Even the use of the very word "empathy" can produce some interesting gut-level reactions.  Some people feel the need to delve deeper; others just snicker. 

Empathy--the ability to sense what other people feel emotionally--is a handy skill, and helpful in many situations.  But it is often misunderstood as well. 

Cris Beam puts a journalists on fact and myth, theory and practice in the book I Feel You: The Surprising Power of Extreme Empathy


Life does not always live up to our expectations.  Is the problem life, or the expectations? 

Christine Hassler, coach, speaker, and host, says it's the expectations. 

In fact, she coins a term for that situation and uses it for the title of a book: Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life.  The book lays out ways to keep the expectations realistic, so the sense of accomplishment is obtainable. 

Christian LInder/Wikimedia

Therapist Eric Maisel thinks about how our minds work.  A lot. 

He's visited The Exchange several times to talk about his books, including a visit in December 2014 to talk about Life Purpose Boot Camp

You don't actually have to go to camp to make use of the concepts, which center around organizing your life to find meaning and purpose. 

Steven Larsen, CC BY 3.0,

"I did NOT mean to say that!"  Ever uttered that phrase? 

You have lots of company, and it's just possible that you're all wrong.  Psychologists can demonstrate that many things we do emerge from our unconscious minds, instead of from the turned-on conscious brain. 

Dr. John Bargh knows the unconscious mind well, and he gives us a tour in his book Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do

Can we turn our knowledge of the unconscious into more deliberate behavior?  Yes! 

Everyone from our parents to our doctors often counsel us to be positive. 

And just look at the tone on social media sites: be happy!  Those negative emotions do have their uses, though. 

Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener point out how, in their book The Upside of Your Dark Side

Robert Biswas-Diener joined us a few years back to demonstrate how those "negative" emotions can produce positive results. 

Sander van der Wel/Netherlands, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Leave it to an economist to teach us how to be happy. 

No, really... Paul Dolan's training is in economics, but his research focuses on the pursuit of happiness... and how to actually obtain some results from the pursuit. 

He joined us a few years back to talk about the process he advocates; book and process are both called Happiness By Design

Maybe your boss set up some exercises to help you and your colleagues work better together. 

And maybe you did become a better and more productive team as a result. 

But at least one psychologist believes firmly that knowing YOURSELF better is the key to success at work and elsewhere. 

Tasha Eurich is that psychologist, and the author of Insight: Why We're Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life

Christian LInder/Wikimedia

"Two heads are better than one" seems like a mismatched phrase with "fake news," but there's a common thread. 

And that is the working of the human brain.  We tend to think better in groups than as individuals. 

And that may explain why left to our own devices, we believe in conspiracy theories or lying reporters. 

Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach are the co-authors of The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone.

Kim Boek, Seoul, South Korea, CC BY 2.0,

We don't want everyone to know everything about us. 

But that's just privacy; secrets are another matter entirely.  And research shows that keeping secrets can damage relationships, wounding both keeper and finder of the secret. 

Jane Isay, who comes from a family of psychologists and psychiatrists, wrote about the issues in her book Secrets and Lies

Øyvind Holmstad/

"Never put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today."  Yeah, that works. 

But isn't a little R & R today worth a little panic tomorrow?  At some level, we seem to think so... procrastination is not rare in our culture. 

Psychologist Timothy Pychyl examines the causes and remedies, in his book Solving the Procrastination Puzzle

We talked to him a few years ago when the book first came out. 

You still hear someone talk about "horse sense" now and then. 

We can get a lot deeper into the conversation with Linda Kohanov. 

She knows horses and the people who work with them, and she shows how their expertise can benefit us, in the book The Five Ways Of the Master Herder

Finding Ways To Work Through Conflict

Dec 12, 2016

We can rail all we want about the nasty way people deal with each other in politics.  But Sarah Schulman says it's not just politics. 

Schulman is an English professor and a prolific author; her latest book Conflict is Not Abuse examines a culture of scapegoating in modern society. 

The book examines, among other things, how the behavior of supremacy and the behavior of being traumatized bears some resemblance. 

Being Proud But Not Too Loud

Sep 12, 2016

It's important to us, when people say "I'm proud of you." 

Pride in ourselves can be another matter entirely.  Pride is supposedly the deadliest of sins, the one that gets us all caught up in ourselves. 

What does science say about pride?  British Columbia psychologist Jessica Tracy says it can be channeled to good use.  She makes the case in her recent book Take Pride: Why The Deadliest Sin Holds The Secret To Human Success

How To Gain Power By Being Nice

May 26, 2016
Penguin Books

When psychologist Dacher Keltner first began studying power, he thought he'd focus on politics, battlefields, and Wall Street.  But he quickly discovered that people use power in many situations, even with loved ones. 

He also found that taking care of OTHER people's needs can enhance power, quite the opposite of what many people might think.  The wielding of power through compassion is one of the themes of Keltner's book The Power Paradox. 

Things You DO NOT Want To Inherit

May 23, 2016
Viking Press

Maybe your parents didn't get along so well.  Maybe, once you got older and noticed, your grandparents had very similar issues. 

We can't choose the families we're born into, but we can take note of what existed before we came along. 

Mark Wolynn, creator of the Family Constellation Institute, writes of "inherited family trauma" in his book It Didn't Start With You

Finding And Using Your True "Grit"

May 19, 2016
Scribner/Simon & Schuster

We know so much about the brain, and nerves, and neurotransmitters... but... there's still no set of directions on how best to think and use our lives and gifts.  So we resort to terms like "grit." 

Which is the term psychologist Angela Duckworth chooses to use for the combination of passion and persistence that often yields good results. 

So her book is called Grit as well. 

Dial Books

Susan Cain says she usually speaks quietly, but her 2012 book Quiet came in loud and clear to fellow introverts all over the world. 

It led to the creation of the company Quiet Revolution, dedicated to helping introverts share their talents and power with the world. 

And now there's a sequel for younger introverts: The book Quiet Power, aimed especially at kids and teens. 

Making A Case For Psychedelics

Mar 28, 2016

Many of them are illegal under current drug laws, but lots of people believe in the beneficial uses of psychedelic drugs.

And they'll get a chance to convene and compare notes at the Exploring Psychedelics Conference next week (April 7-8) at Southern Oregon University, the third edition of this event. 

Matt Vogel and Martin Ball organized the first event and have watched it grow. 

Forgiveness As A Tool For Giver And Receiver

Feb 18, 2016
Penguin Books

"Forgive and forget," our parents often told us.  Sometimes we're better at one than the other. 

But plenty of people who know the human mind say the importance of forgiveness is not that it lets the person forgiven off the hook, but that it releases the person doing the forgiving. 

Unity minister, spiritual explorer, and bestselling author Joan Gattuso writes of the subject in The Power of Forgiveness

"I Can Help The Next Person..."

Feb 16, 2016
Workman Publishing

For some of us, waiting is akin to torture.

Others make the best of a slow-moving line, meeting new friends in the post office queue, or just enjoying the radio when stuck in a traffic jam.

David Andrews falls into this second, more patient category of humans.

His new book is called Why Does The Other Line Always Move Faster? The short answer is because you're not in it.