Why we are better than our primates?

We can take better decisions. We can understand our emotions.

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”- Aristotle

What sets us apart?

We are an intelligent species. We can discern the difference between morality and immorality, between a truth and a lie. As Homo sapiens, we are the most evolved (mentally and physically) from the rest of the beings in the evolutionary spectrum. Else, we are no different. Because everything boils down to the basics like fighting for survival, fear of danger, fear of loss and procreation. Things that every species in the macro-evolution does; from mammals to primates.

Else, we are no different. Because everything boils down to the basics like fighting for survival, fear of danger, fear of loss and procreation. Things that every species in the macro-evolution does; from mammals to primates.In the animal kingdom, there is a fight for the fittest, fight for food, fight for mating and fight for survival. But, our battle doesn’t just end in the outside world. We are constantly battling with our inner world too; our mind and our heart. We live in chaos and confusions. However, amid such complexities, we are endowed with the capacity to co-exist. We have learned to plan, scheme and build many great things on this earth together.

As much as it can fascinate, the working of the human mind and heart can baffle you. We possess a universe of our own. And, thinking about it simply leaves me awestruck. I am a curious person and the intricacies of the mind and human relations intrigues me.

To further understand the human mind and the heart, allow me to walk you through few observations I had gathered during my learning.

How good are you in establishing a lasting relationship?

There are two simple questions we must ask ourselves. First, how well do we listen to others?

First, how well do we listen to others?

While conversing, how eagerly do we wait for the other person to finish so that we can blurt out our opinions? Why don’t we feel the need to listen? Just because we already have enough on our plate?

If such is your plight, then you may never become the kind of person people would want to be with. Because all you do is wanting to be heard and not listen to others. You certainly take the dominant role in that relationship and the other person simply becomes invisible. And, this is not just about a couple relationship. Such rule applies to other relationships as well, be it business,  or a strong friendship.

From forging a good business relationship to becoming more aware of his/her surroundings, a good listener can reap a lot of benefits.

Second, how empathetic we are towards others?

Empathy doesn’t mean you have to be in the sufferer’s place. Empathy is about understanding the other person’s perspective. You acknowledge and appreciate the person’s feelings without any judgment. Such empathy is also known as cognitive empathy.

When our understanding of a person is at the level of emotion and compassion, we are able to relate to his/her situation in a profound way.
We can connect at the deepest level. Instead of asking the person to stay calm, we are able to focus on what exactly the person is going through.
We could help the person in dealing with his situation.

The other two realms of empathy: Emotional and Compassionate 

If we have failed to balance on one of the two things mentioned above; either on listening part or empathy. I believe we must be ready to lose more than 60% of our potential relationships.

Let me take you through a situation that I had observed. Here, there are two people; a husband and a wife. These two people share a warm relationship with each other. Time to time, discussions and arguments happen, but there is a mutual respect for each other. So, the “feeling of respect” avoids those arguments turning nasty every time.

However, during a party once, the wife entered the room where her husband was entertaining the guests. And, just at the moment when she was about to pass by him, he stretched his legs. Unfortunately, the path was too narrow for her to pass and she tripped. Much to her embarrassment, she quickly picked herself with help from her husband.

Now, comes the tricky part. The husband started reacting and blamed her for her clumsiness. Of course, she was furious. All the embarrassment and now hearing something much contrary to what she was expecting. She felt it was rude of him to behave like that. The incident closed there and then. What happened next?

She started a passive aggressive behavior. Giving a cold shoulder to him and narrating the incident to everyone and never failing to pass a remark that he was responsible. Whereas the husband stuck rigid with his perception that she was clumsy. So all day long these two people kept doing that. Blaming each other!

There are two things we see here. First, both of them blamed each other for the event. Second, there was a severe lack of empathy. The man listened to her woes, but he was unable to empathize with her.

The first question of whether he listened to her? Yes, he did. But, whether he empathized with her? Umm…no albeit unintended.

What annoyed her so much? Well, the answer is simple- A sorry.

Going back to that story. Did he say sorry? Yes, certainly he did. Later.

And when he did, much to his surprise, the wife’s evening suddenly became better.

So we see how one word of empathy can bring a remarkable difference.

Had he failed to express his empathy, there would have been a crack in their relationship, even if it’s a bit. We sometimes fall prey to the easy habit of telling others to not become emotional in the midst of a crisis and ask them to think rationally.
For a moment, we skip our empathetic side and in that process may end up losing some vital relationships.

You cannot be emotional if you are rational or vice-versa?

A theory became quite significant and popular among social scientists in 1970s that human mind is rational and logical. As the field of psychology, behavioral science progressed, the theory took a backseat

For a moment let’s trace back to the point of our evolution, particularly during the developmental stages of our brain system.

Our thinking brain also known as Neocortex which is responsible for rational thoughts, logic and reasoning had evolved from the emotional centers of our brain. This shows that the emotional brain developed much before the development of the logical brain.

That might answer why in the heat of a moment, we end up taking decisions that are more emotionally inclined instead of taking a pragmatic step. But, taking such decision isn’t a behavioral or characteristic flaw. Our brain circuitry is wired just like that. Something known as amygdala present in our brain is in charge of all our emotional matters. And, this amygdala takes control of every signal received from the senses, probes them for any sign of an emergency.

In a situation where we have to face 500 people to give a talk, our heart rate increases, some of our muscle movement freezes, our limbs get numb or we might sweat. These happen as a result of the response by amygdala to the different sections of our brain.

Thus, we see here how amygdala governs any situation especially an emotional emergency. The response time of our emotional brain is so fast that by the time the rational brain could react, the decision is already made, much to our success or failure. (Reference: Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence)

Call to Action

Heart and mind, both are separate entities. The heart is likened to our emotional brain and the mind here is to the rational brain. We know that mind thinks and analyzes but, we must be aware of our heart, the emotional side of our brain as well. It thinks too. The emotional brain must be driven with values, compassion, and empathy. and they play a pivotal role in taking the right, rational decisions.
If you are a technologist who loves building products. Your decision to build them should carry a meaning, there should be a meaning attached to the product.
If you are a technologist who loves building products. Your decision to build them should carry a meaning, there should be a meaning attached to the product. Maybe building a product for the mankind or a product of artistry from which people could derive joy. Wouldn’t you be happy if you own a beautiful German made car or own an Italian leather?

That’s why a musical piece by Beethoven or an artwork by Claude Monet or the grandeur in Eiffel Tower continues to attract people. People find beauty in them. They find a deep emotional connect in those crafts and the “emotional” factor helps them in deciding whether they want to buy the product or artwork or not.

If you buy an exquisite watch, that’s not because it shows you the time (logical explanation). You would want to buy it because the beauty, the craft allures (emotionally driven) you. You feel happy wearing that piece of beauty.

If you believe you take “logical” decision, I might have to disappoint you here. Decisions are not really based on logical analysis. A decision might have come after a lot of thought and introspection, but the actual point of decision is based on emotions.

A neuroscientist named Antonio Damasio had made an amazing discovery. For his research, he conducted a study on people whose emotional parts of the brain were impaired. These people seemed to lead a normal life. But, there was an anomaly here. They couldn’t feel any emotions. For them taking a simple decision like what to eat, whether they wanted to eat became a major hurdle for them. Taking simple daily life decisions was difficult for them.

(To read in details… Here is the reference)

What a revelation! All this time, we thought that logical decisions are purely logical and unadulterated with emotions. But, emotions play a crucial role here, just at the moment whether you want to eat sushi or pancakes.

The question why we are better than our primates? That’s because we can feel a broad range of emotions, we can identify what we feel and how we feel. Our primates didn’t have such liberty. They felt, but couldn’t identify. We can make decisions that are value driven. We have the power to be empathetic and compassionate. We are not living just to survive and spend our days on the earth, eating, sleeping and mating. We have a purpose, a meaning in our lives and we are constantly making discoveries about ourselves; the good, the bad and the ugly.
Therefore, we are far advanced than our primates with the power to drive this world and making it a better place by becoming individuals who can take rational yet decisions laced with beautiful emotions.

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