Category Archives: Culture

What is Collective Trauma?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureAccording to the American Psychological Association, trauma is defined as “the emotional response someone has to an extremely negative event. While trauma is a normal reaction to a horrible event, the effects can be so severe that they interfere with an individual’s ability to live a normal life. In a case such as this, help may be needed to treat the stress and dysfunction caused by the traumatic event and to restore the individual to a state of emotional well-being.” Collective trauma is when a certain distressing event, such as an environmental catastrophe, world war, genocide, terrorist attack, mass shootings, financial crisis, mass job losses, oppression, poverty, disease, or political crisis, has a traumatic psychological effect on a large group of people, a community, or an entire country or countries. The most frequently cited collective traumas include: WW I and WW II, The Holocaust, Slavery in America, and the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The concept of collective trauma was developed by French sociologist Emile Durkheim. Durkheim noted that values, rituals, and norms were the bonds that held society together — they provided solidarity, social cohesion. A collective trauma severs these bonds, destroys the social order, causes people to feel disoriented and disconnected, evokes a collective feeling, and can alter a society’s culture and mass actions. Sociologist Kai Erikson, author of Everything in Its Path (about the devastating Buffalo Creek flood of 1972), described how survivors were in a permanent state of shock, and struggled to find meaning and purpose in life. Sousan Abadian, a former fellow at the MIT Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformational Studies, notes that “collective trauma [is] at the level of culture — that culture has been damaged, meaning institutions, cultural practices, values, and beliefs.” Psychologist Jack Saul, author of Collective Trauma, Collective Healing, adds “[Some] of the features we often associate with collective traumas [are]: social rupturing and a profound sense of distress, the challenging of long-held assumptions about the world and national identity, a constricted public narrative, and a process of scapegoating and dehumanization.” Sound familiar?

In his thought-provoking article for The New York Times, “Are Americans Experiencing Collective Trauma?”, sociologist Neil Gross argues that the election of 2016 is a classic example of a collective trauma. Gross writes: “[The 2016] presidential election has collective trauma written all over it…. Mr. Trump’s victory signals that that world, with the assurances it offered that there were some lines those seeking power wouldn’t cross (or that the American electorate wouldn’t let them cross), is no longer. Rightly or wrongly, memories have been activated of historical traumas linked with anti-democratic politics, such as the emergence of fascism in interwar Europe and the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.” Tulane psychology professor Charles Figley also believes that the 2016 election is a collective trauma: “First and foremost it’s on everyone’s mind and it’s discussed frequently. There are signs and symbols associated with it. Mentioning a particular slogan or singing a particular song simply connects people to the phenomenon and reminds everyone they are in the same boat.” And unfortunately, Figley observes, there is a nasty side effect: racism and xenophobia; he elaborates: “People tend to separate from people that are different from them, connecting with people that are like them, and share their concerns, and vilify the opposition.” Yale sociologist Ronald Eyerman, who co-edited Narrating Trauma: On the Impact of Collective Suffering, believes that the recent presidential election felt less like losing a election, and more like the assassination of a revered leader, like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, or Harvey Milk. Eyerman explains, “[Milk’s] death was first collectively mourned in a massive march through the streets of San Francisco… The [killer’s manslaughter] verdict was interpreted by many in the collective, the San Francisco gay community, as a betrayal, a failure of American institutions, in this case the courts, the police and the justice system as a whole to do justice to an aggrieved group. This betrayal and loss of faith in American institutions threatened the very foundations of collective identity.”

Is there a path of healing for those communities that suffer from collective trauma? Most experts agree that collective trauma will remain chronic and reoccur if social causes are not properly addressed and if perpetrators are not held accountable for their actions. With respect to historical collective trauma, mental health experts typically identify four required steps for healing: confronting trauma, understanding the trauma, releasing the pain, and transcendence. Joy DeGruy, author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, emphasizes the importance revisiting and studying the initial behavior/event rather as opposed to denying that it ever occurred. Armand Volkas, a psychotherapist and child of Holocaust survivors, explores the potential perpetrator in all of us, as a way of humanizing the enemy, and bringing people together. Figley believes that people eventually figure out a way out of collective trauma: “When a community collectively experiences a trauma, people ask each other questions about what happened and why it happened, who caused it whether it will happen again. Over a period of time there is an accommodation to loss, stock-taking, and gradual acceptance, and then creating new things in the wake of these changes that you didn’t want. People figure out what to do to feel safe again — physically or psychologically.”

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Read related posts: The Thirteen Commandments
The Wisdom of Elie Wiesel
In the Face of Suffering One Has No Right to Turn Away

For further reading: www.nytimes.com/2016/12/16/opinion/sunday/are-americans-experiencing-collective-trauma.html
http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/love-and-the-apocalypse/free-yourself-from-the-past
https://qz.com/889753/trump-inauguration-collective-trauma/

http://www.vanityfair.com/news.2018/02/monica-lewinsky-in-the-age-of-metoo


Unusual Names Parents Choose For Their Children

alex atkins bookshelf wordsWhen it comes to choosing names for children, parents can politely endure suggestions from meddlesome relatives or consult baby name books with more than 100,000 names — either way, it can be a daunting task. For the most part, parents choose traditional names over unusual or unconventional names — you know the ones, when you wonder “what were the parents thinking?” Speaking of unconventional names, a story that is making the rounds today is titled “Southwest Gate Agent Mocks 5-Year-Old Girl’s Name” about a girl named Abcde (pronounced “AB city”). According to the Social Security Administration, out of more than 74 million children living in the U.S., only 328 girls share that same name. But we digress — choosing a conventional name makes a lot of sense in light of the extensive research on the significant impact that a name has on a child’s life. Research, beginning in the late 1940s to the early 2000s confirms that a name really matters. Specifically, a name can influence what grades a child will earn, where they attend college, choice of profession, where they will be hired, whom they will marry, and where they will live. Serious stuff. Researchers explain this phenomenon as the implicit-egotism effect: that individuals are drawn to things and people that resemble them. In short, similarities attract. Recent research by economists has focused on another effect: name signaling. The crucial question is not “what is the name?” but rather “what signal does the name send?” In other words, what characteristics or values does the name imply? In those studies, individuals with “white-sounding” names (like Emily or Thomas) were most likely to be hired over candidates with “black-sounding” names (like Lakisha or Jamal).

Since naming babies is such serious business, some countries feel compelled to weigh in on the matter. In a 2013 article on baby-naming policies, NPR reported: “Some countries, such as France, have somewhat relaxed once-strict policies that required only government-approved names (many of which either appear in the Bible or are culturally entrenched). Many nations still require baby names to indicate gender (Germany) or to be easily read by a computer scanner (China), as CNN reported in 2010. And it remains common for many governments to give at least a cursory review, to ensure that the parents aren’t potentially sabotaging their child by choosing a profane or demeaning name, or one that might otherwise be an unfair burden to the child.”

Retired editor Larry Ashmead, who worked at Simon and Schuster and Doubleday, has always been fascinated by names. In his very entertaining book, Bertha Venation, Ashmead shares his wonderful collection of funny and strange names of real people. Here are some of the unusual first names he has found over the years:

Bernight

Bethanyann

Cadley

Cardio

Denim

Egbert

Enchantress

Faxon

Finn*egan

Jedi

Heaven

Lathe

Lazer

Mone’t

Nimpkish

Philbert

Pursglove

Sheatodd

Tage

Trout

Zowie

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: What Do You Call A Collector of Names?
Why Do People Collect Things?
Words for Collectors
Words for Collectors 2
Origins of the Beatles Name
How Rock Bands Got Their Names 1
How Rock Bands Got Their Names 2
How Rock Bands Got Their Names 3
How Rock Bands Got Their Names 4

For further reading: Betha Venation by Larry Ashmead
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/01/04/168642200/a-girl-fights-to-be-called-by-her-name-in-iceland-suing-government
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/southwest-apologizes-to-girl-named-abcde-after-gate-agent-made-fun-of-her_us_5c0016efe4b0864f4f6b525a
https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/number-of-children


How Politics Ruined Thanksgiving and What You Can Do About It

alex atkins bookshelf cultureWhile mashed potatoes and gravy is a classic holiday combination, mixing family and politics is not. Add several rounds of wine, and you have a recipe for a heated political debate; it is only a matter of time when you will be dodging turkey legs and dinner rolls thrown across the table. Unfortunately, since the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016, families have allowed partisan politics to creep into their Thanksgiving feast. And what is the impact on this cherished annual tradition? Families with mixed political alliances spent between 20 to 50 minutes less time wolfing down turkey and all the fixings at the table, according to a 2016 study by Keith Chen, a behavioral economist at the UCLA, and Ryne Rohla, a Ph.D. student in economics at Washington State University. The researchers found that Republicans left earlier than Democrats, while some Democrats were more likely to skip dinner altogether. The effect increased significantly in areas with heavy political advertising that evoked fear and anger. Sadly, Americans pay a heavy social and personal price for this political divide — losing 73.6 million person-hours of precious family time each year; time that is lost forever.

So what is it about political discourse discussing turkeys in Washington over turkey that causes so much anxiety and acrimony? Suzanne Vegges-White, chair of Northern Illinois University’s Counseling, Adult and Higher Education Department, notes that the root problem is the expectation that all family members are on one side. She elaborates: “In terms of professional football, for instance, whether we pull for the Los Angeles Rams or the Chicago Bears, many of us are going to be loyal even when our team has a losing season and when they are playing an ‘arch rival,’ we become highly energized and invested in the game’s outcome. With politics, we also align ourselves with a particular side and we lose our ability to perceive the competition/political rival through a clear and balanced perspective. We care more about ‘our side’ winning than about learning about the other side’s standpoints.” What magnifies the rancor is that unlike support for a football team, support for a particular party and its platforms has real world impacts on a people — economic, legislative, mental and physical well-being, etc. Vegges-White continues: “We all need to experience a sense of belonging with others and when we feel that our families do not understand or agree with our perspective, it can be emotionally distressing. We may try even harder to convince family members to share our own beliefs than we would with acquaintances or strangers with whom we do not expect to have frequent or close interactions.”

Graham Hall, a linguistics professor at Northumbria University in Newcastle, U.K., who wrote “How to talk about politics with your family” for The Conversation, observed “Maybe it boils down to the idea that we can choose our friends but not our family, and perhaps we tend to choose our friends because of shared values. We can also ‘drop’ friends in a way which we can’t with family.” Mediator Kenneth Cloke, author of Politics, Dialogue and the Evolution of Democracy : How to Discuss Race, Abortion, Immigration, Gun Control, Climate Change, Same Sex Marriage and Other Hot Topics, notes that what makes politics so divisive is that it segregates people into right and wrong: [That’s] a form of domination. That is, one side being right and the other side being wrong and there isn’t any perceived option that would allow people to discover what is right in both people’s perspective and what is wrong… We have slipped into a way of talking about politics and conducting politics that is unnecessarily divisive. So, if you think about what politics actually is, you can define it as consisting of two separate and entirely different things. The first is just a form of social problem-solving. If it’s just social problem-solving, it’s not much conflict. And the conflict there is constructive and useful.”

So how should family members talk about politics at Thanksgiving? A number of experts and organizations have come up with some best practices for keeping the peace at Thanksgiving dinner:

Engage in one-on-one conversations rather than group discussions.

Find something in common with someone who holds different political views. Try to understand their point of view and initially respond with a distillation of their ideas.

Criticize the ideas and not the family member. That is to say, criticize the legislative issues, policies, or actions.

Avoid asking “gotcha” questions that evoke arguments rather than discussions.

Keep a sense of humor about certain topics. Making fun of politicians or policies is less threatening than severe criticism.

Focus on the values that family members have in common and discuss how a politician or policy does or does not support those values.

Avoid assigning negative motives or labels to categorize the other side (terms like “racist,” “socialist,” etc.)

Stay calm: don’t raise your voice or get flustered.

Steer conversation to happy or positive topics when the conversation is headed toward acrimony.

Everyone responds to alcohol differently. Since alcohol lowers inhibitions, for some people, it brings out the worst. Avoid political conversations with individuals who tend to be argumentative and belligerent after a few drinks.

The goal of a discussion is not necessarily to change a person’s mind. Liberals and conservatives mostly fail when they try to persuade their opponents because simply proclaiming your position passionately and questioning the motives and morality of ideological opponents is counterproductive. Research by Stanford sociologist Robb Willer and social psychologist Matthew Feinberg found that the best way to change an opponent’s mind is if you appeal to their deeply-held values, evoking empathy and commonality.

So share this post and promote the intention of Thanksgiving: giving thanks for all the good things in life.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Best Thanksgiving Movies
Top Thanksgiving Myths
Best Books About Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Lite
Best Poems for Thanksgiving Day
Funny Thanksgiving Jokes

For further reading: www.scientificamerican.com/article/thanksgiving-dinner-may-end-sooner-if-guests-pass-the-gravy-across-a-partisan-divide1/
https://theconversation.com/how-to-talk-about-politics-with-your-family-92776
http://media.wix.com/ugd/2f07d4_546b1b3a850a4271a3b3d2283609e6d9.pdf
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_save_thanksgiving_from_political_arguments


The Poetry of 9/11

alex atkins bookshelf literature“In the aftermath of the spectacular collapse of the twin towers on September 11, 2001, the act of turning to poetry enjoyed a revival,” observed US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. “In times of crisis, poems, not paintings or ballet, are what people habitually reach for… The formalized language of poetry can ritualize experience and provide emotional focus… Poetry also can assure us that we are not alone; others, some of them long dead, have felt what we are feeling.” Moreover, poetry that is thought-provoking and stirs the soul, assures us that we do not forget those who lost their lives; and to affirm that their lives mattered.

On the 17th anniversary of 9/11, Bookshelf presents two powerful poems that provide different perspectives of that tragic day. The first, written by Martin Espada, pays tribute to the 43 members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100, who worked at the Windows on the World restaurant, who perished that day. Many of these workers were immigrants who had come to America to seek a better life for themselves and their families. The second poem, written by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, was inspired by Richard Drew’s haunting photograph, “The Falling Man,” that captured a man hurtling, seemingly peacefully, toward his death. The clever ending of the poem, achieves the same thing as the iconic photograph: suspending the unknown man in the air for eternity — to keep him alive, if not in this world, then in our collective memory.

Alabanza by Martin Espada

Alabanza. Praise the cook with a shaven head
and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye,
a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
the harbor of pirates centuries ago.
Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle
glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea.
Alabanza. Praise the cook’s yellow Pirates cap
worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane
that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua,
for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen radio, dial clicked
even before the dial on the oven, so that music and Spanish
rose before bread. Praise the bread. Alabanza.

Praise Manhattan from a hundred and seven flights up,
like Atlantis glimpsed through the windows of an ancient aquarium.
Praise the great windows where immigrants from the kitchen
could squint and almost see their world, hear the chant of nations:
Ecuador, México, Republica Dominicana,
Haiti, Yemen, Ghana, Bangladesh.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen in the morning,
where the gas burned blue on every stove
and exhaust fans fired their diminutive propellers,
hands cracked eggs with quick thumbs
or sliced open cartons to build an altar of cans.
Alabanza. Praise the busboy’s music, the chime-chime
of his dishes and silverware in the tub.

Alabanza. Praise the dish-dog, the dishwasher
who worked that morning because another dishwasher
could not stop coughing, or because he needed overtime
to pile the sacks of rice and beans for a family
floating away on some Caribbean island plagued by frogs.
Alabanza. Praise the waitress who heard the radio in the kitchen
and sang to herself about a man gone. Alabanza.

After the thunder wilder than thunder,
after the shudder deep in the glass of the great windows,
after the radio stopped singing like a tree full of terrified frogs,
after night burst the dam of day and flooded the kitchen,
for a time the stoves glowed in darkness like the lighthouse in Fajardo,
like a cook’s soul. Soul I say, even if the dead cannot tell us
about the bristles of God’s beard because God has no face,
soul I say, to name the smoke-beings flung in constellations
across the night sky of this city and cities to come.
Alabanza I say, even if God has no face.

Alabanza. When the war began, from Manhattan and Kabul
two constellations of smoke rose and drifted to each other,
mingling in icy air, and one said with an Afghan tongue:
Teach me to dance. We have no music here.
And the other said with a Spanish tongue:
I will teach you. Music is all we have.

**********************

Photograph from September 11 by Wislawa Szymborska

They jumped from the burning floors—
one, two, a few more,
higher, lower.

The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them 
above the earth toward the earth.

Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.

There’s enough time
for hair to come loose,
for keys and coins
to fall from pockets.

They’re still within the air’s reach,
within the compass of places
that have just now opened.

I can do only two things for them—
describe this flight
and not add a last line.

They jumped from the burning floors—
one, two, a few more,
higher, lower.

The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them 
above the earth toward the earth.

Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.

There’s enough time
for hair to come loose,
for keys and coins
to fall from pockets.

They’re still within the air’s reach,
within the compass of places
that have just now opened.

I can do only two things for them—
describe this flight
and not add a last line.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: One of the Greatest Magazine Stories: Falling Man
The Poem I Turn To
Unfathomable Grief
The Best Books on 9/11

For further reading: September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond
Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets

 


What is the Happiest Country in the World?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureEvery few years Gallup conducts a world poll (known as the Gallup World Poll) of more than 150 countries (and the immigrants of 117 countries) that represent more than 98% of the world’s population. The poll uses the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale to evaluate well-being. The scale consists of the following statements and questions: 1. Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. 2. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. 3. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? 4. On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now?

Recently, the United Nations used this data (from 215-2017) to develop its World Happiness Report 2018. The results are fascinating. Ironically for a country that has “the pursuit of happiness” enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, consumes more than 220 Happy Meals each year, and spends more than $11 billion on self-help — happiness is not easily attainable in America. It is humbling and sobering to know that the United States does not make it in the top ten. Norway, Denmark, and Iceland are the happiest countries on earth whose population — including immigrants — truly embrace the philosophy of “don’t worry, be happy.” Interestingly, the top ten countries have been held by the same countries for the past two years. The report notes: “All the top countries tend to have high values for all six of the key variables that have been found to support well-being: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity.” On the other side of the scale are the unhappiest countries on earth: Tanzania, Burundi, and Central Africa Republic.

The report concludes with three emerging global health problems that threaten happiness: obesity, the opioid crisis, and depression. Of great concern is that these particular problems have been growing faster in the United States than any other country. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2016 more than 16.2 million adults in America reported at least one major depressive episode (accounting for 6.7% of all adults in the U.S.).

The Happiest Countries in the World (Country followed by Cantril score)

1. Norway (7.537)
2. Denmark (7.522)
3. Iceland (7.504)
4. Switzerland (7.494)
5. Finland (7.469)
6. Netherlands (7.377)
7. Canada (7.316)
8. New Zealand (7.314)
9. Australia (7.284)
10. Sweden (7.284)
11. Israel (7.213)
12. Costa Rica (7.079)
13. Austria (7.006)
14. United States (6.993)
15. Ireland (6.977)

The Unhappiest Countries in the World

Yemen (3.593)
South Sudan (3.591)
Liberia (3.533)
Guinea (3.507)
Togo (3.495)
Rwanda (3.471)
Syria (3.462)
Tanzania (3.349)
Burundi (2.905)
Central African Republic (2.693)

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: The Weight of the World’s Population
How Old is the Universe?

For further reading: http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2018/
https://news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/206468/happiest-unhappiest-countries-world.aspx
https://www.reference.com/food/many-happy-meals-sold-day-f433ed8686898e97
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml


Endangered Species: The Handwritten Note and Letter

alex atkins bookshelf cultureIf you ask a young person (Gen X – Z), “Did you send a handwritten thank you note?” they look at you as if you just asked them to take their smart phone and dunk it in a glass of water — “WTF?”  Those who are part of older generations remember the simpler times — you know: before cell phones, email, instant messaging, and social media — when people actually took the time to send handwritten notes and letters, written from the heart, to one another. Biographers know that without archives of personal correspondence, many of the notable people in history would remain largely unknown or not fully understood in the context of their time and relationships.

But there are those who refuse to believe that the handwritten note is a dead — perhaps an endangered species, but certainly not extinct. Enter Margaret Shepherd, a calligrapher and author of The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication. Particularly in the Age of Google, when most if not all communication is digital, the handwritten note or letter is more precious and more appreciated than ever before.

“The handwritten note,” observes Shepherd, “has so many virtues that you ought to reach for pen and paper first, before you pick up the phone or move the mouse. In contrast to a phone call, a handwritten note doesn’t arrive demanding to be read when you’ve just sat down to dinner; it courteously lets you know who sent it even before you open it… And in contrast to email, a handwritten note looks beautiful and feels personal; you won’t get an electronic virus from opening a handwritten note nor find a list of last week’s lamebrained jokes. You can still write a note by candlelight when your electricity fails, and mail your note while your server is down. The handwritten note has been around for hundreds of years, and it’s not going to die out just because some of its everyday functions have been taken over by email and voice mail. Adapting to the needs of every fresh generation, it continues to connect people. In fact, a handwritten note is even more vital now than it was a few years ago because it’s less routinely used. A note in the mail brightens a dreary landscape of junk mail, form letters, and prefabricated greeting cards, and it shines through a virtual blizzard of abrupt digital memos and disembodied voice chat. When a handwritten note comes in the mail, people pay special attention to what it says. It announces beyond a doubt that reader really matters to you. Your handwriting insures that your words will be read and thought about in a way that can’t be mimicked by print, email, or voice. Handwritten notes are not going to die out, because people still love to receive them and they value each note more as they receive fewer of them.”

Shepherd believes that beyond being rare, the handwritten note has the ability to enhance a message and make a lasting impression on the recipient: “[A handwritten note] upgrades a wide variety of messages, transforming ‘Oops’ into ‘Please accept my apology,’ and ‘Got the money’ into ‘Thank you for your generosity.’ Ink on paper is still the classiest way to express the thoughts that really matter, on the occasions that really count. And sometimes it’s the only way; your words will carry sympathy and gratitude with a special kind of sincerity when your reader sees them on paper in your writing… It says to the reader, ‘You matter to me, I thought of you, I took [time] on your behalf, here’s who I am, I’ve been thinking of you in the days since this was mailed… The reader can reread what you sent and save it and think good thoughts about you.”

Writing a handwritten note also helps you become a better writer. Shepherd elaborates: “[The] handwritten note does more than inspire the reader who reads it it inspires the writer who writes it. Your words not only look better when you write them, but the act of writing them enables you to choose better words. You’ll probably be pleasantly and mysteriously surprised to find that the flowing line of pen and ink lets you express yourself in ways that key tapping just doesn’t allow.” One is reminded of the memorable tagline that appears on the cover of the American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition): “You are Your Words. Make the Most of Them.” Amen.

Finally, Shepherd believes that a handwritten note is inspiring art form: “Corresponding on paper lets you elevate a simple pleasure into an art form. And art has always survived technology. A handwritten note is like dining by candlelight instead of flicking on the lights, like making a gift instead of ordering a product, like taking a walk instead of driving. Handwritten notes will add a lot to your life. You can still use the telephone or the Web for the daily chores of staying in touch, but for the words that matter, it’s courteous, classy, caring, and civilized to pick up a pen.”

OK. I know what you are thinking: “What if I don’t know what to write?” or “Sometimes I am not sure what to write during difficult times (eg, illness, death, divorce, etc.). No worries. You can turn to the perfect companion books written by etiquette experts: Just A Note to Say… The Perfect Words for Every Occasion by Florence Isaacs or Personal Notes: How to Write From the Heart for Any Occasion by Sandra Lamb. These small books offer hundreds of suggestions for all of life’s major occasions, the happy and the sad, to help you get started in writing meaningful notes.

So the next time you want to express your gratitude or your concern for someone, put down your smartphone or step away from your computer, pick up a pen, and write a handwritten note — surprise someone with the precious gift of your thoughts. Undoubtedly, it will bring a smile to their face and a profound sense of gratitude and affection as they read it and think of you.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Edgar Allan Poe’s Love Letter
Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to Mrs. Bixby
Wallace Stegner’s Wilderness Letter
Harper Lee’s Letter to Oprah on Love of Books
What is the Best English Dictionary?
Writers are Defined by the Words They Use

For further reading: The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication by Margaret Shepherd
Just A Note to Say… The Perfect Words for Every Occasion by Florence Isaacs
Personal Notes: How to Write From the Heart for Any Occasion by Sandra Lamb


The 15 Components of Emotional Intelligence

alex atkins bookshelf educationOver decades of study, psychologists have discovered that human beings have many types of intelligence. In 1983 psychologist Howard Gardner proposed eight, but conceded that there might be as many as ten.* One of these intelligences is emotional intelligence. Emotions, of course, are central to human existence. As the famous Roman writer Publilius Syrus (85-43 BC) advised in the Sententiae, “Rule your feelings, lest your feelings rule you.” The concept of emotional intelligence (EI) was introduced as early as 1964 by Michael Beldoch in his paper “Sensitivity to expression of emotional meaning in three modes of communication.” However, the term was popularized by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer in their influential paper, “Emotional Intelligence” (1990) as well as science journalist’s Daniel Gorman’s best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence (1995). Salovey and Mayer define emotional intelligence this way: “[Emotional intelligence is] a set of skills hypothesized to contribute to the accurate appraisal and expression of emotion in oneself and in others, the effective regulation of emotion in self and others, and the use of feelings to motivate, plan, and achieve in one’s life.”

As popular as the term is, there are some disagreements about exactly which components make up emotional intelligence (EI). In his concise, but informative book 50 Ideas You Really Need to Know: Psychology, Adrian Furnham elaborates: “There is no agreement about what features, factors, abilities, or skills form part of EI. As more and more tests of, and books about, EI appear on the market, the situation gets worse rather than better… A central unresolved question is what are the facets or components of EI?” To that end, Furnham provides a very helpful table of the 15 common components found in salient models of emotional intelligence.

Adaptability: flexible and willing to adapt to new conditions

Assertiveness: forthright and willing to stand up for your rights

Emotion expression: capable of communicating your feelings to others

Emotion management: capable of influencing the feelings of others

Emotion perception: clear and your own and other people’s feelings

Emotion regulation: capable of controlling your emotions

Low Impulsiveness: reflective and less likely to give into your urges

Relationship skills: capable of having personal relationships that are fulfilling

Self-esteem: feeling successful and self-confident

Self-motivation: Being driven and unlikely to give up in the ace of adversity

Social competence: having good networking and social skills

Stress management: capable of withstanding and managing stress

Trait empathy: capable of taking the perspective of another person

Trait happiness: being cheerful and feeling satisfied with your life

Trait optimism: being likely to look at the positive aspects of life

So now that we understand the many facets of emotional intelligence, we can discuss the next issue: emotional intelligence in the workplace; more specifically, how do different generations differ in terms of emotional intelligence? The research-minded folks at Talentsmart shed some light in a fascinating article titled Great Divide: The Generational Gap in Emotional Intelligence. The researchers observe what many have experienced in the business world: “For the first time in history, organizations find their offices occupied by employees spanning four generations — Generation Y (18-29), Generation X, Baby Boomers (42-60), and Traditionalists. While the generational gap can create a healthy marriage of fresh perspective and deep wisdom, we’ve all seen it give way to significant culture clash.” Baby boomers, for example, are used to planned face-to-face meetings, overtime, and occasional work on the weekends. However, Generation Y are used to interacting with others via text and email and are very protective of their personal time. Not surprisingly, the researchers found a huge difference between Generation Y and Baby Boomers, particularly with the facet of self-management: specifically, Generation Y are not good at self management.

So why do Generation Y employees lag in self-management skills? The researchers conclude: “It could be that coming of age with too many video games, instantaneous Internet gratification, and adoring parents have created a generation of self-indulgent young workers who can’t help but wear their emotions on their sleeves in tense situations. However, a deeper look reveals another explanation. Even within the same generation, older people have better EQ skills than younger — despite sharing the same generational influences. Self-management appears to increase with age. Experience and maturity facilitate the mastery of one’s emotions. Generation Years just haven’t had as much time to practice and perfect their skill at managing their emotions.” This opens the door to an important opportunity: to have HR experts help  improve the EI of Generation Y employees. The researchers echo what many CEOs and management experts have been promulgating for several years now: “They not only can do it; they must do it.”

*Gardiner proposed these ten intelligences: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, existential, and moral. On the other hand, in his book, Practical Intelligence: the Art and Science of Common Sense, Karl Albrecht, a management consultant, introduces “practical” or commons sense intelligence; he believes that there are six intelligences: abstract, social, practical, emotional, aesthetic, and kinesthetic.

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Read related posts: Why Are Millennials so Difficult to Manage?
What Makes a Great Mentor?
What Makes a Great Teacher?
Great Teachers Inspire

For further reading: Social Encounters edited by Michael Argyle
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.385.4383&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner
50 Ideas You Really Need to Know: Psychology by Adrian Furnham
http://www.talentsmart.com/articles/Great-Divide:-The-Generational-Gap-in-EmotionalIntelligence-1404193582-p-1.html


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