The struggle to develop empathy and interpersonal communication skills in a digital world – Harvard Business Review

Digital Natives Are Slow to Pick Up Nonverbal Cues – John K. Mullen – Harvard Business Review.

research suggests that excessive, long-term exposure to electronic environments is reconfiguring young people’s neural networks and possibly diminishing their ability to develop empathy, interpersonal relations, and nonverbal communication skills. One study indicates that because there’s only so much time in the day, face-to-face interaction time drops by nearly 30 minutes for every hour a person spends on a computer. With more time devoted to computers and less to in-person interactions, young people may be understimulating and underdeveloping the neural pathways necessary for honing social skills.”


What’s the drill – March 13: A team building quick-win

Even the strongest teams need an occasional energy jolt.

Here’s a quick tip for instant team-building, inspired by an Improv workshop.

Count how many scenarios you can apply this to.

12 Improvisers from different backgrounds, with different styles and different perspectives on the art form recently came together to form a new troupe. We’ve had minimal rehearsal time, and are attempting a brand new format. Talk about a team-building challenge.

At the end of our final rehearsal, the week before our first show – it seemed we needed a quick and positive way to develop connection, empathy and a bit more trust.

I asked, can we all answer this one question….?

“What inspires and delights you on-stage? What makes you happiest?”

We each took turns answering this question, and in the process developed insights into our team members that allowed us to connect on a more personal level.

Understanding what makes us tick and feel inspired at work is imperative to bringing out the best in each other.

Try this, or something similar for a quick jolt. Even being asked this question by a colleague does wonders to open the lines of communication.



Train your right-brain for success as a leader

Recent posts of mine touch on exciting research: evidence that we can in fact train our brain to be more positive, more grateful and more empathetic through practice and habit-building.

Empathy is a muscle we can strengthen, and as research suggests it is one of the most important traits for success as a leader.

Famed emotional intelligence guru, Daniel Goleman has dissected the attributes that great leaders in the future will need to be successful in increasingly complex organizations. He shared these at the recent World Economic Forum:

  1. authenticity and sharp clarity of purpose
  2. empathy, and the ability to relate to people at “the front line” levels
  3. self-awareness and the humility to constantly question and adapt.
What many of us know is these attributes can take time, practice, and effort to acquire.  The good news is they can be learned, but reading a book about leadership skills is often not enough. The work we do as facilitators is to provide a safe atmosphere to learn, drill, and practice these skills, with direct tie-back to actual work scenarios and experiences.


TOOL: Empathy

Did you know there is a man at Google whose job title is “Jolly Good Fellow”? I swear it’s true! His name is Meng.

His job description is: “Enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace”.

He is on a mission to create more compassionate business settings. He says, if compassion is profitable and good for business, then every boss and manager in the world will want a piece.

In his TED talk, he cites examples of compassionate endeavors at Google, created by small groups of people on a mission to make a positive difference in the world. They didn’t ask for permission – but sometimes their efforts grew until they became company official.

How do compassion and empathy translate to a work environment?

1. i feel for you

2. i understand you

3. i want to help you

Imagine a workplace where you are constantly supported, inspired and understood by your co-workers. Use empathy and compassion as a tool for positive change in the workplace to foster a culture of support and trust.

Add this gentle tool to your toolbox and consider adding in Applied Improvisation activities to practice empathy and build that muscle – after all, Improvisation is a team sport built on trust and support.