Essential Life Skill #2: Perspective Taking

It doesn’t take a study to explain that being better able to listen to and understand others will make you more successful in your career and your relationships. 

What's the Big Idea? 

Emotional intelligence, a term coined by psychologist Daniel Goleman and closely connected with the work of Howard Gardner on “multiple intelligences”, has become a powerful frame of reference for employers. Numerous studies have shown that the ability to understand others’ emotional states translates into success at work. Emotionally intelligent people are more effective colleagues and leaders, able to inspire others and synchronize their efforts toward a common set of goals.

Research on emotional intelligence has evolved since Goleman’s 1995 book of the same name. According to Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making and president of the Families and Work Institute, psychologists are now focusing on “perspective taking” - the more comprehensive skill of consciously understanding how others think and feel. She cites a study by Larry Aber of NYU focused on reducing violence and aggression in teens. Aber and his colleagues found that teaching students to think through the perspectives of characters in literature class actually reduced the level of violence in the school overall.

But it doesn’t take a study to explain that being better able to listen to and understand others will make you more successful in your career and your relationships. People respond well to being understood. And the act of empathizing with and actively understanding others has been consistently shown to promote well-being in the empathizer.

Video: Essential Life Skill #2: Perspective-taking, with Ellen Galinsky (free preview: full video available with subscription to Big Think Mentor


In a fast-changing world, only our higher-order thinking skills can keep us aware, engaged, and growing.  In The Seven Essential Life Skills, her workshop for Big Think Mentor, Mind in the Making author Ellen Galinsky teaches lessons learned over decades of psychological research into how humans learn throughout the lifespan.  The seven essential skills she teaches here, and demonstrates with stunning video footage of classic psychological experiments, are invaluable tools for adapting to, learning from, and thriving within a world in rapid flux.

The seven essential life skills you’ll hone in this workshop are:

  • Focus and Self-Control

  • Perspective Taking

  • Communicating

  • Making Connections

  • Critical Thinking

  • Taking on Challenges

  • Self-Directed, Engaged Learning

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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