Read about it and gain more context for this study in “What is the Relationship Between Stress and Empathy?”

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The Secret to a Happy Life

By Terri Mudge

When I stumbled upon this Ted Talk, I had to share. After watching this video, I immediately ran to my husband and hugged him!  This video is worth the watch, and it will tell you the secret to happiness!!

Robert Waldinger is the fourth person to lead this research study that has been going on for 75 years! Essentially, since 1938 they compared and tracked 724 men in two groups, and their children, now over 2000 people, to see how their lives turned out. Comparing and contrasting a group from the poorest area in Boston with a group of sophomores in Harvard College.

Robert Waldinger says, “The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. We’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.”

“The clearest message that we get from this study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
Robert Waldinger-Video