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Science-Based Secrets for Reading Other People’s Minds

Science-Based Secrets for Reading Other People’s Minds

Imagine you’re really excited about a new idea for a collaborative project. You send an e-mail about it to a friend who you just know is going to be as excited as you. You’re waiting on pins and needles for a response, checking your inbox every hour. A couple of hours pass, then a couple more. You’re getting stressed and anxious, waiting on the edge of your seat for a reply. The next day goes by, and another day. You’re very confused about why you haven’t received a response. Why isn’t your friend writing you back? Doesn’t she like you? Is she upset with you? What’s wrong?

Has this ever happened to you? It’s happened to me many times. My Autopilot System goes into overdrive, imagining various negative scenarios and sending out stress-inducing hormones. Such catastrophizing is a common type of thinking error, one that research shows undermines mental and physical wellbeing.

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Another thinking error in this scenario is that one’s friend will share the same opinion that you do about your new idea. Studies on a cognitive bias called the “false consensus effect” indicate that our Autopilot System significantly overestimates the extent to which others agree with our opinions. This is especially true for those close to us, such as our friends and family. As a result, we make mistakes when we use our intuitions to predict the behavior of others around us, including our immediate social circle.

However, the false consensus effect applies more broadly as well. Our gut reactions tend to perceive “the public” as a whole as sharing our perspective. This problem is especially problematic when it causes us to overrate substantially the extent to which others will agree with our political opinions. Such overestimation undermines our ability to engage in healthy political discussions and contributes to political polarization. No wonder we don’t do well as intuitive psychologists!

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So how can we work against the false consensus effect? First, remember a previously-discussed strategy, namely that our mental maps never match the territory of reality. And our mental maps certainly do not match the mental maps of others!

To keep the latter fact in mind, here is a very useful mental habit to adopt: avoiding “failing at other minds.” What does that mean in practice? Essentially, when trying to imagine how other people think about the world, take a moment to stop and remember that their perspective is inherently different from your own. This is a specific case of a broader de-biasing strategy of imagining the opposite, in this case taking the perspective of the other person. And why is this helpful? Well, our intuitive theory of mind, the way we understand the minds of others, tends to model others as ourselves. Our Autopilot System perceives others as understanding the world and having the same idea of what is true as we do. Avoiding falling for this trap helps remind us of this problematic tendency, and work against it. Through developing this mental habit, we can be elephant whisperers and retrain our Autopilot System to have a more intentional approach to predicting the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of others. Thus, we can evaluate reality more clearly and gain greater agency by making more effective decisions that help us reach our goals.

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Now, what are the strategies for most effectively learning this information, and internalizing the behaviors and mental patterns that can help you succeed? Well, educational psychology research illustrates that engaging with this information actively, personalizing it to your life, linking it to your goals, and deciding on a plan and specific next steps you will take are the best practices for this purpose. So take the time to answer the questions below to gain long-lasting benefit from reading this article:

  • Are there any instances where catastrophizing has negatively influenced your wellbeing?
  • Has the false consensus effect ever steered you wrong in personal interactions? What about in your predictions of public opinions and political engagement?
  • In what ways, if any, do you think the mental habit of avoiding assuming others understand the world in the same way you do can help you have a better life and gain greater agency?
  • If you think it can be beneficial for you, what kind of plan can you make and what specific steps can you take to internalize this mental habit?

Featured photo credit: Smart Brain via lifehack.org

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Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

President and Co-Founder at Intentional Insights; Disaster Avoidance Consultant

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Published on October 14, 2019

10 Organizational Skills Training Techniques for the Overwhelmed

10 Organizational Skills Training Techniques for the Overwhelmed

Do you constantly feel overwhelmed by the amount of tasks you have to complete at work? If so, then it may be time to look into some organizational skills training techniques.

Organizational skills are an asset. They allow you to add structure to your day so that you meet deadlines, attend every meeting, and even have enough time to take your breaks (imagine that!). As transferable skills, they can also add value to your personal life.

So, if being organized and able to perform at your very best at work, even when you’re inundated with duties, sounds appealing to you, then read on.

Why You Need Organizational Skills Training

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, organizational skills refers to:[1]

“the ability to use your time, energy, resources, etc. in an effective way so that you achieve the things you want to achieve.”

When you’re feeling overwhelmed at work (or anywhere really) achieving anything seems impossible. This is why organizational skills training is crucial. The skills you learn can help you to overcome the feeling of defeat so you can take command of your tasks again.

The Benefits of Organizational Skills

Having organizational skills allow you to not only be more organized, but to also be more productive and more effective. You’ll have greater control of your tasks and be able to accomplish more things. It can also reduce stress-levels, and experiencing less stress means leading a healthier lifestyle.

Examples of organizational skills include:

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As previously mentioned, while a major benefit for the workplace, they are also valuable in your personal life.

Think about it, our personal lives are also filled with many tasks and activities. Whether it’s going to the bank or buy groceries, or doing household duties such as vacuuming or taking out the trash, each responsibility is basically a task that needs to be completed in order for our home lives to run as smoothly as possible.

How to Learn Organizational Skills

Many businesses and organizations provide organizational skills training, whether it’s a workshop, company presentation, online training course, or an all-out conference. Attending these events is a great start to learning organizational skills. Then, of course, you can set your own goals.

For most people, organizational skills don’t come naturally. However, fortunately, just like any other skill, they’re learnable. Once you acquire an understanding of a skill, the more you practice it, the better you’ll get at it.

If you’re completely new to all of this, your best bet is to start small. Set yourself one goal, select one thing you’d like to improve on, and repeat it regularly until it becomes a habit. Once you’re confident in maintaining the habit, you can add to your goal or expand on it.

Starting small and gradually adding as you progress is a good course of action, as it can ensure that you actually achieve what you set out to accomplish. If you dive straight into the deep end, you risk being even more overwhelmed than before and may fail to meet expectations completely.

Surrounding yourself with people that have particular behaviors is another way to learn organizational skills. Having a super organized team leader, manager, or head of business can greatly influence your own actions and behavior.

10 Organizational Skills Training Techniques

If you’ve noticed yourself feeling overwhelmed and stressed at work recently, then perhaps you could try out one of the following organizational skills training techniques. They could help you to get back control, focus on your tasks, and reduce stress-levels.

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1. Make a List

If you’re feeling swamped with tasks, creating a to-do list is great for taking back control of the things you need to do.

By writing down your tasks in order of importance (make sure you prioritize your list!), you’ll have a visualization of what needs to get done.

You’ll also get to experience the feeling of great relief when you get to cross a task off your to-do list when it’s completed!

2. Don’t Rely on Your Memory

Even if you have superhuman memory, it’s always a good idea to write everything down.

From project deadlines, to customer details, to product prices, writing things down can serve as a reminder so you don’t forget the important things when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

And with most of us carrying around smartphones, you’re never far from a tool where you can write something down.

3. Schedule

A huge part of being organized is knowing how to plan, and expert planning involves a lot of scheduling.

Scheduling is taking a step further than creating a to-do list. Not only do you have the things you need to do recorded, but you have a timetable when you should complete them. This helps you to develop your time management skills as you’re expected to coordinate tasks and activities so that deadlines are met and everything is done on time.

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4. Learn to Delegate

Learning to delegate tasks is a valuable skill that will help to keep you organized. Not only will it lighten your workload, but it will sharpen your planning and prioritization skills as you will have to learn which tasks should be done by you and which tasks are okay to be given to someone else.

5. Avoid Multitasking

While the idea of attempting to do more than one task simultaneously may seem brilliant, in practice, it’s the complete opposite. Multitasking is known to actually lower your productivity as it diminishes your focus and attention and things become more difficult and take longer to complete.

6. Minimize Interruptions

It’s impossible to control every aspect of your environment but it doesn’t hurt to try. By minimizing interruptions while you’re at work, it gives you a better chance of completing them as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Investing in noise-cancelling headphones or installing a social media block on your desktop are examples of ways you could reduce distractions.

7. Reduce Clutter

A notable organizational skills training technique is to create a filing system for your documents. Whether it’s at work or at home, we all accumulate documents that we may not currently need but are too afraid to throw away in case we will need it in the future.

Having an organized system can allow you to locate necessary documents any time you need them. It also keeps them safeguarded which reduces the chance of losing something important. This filing system applies to both actual paperwork and digital documents.

8. Organize Your Workspace

Where we work greatly influences how we work. If you have a cluttered and messy workspace, then the chances of you working in an unorganized fashion can be very high.

Keeping an organized workspace ensures that you’re able to perform at your most productive. You won’t waste time looking for things that have been misplaced and working in a clutter-free environment can be soothing for your mind.

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9. Get Rid of What You Don’t Need

Clutter is known to lead to stress and anxiety.[2] If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, then the sight of clutter can increase that feeling.

Getting rid of things you no longer need clears out your environment and, hopefully, your mind as well.

Done with that sticky-note? Throw it away! Inbox is filled to the brim with unread emails? Unsubscribe to newsletters you no longer read! Whatever you no longer require in your physical and digital life, get rid of it.

Here’s a guide to help you declutter: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

10. Tidy up Regularly

While working, it can get easy for your desk to get untidy. You’re focused on work and so keeping everything at your desk in order is probably a lower priority. But it’s something to be conscious of. Doing a regular tidy up can ensure the mess on your desk doesn’t go overboard.

Whether it’s a quick clean up every day, or a deep clean every month. Being aware of tidying up and fitting it into your routine will help keep you organized and less stressed.

The Bottom Line

Possessing organizational skills enables you to get back control of your tasks when you’re feeling overwhelmed and perform better at work. They can make you more productive, more efficient, and of course, more organized.

Remember, they’re not only valuable at work! Because of their transferability, they can be beneficial in other areas of your life. And really, it doesn’t hurt to be organized at home and socially, as well as at work.

Featured photo credit: Jeff Sheldon via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Cambridge Dictionary: Organizational Skills
[2] Psychology Today: Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies

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