Emotional connection is vital for effective communication, yet the channels for sending and receiving emotion are absent from the basic framework of virtual exchanges. For hisWired To Connectaudio series, Daniel Goleman sat down with Clay Shirky to discus how these channels can be restored to online groups, and how social intelligence is changing the face of group interaction online. This episode of the podcast features an excerpt from their conversation, Socially Intelligent Computing.
Daniel Goleman- I’m basically a writer and a thinker. And I like to think deeply about topics. And I got very excited about this new area of brain research called social neuroscience. Which explains that newly discovered circuits in the brain create a very intimate person to person linkage when you’re interacting with someone. This is the super highway for simpatico, for chemistry. For love. For business being effective. It has so many implications, I explored as many as I could in the book Social Intelligence, but I found there was a lot more to say when I was done with the book. This is the problem with writing books. The book ends, but your thinking doesn’t. So I wanted to keep exploring more deeply into the whole range of implications. So I realized what I can do is get together with people whose research fascinated me. Or whose thinking really pushed the edge in this area, and have a deep conversation with them and do it as an audio conversation. So the Wired To Connect series is 6 or 7 of these going into areas that include everything from the various kinds of empathy and how each of them matters or what we can do to enhance the brain’s ability to be socially intelligent. To be emotionally intelligent. And what’s the neuroscience behind creating better skills in this critical set of human abilities. What does it mean to have good work? That is, work that you feel really satisfied by? That’s intrinsically fulfilling? And what are the ingredients of that.
Another one that I found really fascinating was how does the social brain interact with the virtual world, with email, with communicating by phone. Why is it we have of our best interactions face to face, and more disastrous interactions on email? And what does that mean if you’re managing a global team? How can you orchestrate a face to face interaction versus working at a distance so that the team is a high performing team? These were many of the areas that I was able to go into, and I feel really, very satisfied with the series both in terms of being able to extend my work in social intelligence, and also I found a way to explore new ideas without having to write a whole book about it.
Anthony Gell- Daniel, you talk about how important it is to bring consciousness back into emotion, to sort of push time between impulse and action is critical before you react. Is that why emails can be dangerous?
Daniel Goleman- When we’re face to face with someone, part of brain, which I describe in the book Social Intelligence and then more deeply in the series Wired to Connect, the part of the brain called the social brain, is monitoring person we’re with continually, moment to moment, microsecond to microsecond, and telling us, unconsciously, “Well, this person is responding that way to what you just did, so what you should do next is the following to keep things smooth, harmonious, on track, on the same page.” This is what makes interactions go smoothly, this part of the brain. That part of brain, however, is crippled online. When you’re sitting there in front of your video screen there is no feedback loop. All you have is the words you send. However, there is a sort of optical illusion in the mind where you assume that all of your little emotional signals that go with whatever you say or do face to face, are going along with your email, but they’re not. And there is an actual negativity bias in email where senders think that a message was positive, but that’s because they assume all the other cues went along. It’s an unconscious assumption. Receivers think that positive email was more neutral. When the sender thinks it’s neutral, receivers tend to think it’s more negative. In other words there is a negativity skew to email, generally. That’s baseline.
But then there’s another problem:
Very often in face-to-face interaction you get an impulse to do something or say something and your social brain says, “Uh-uh-uh! That’s not going to be effective.” But that message never comes back to you when you’re sitting writing an email, because there’s no feedback loop. The result is what’s called flaming. Flaming has been known since the earliest days of email. It’s when you’re worked up about something, and you sit down and you furiously type up a message, you hit send. And for a split second you have a feeling of satisfaction, and then this morbid sense of, “Oh my god, why did I do that? Why did I say that?” hits you. That’s a flame. It’s a disaster. And it’s a disaster that would not have occurred face to face, most likely.
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