Empathy, Character and Emotional Intelligence

Against the backdrop of a rapid decline of California whites into the minority, and with a California Democrat asserting that the Arizona immigration law was fueled by white supremacists, and the New York Times reporting that the California G.O.P. governor’s race will be defined by immigration, the battle lines seemed to have hardened on this issue. So is there a reason for trying to find some empathy across this (border-wide) divide? Empathy is a classic example of one type of emotional intelligence. “Emotional intelligence” has become the catch-phrase for the types of neuro-physiologic behaviors that we, from a scientific and educational perspective, often don’t test for, or, many would say, value. Empathy is, in other words, the odd neurologic ability to project yourself inside the skin, thumping heart, rage-shaking hands, and stinging eyes of another human being. Kind of amazing, isn’t it, when you think about this trans-body teleporting talent we all can have?

How do you learn or develop or encourage this type of skill? Numerous studies have shown that it is a learned, not innate behavior – you don’t come out of the womb thinking how tough that must have been for your mom. Like all neurologic functions, once you acquire the skill, using it in interesting and novel ways is what keeps it sharp. [And, yes, one study did recently show that brain exercises do not make you smarter, but against that one result are numerous studies that show that exercising your neurologic skills DOES keep you from losing what you have, and can often make you sharper at the specific skill you’re using.]

Watch this fascinating interview with the acclaimed author, David Corbett, to see exactly how one talented person tried to achieve, with skill, on a national stage, the ability to get inside the skin of another person’s experience and life. It’s entertaining, directly related to the volatile Arizona debate, and a great reminder that it takes some creativity and work for anyone wanting to keep or improve their emotional intelligence.

Then head over to Book Passage to buy his book, Do They Know I’m Running? His book is getting a LOT of buzz – for all the right reasons. And what better way is there to indulge in some summer thriller reading, and at the same time, stimulate your mind outside the many narrow boxes we see around us?

Is there a role for emotional intelligence in the Arizona debate? Can you really get inside another person’s skin just from reading? Sound off in the comments section. Doc Gurley is the only Harvard Medical School graduate, ever, to be awarded the coveted Shoney’s Ten Step Pin for documented excellence in waitressing, and is a practicing board-certified internist. You can get more health posts at www.docgurley.com, or jump on the Twitter bandwagon and follow Doc Gurley. Also check out Doc Gurley’s joyhabit and iwellth twitter feeds – so you can get topic-specific fun, effective, affordable tips on how to nurture your joy and grow your personal wellth.

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