Sunday, January 2, 2011

You're Not That Good an Actor

So you think you can keep your feelings of frustration, anger, or inadequacy at work to yourself. Your colleagues don't have a clue; they see you as calm, confident and always professional. Well, think again. You're not that good an actor.

No matter how much self-control you exercise, your "mirror neurons" are probably giving you away. I first read about mirror neurons in "Social Intelligence," by Daniel Goleman. According to Goleman, mirror neurons are brain cells that act like neural WiFi. They pick up on the emotions, movements and even intentions of the person we are with; the mirror neurons in our brain light up in sync with the neurons in the brain of the person we are interacting with. This is a powerful way to understand what is truly going on in our social environment. We can guess at the evolutionary advantage this ability conferred. We are social beings, down to the mirror neurons firing in our brain.

If you want to improve relationships at work, don't sign up for a course at the Actors Studio. Instead, try to get to the root causes of your dissatisfaction, which are probably partly in you and partly in the environment. Spend time trying to understand the pressures on the colleague who is putting pressure on you. Is there a way you can collaborate to meet your mutual goals? Review your expectations. Are they realistic? Are you too demanding of yourself and others? By increasing your understanding of yourself and others, you will be on your way to firing mirror neurons that will help create productive, respectful relationships with your colleagues. Then listen for the applause!

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