Thoughts about “Learning more about yourself could help you better understand others”

The above blog “Learning …” by Marianne Cezza recently appeared in the BPS Research Digest and piqued my interest. The blog describes a study by Anne Böckler and colleagues, based at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. They recruited 141 participants to take part in a three-month long contemplative training course that teaches people to take the perspective of the different aspects of their own personalities. The course was based on the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model and comprised of two key components:

  1. A daily thirty minutes ‘observing-thoughts’ meditation, in which participants observed and classified their thoughts objectively.
  2. A two-hour guided weekly training session where after the participants had learned six of the different sub-personalities of the IFS model would team of in pairs of Speaker-Listeners. The Speaker recounted an event from their day from the perspective of one of their randomly selected inner personalities. Aware of the Speaker’s various inner parts, the Listener had to guess which one was talking.

The participants took “Theory of Mind” tests at the beginning and end of the study and the improvement correlated with the number of different inner personality parts identified – the more facets the participants were able to recognise within themselves, the better they seemed to become at understanding others. They are more open to the different points of view of others, and less likely to assume that a person’s perspective remains consistent across different life situations.

The IFS model was developed by psychotherapists and whenever I see that word I think of two things: a long time and a lot of money. Over a 13-week period participants spent 72 hours in formal training. I contrast that with my courses where participants spend 8 hours learning the 7MTF/Humm model.

The 7MTF model has seven sub-personalities or EQ components. Everyone is positioned uniquely on the spectrum of each of the seven components and a key part of my course is learning where your temperament is positioned. Every EQ component has strengths and weaknesses and the second key part of the course is learning the heuristic clues to recognise the strength of each component. The third part of the course is then using appropriate social skills to gain cooperation.

Nevertheless the underlying message in the blog is correct. The first step in emotional intelligence according to Goleman is understanding yourself. One you have done that you can take the next two steps relatively easily: controlling yourself and understanding others.


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Chris Golis - Author


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