Fairness: the hidden currency of the workplace

Not exactly about writing, but possibly a good writing prompt. And a very effective use of video.

From The Economist:

Some videos are almost certain to go viral: wild animals that pilfer food from unsuspecting families, cars that career through the windows of crowded cafés, pilots trying to land planes in high winds. Some are less obvious candidates to ricochet around the internet. Take, for example, the case of Brittany Pietsch, whose recording of a call in which she is laid off from a tech firm called Cloudflare went viral last month.

The recording lasts nine minutes, shows no one save Ms Pietsch and involves words like “performance-improvement plan”. Despite these unpromising ingredients, it makes public a moment of human drama that could occur to almost any employee. It also tugs at a fundamental human instinct. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Ms Pietsch’s dismissal, the manner in which she was fired, in a summary call with two people she had never met before and for reasons that are never properly explained, seems unfair. And few things matter more to people than fairness.

In experiments where one person decides how to allocate a pot of money with another, recipients will routinely reject an offer if they feel they are being given too little, even if that means neither party gets any cash. A fair share matters more than free money. Equity matters in non-financial life, too. A study conducted in 2012 by Nicholas Wright of University College London deliberately made some participants thirsty by hooking them up to a saline drip; they would still reject offers of water from fellow participants if they felt they were being offered too little.

Given how much weight humans place on fairness, it makes sense that managers should think about it, too. For questions of fairness arise almost everywhere in the workplace—not just when people lose their jobs but also in who gets hired, who gets the credit when things go well and who has that really nice desk right by the window.

Fairness is not just a preoccupation of workers. Last month a judge in Delaware ruled against Elon Musk’s eye-watering compensation package at Tesla on the ground that it was unfair to shareholders. A recent study into ceo compensation by Alex Edmans of London Business School and his co-authors found that bosses care about fairness, too. Money is not just about what it can buy; ceos think it is only right to be rewarded for better performance, and to be paid in line with their peers. A sense of fairness can be responsible for driving up bosses’ pay and fuelling anger about it at the same time.

Customers value fairness, too, not least when it comes to pricing. Consumers instinctively recoil at the idea of prices rising in response to surging demand, whether for Uber fares on a busy night, face masks in a pandemic or snow shovels the night after a big storm. Such views are deeply ingrained. A recent paper by Casey Klofstad and Joseph Uscinski of the University of Miami asked Floridians for their views of anti-price-gouging legislation that would prevent shops from raising prices after a hurricane. Even when told that economists and other experts believe that mandatory price ceilings would exacerbate shortages and lead to store closures, respondents supported the law. (Depending on your point of view, this either proves that the public is irrational or that economists are not human.)

. . . .

This combination of salience and subjectivity makes fairness a tricky area for managers to navigate, but not an impossible one. No hiring decision will feel fair if qualified employees do not even know that there is a job going; a survey of 3,000 jobseekers by Gartner, a research firm, in 2021 found that half of them were not aware of internal career opportunities. No lay-off will feel fair if it is too impersonal.

Link to the rest at The Economist

https://www.tiktok.com/@alexyardigans/video/7322931907887484206?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc&web_id=7325688532458309150

Character Type & Trope Thesaurus: Dark Lord or Lady

From Writers Helping Writers:

In 1959, Carl Jung first popularized the idea of archetypes—”universal images that have existed since the remotest times.” He posited that every person is a blend of these 12 basic personalities. Ever since then, authors have been applying this idea to fictional characters, combining the different archetypes to come up with interesting new versions. The result is a sizable pool of character tropes that we see from one story to another.

Archetypes and tropes are popular storytelling elements because of their familiarity. Upon seeing them, readers know immediately who they’re dealing with and what role the nerd, dark lord, femme fatale, or monster hunter will play. As authors, we need to recognize the commonalities for each trope so we can write them in a recognizable way and create a rudimentary sketch for any character we want to create.

But when it comes to characters, no one wants just a sketch; we want a vibrant and striking cast full of color, depth, and contrast. Diving deeper into character creation is especially important when starting with tropes because the blessing of their familiarity is also a curse; without differentiation, the characters begin to look the same from story to story.

. . . .

DESCRIPTION: Evil personified and seemingly invincible, this antagonist is out to rule the world. They often use fear, intimidation, and the extensive resources (magical, military, or otherwise) at their command to dominate and control others.

FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Sauron (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), the White Witch (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), Voldemort (the Harry Potter series), Thanos (the Marvel Universe), Emperor Palpatine (the Star Wars franchise)

COMMON STRENGTHS: Adaptable, Alert, Ambitious, Analytical, Bold, Confident, Decisive, Efficient, Focused, Independent, Industrious, Intelligent, Meticulous, Pensive, Perceptive, Persistent, Persuasive, Proactive, Resourceful, Talented

COMMON WEAKNESSES: Callous, Cocky, Controlling, Cruel, Devious, Disloyal, Evil, Greedy, Haughty, Impatient, Inflexible, Judgmental, Manipulative, Obsessive, Perfectionist, Possessive, Pretentious, Resentful, Suspicious, Temperamental, Unethical, Vindictive, Violent, Volatile

ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Having a strategic mindset
Being single-minded in their pursuit of the ultimate goal
Carefully controlling their emotions
Having a big presence that fills the room
Wearing clothing meant to make them more intimidating
Walking confidently with long strides
Taking quick, decisive actions
Being emotionally unavailable
Having little tolerance for mistakes; being unforgiving
Easily replacing allies or underlings who fall short of the character’s expectations

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

Grappling with Two Character Types

From Writer Unboxed:

There’s a character in a novel I’m writing at the moment who, despite having passed on some time before the beginning of the action, haunts the story. Not in the literal way of a ghost story, but their memory and influence shapes a good deal of what one of the main characters does, which has ripple effects on other characters and on the narrative itself. This shadow character is key to the story but not a main character as such. It’s not an easy one to write, because their actions in the past can seem incomprehensible and even abhorrent at times. Yet, in order for the main character to progress in their own life, they need to come to terms with those actions, to understand and possibly to forgive them.

Developing a shadow character who isn’t particularly sympathetic and who only appears through the eyes of others remembering them, never speaking for themselves, has been quite a tricky task. How a) do you make them seem fully rounded, and b) how do you avoid readers disliking them so much they lose patience with the story itself?

I knew that I must not let my own feelings about their behavior taint my portrayal of them. I had to be as objective as possible whilst also conveying the very real effect the shadow character’s actions had on different people’s lives. I had to subtly indicate possible reasons for why the shadow character behaved as they did, yet not make it too obvious, either. It’s not necessary to turn them into a more likable character, but at the same time they need to be at least relatable so readers don’t completely write them off. It’s quite a balancing act—but so far, it’s working!

On the other side of the coin to the enigmatic shadow is another important type of character whose inner thoughts and feelings readers are not privy to, except through the reactions of the main characters. Like the shadow, they aren’t main characters, but they are also very important, key to the development of the story. And, as in the case of the shadow, you only see their inner selves reflected through the eyes of others. But unlike the shadow, they are highly attractive. And they can speak for themselves, because they are physically present, not shadows at all. In fact, hearing their voices whilst seeing them purely through the eyes of one of your main characters can enhance their presence and appeal, sometimes so strongly, especially in the case of a love interest, that it feels as though you are being swept away in that powerful feeling yourself.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

Aphasia

Aphasia is a disorder that affects how you communicate. It can impact your speech, as well as the way you write and understand both spoken and written language.

Aphasia usually happens suddenly after a stroke or a head injury. But it can also come on gradually from a slow-growing brain tumor or a disease that causes progressive, permanent damage (degenerative). The severity of aphasia depends on a number of things, including the cause and the extent of the brain damage.

The main treatment for aphasia involves treating the condition that causes it, as well as speech and language therapy. The person with aphasia relearns and practices language skills and learns to use other ways to communicate. Family members often participate in the process, helping the person communicate.

Mayo Clinic

What colour do you see?

From Aeon:

On 26 February 2015, Cates Holderness, a BuzzFeed community manager, posted a picture of a dress, captioned: ‘There’s a lot of debate on Tumblr about this right now, and we need to settle it.’ The post was accompanied by a poll that racked up millions of votes in a matter of days. About two-thirds of people saw the dress as white and gold. The rest, as blue and black. The comments section was filled with bewildered calls to ‘go check your eyes’ and all-caps accusations of trolling.

Vision scientists were quick to point out that the difference in appearance had to do with the ambiguity of ambient light in the photograph. If the visual system resolved the photograph as being taken indoors with its warmer light, the dress would appear blue and black; if outdoors, white and gold. That spring, the annual Vision Sciences Society conference had a live demo of the actual dress (blue and black, for the record) lit in different ways to demonstrate the way the difference of ambient light shifted its appearance. But none of this explains why the visual systems of different people would automatically infer different ambient light (one predictive factor seems to be a person’s typical wake-up time: night owls have more exposure to warmer, indoor light).

Whatever the full explanation turns out to be, it is remarkable that this type of genuine difference in visual appearance could elude us so completely. Until #TheDress went viral, no one, not even vision scientists, had any idea that these specific discrepancies in colour appearance existed. This is all the more remarkable considering how easy it is to establish this difference. In the case of #TheDress, it’s as easy as asking ‘What colours do you see?’ If we could be oblivious to such an easy-to-measure difference in subjective experience, how many other such differences might there be that can be discovered if only we know where to look and which questions to ask?

. . . .

Take the case of Blake Ross, the co-creator of the Firefox web browser. For the first three decades of his life, Ross assumed his subjective experience was typical. After all, why wouldn’t he? Then he read a popular science story about people who do not have visual imagery. While most people can, without much effort, form vivid images in their ‘mind’s eye’, others cannot – a condition that has been documented since the 1800s but only recently named: aphantasia. Ross learned from the article that he himself had aphantasia. His reaction was memorable: ‘Imagine your phone buzzes with breaking news: WASHINGTON SCIENTISTS DISCOVER TAIL-LESS MAN. Well, then, what are you?

Ross went on to ask his friends about what it’s like for them when they imagine various things, quickly realising that, just as he took his lack of imagery as a fact of the human condition, they similarly took their presence of visual imagery as a given. ‘I have never visualised anything in my entire life,’ Ross wrote in Vox in 2016. ‘I can’t “see” my father’s face or a bouncing blue ball, my childhood bedroom or the run I went on 10 minutes ago… I’m 30 years old, and I never knew a human could do any of this. And it is blowing my goddamn mind.’

There is a kind of visceral astonishment that accompanies these types of hidden differences. We seem wedded to the idea that we experience things a certain way because they are that way. Encountering someone who experiences the world differently (even when that difference seems trivial, like the colour of a dress) means acknowledging the possibility that our own perception could be ‘wrong’. And if we can’t be sure about the colour of something, what else might we be wrong about? Similarly, for an aphantasic to acknowledge that visual imagery exists is to realise that there is a large mismatch between their subjective experiences and those of most other people.

Studying hidden differences like these can enrich our scientific understanding of the mind. It would not occur to a vision scientist to ask whether being a night owl might have an impact on colour perception, but a bunch of people on the internet comparing notes on how they saw a dress inspired just such a study. The study of aphantasia is helping us understand ways in which people lacking imagery can accomplish the same goals (like remembering the visual details of their living room) without using explicit imagery. How many other such examples might there be once we start looking? There is also, arguably, a moral imperative for us to study and understand these kinds of differences because they help us understand the various ways of being human and to empathise with these differences. It’s a sobering thought that a person might respond differently to a situation not just because they have a different opinion about what to do or are in possession of different knowledge, but because their experience of the situation is fundamentally different.

For most of my research career, I didn’t really care about individual differences. Like most other cognitive scientists, my concern was with manipulating some factor and looking to see how this manipulation affected the group average. In my case, I was interested in the ways that typical human cognition and perception is augmented by language. And so, in a typical experiment, I would manipulate some aspect of language. For example, I examined whether learning names for novel objects changed how people categorised, remembered and perceived them. These were typical group-effect studies in which we compare how people respond to some manipulation. Of course, with any such study, different people respond in different ways, but the focus is on the average response.

For example, hearing ‘green’ helps (most) people see the subtle differences between more-green and less-green colour patches. Interfering with language by having people do a concurrent verbal task makes it harder for (most) people to group together objects that share a specific feature, such as being of a similar size or colour. But most people aren’t everyone. Could it be that some people’s colour discrimination and object categorisation is actively aided by language, but other people’s less so? This thought led us to wonder if this could be another hidden difference, much like aphantasia. In particular, we began to look at inner speech, long thought to be a universal feature of human experience.

Most people report having an inner voice. For example, 83 per cent (3,445 out of 4,145 people in our sample) ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ with the statement ‘When I read I tend to hear a voice in my mind’s ear.’ A similar proportion – 80 per cent – ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ with the statement ‘I think about problems in my mind in the form of a conversation with myself.’ This proportion goes up even more when asked about social problems: 85 per cent ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ with the statement ‘When thinking about a social problem, I often talk it through in my head.’

But 85 per cent is hardly everyone. What about those who disagree with these statements? Some of them report experiencing an inner voice only in specific situations. For example, when it comes to reading, some say that they hear a voice only if they deliberately slow down or are reading something difficult. But a small percentage (2-5 per cent) report never experiencing an inner voice at all. Like those with aphantasia who assume their whole lives that visual imagery is just a metaphor, those with anendophasia – a term Johanne Nedergaard and I coined to refer to the absence of inner speech – assume that those inner monologues so common in TV shows are just a cinematic device rather than something that people actually experience. People with anendophasia report that they never replay past conversations and that, although they have an idea of what they want to say, they don’t know what words will come out of their mouths until they start talking.

It is tempting to think that there is a trade-off between thinking using language and thinking using imagery. Take the widespread idea that people have different ‘learning styles’, some being visual learners and others verbal learners (it turns out this idea is largely incorrect). When it comes to imagery and inner speech, what we find is a moderate positive correlation between vividness of visual imagery and inner speech. On average, those who report having more visual imagery also report experiencing more inner speech. Most who claim to not experience inner speech also report having little imagery.

This raises the question of what their thoughts feel like to them. When we have asked, we tend to get answers that are quite vague, for example: ‘I think in ideas’ and ‘I think in concepts.’ We have lots of language at our disposal that we can use to talk about perceptual properties (especially visual ones) and, of course, we can use language to talk about language. So it is not really surprising that people have trouble conveying what thoughts without a perceptual or linguistic format feel like. But the difficulties in expressing these types of thoughts using language don’t make them any less real. They merely show that we have to work harder to better understand what they are like.

Differences in visual imagery and inner speech are just the tip of the iceberg. Other hidden differences include synaesthesia, Greek for ‘union of the senses’, in which people hear lights or taste sounds, and Eigengrau, a German word for the ‘intrinsic grey’ we see when we close our eyes. Except not all of us experience Eigengrau. About 10 per cent in our samples claim their experience is nothing like Eigengrau. Instead, when they close their eyes, they report seeing colourful patterns or a kind of visual static noise, like an analogue TV not tuned to a channel.

Our memory, too, seems to be the subject of larger differences than anyone expected. In 2015, the psychologist Daniela Palombo and colleagues published a paper describing ‘severely deficient autobiographical memory’ (SDAM). A person with SDAM might know that they went on a trip to Italy five years ago, but they cannot retrieve a first-person account of the experience: they cannot engage in the ‘mental time travel’ that most of us take for granted. As in other cases of hidden differences, these individuals tend not to realise they are unusual. As Claudia Hammond wrote for the BBC about Susie McKinnon, one of the first described cases of SDAM, she always ‘assumed that when people told in-depth stories about their past, they were just making up the details to entertain people.’

Link to the rest at Aeon and thanks to A. for the tip.

Narcissist Test: Is My Partner a Narcissist?

From PsychCentral:

Imagine you’ve been dating a new person for around 5 months. Things started off on a great note. They made you feel special by showering you with attention and compliments.

But recently, things have started to feel different. You’ve noticed how much your partner likes to talk about themself… to the point that they hog the conversation.

Those compliments they used to give you have now changed into criticisms. It’s pretty clear they think they’re the smartest person in every room. When you call them out on these behaviors, they don’t take it well.

What happened?

What is narcissism?

In Greek mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection and spent the rest of his life staring at himself. Like their namesake, narcissists spend a lot of effort creating a self-serving experience.

Narcissists thrive on external validation and often don’t understand the difference between admiration and love. Instead of seeking deep attachments, they seek approval. Compliments and attention are validating, so the narcissist continually seeks them out. But the moment the narcissist fails, they’re “shattered”.

Narcissists typically struggle with empathy, meaning they can’t place themselves in another person’s shoes. This may lead to a narcissist barely seeming interested in what’s happening in your life.

Or taking it to the other extreme and celebrating you in a very public way, even if that isn’t something you enjoy. Because they’re always seeking external validation, publicly celebrating your birthday or your accomplishments makes them look good.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) specifies that someone must meet at least five of the nine listed criteria to clinically qualify as having narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

For the purpose of this quiz, we’re going to focus on red flags rather than the criteria required to qualify as a medical diagnosis. These red flags aren’t exclusive to someone who has NPD –– anyone can display one or a few of these tendencies.

Some of the top red flags that your romantic partner either displays narcissistic tendencies or has NPD are:

  • Love bombing: At the beginning of your relationship, they showered you with attention, praise, and maybe even lavish gifts or vacations. It probably seemed too good to be true––because it was. Love bombing can be a manipulation tactic.
  • No long-term friends: Because narcissists have trouble connecting with others, they can struggle to maintain long-term relationships, even with family. Narcissists often learned through fraught relationships with their primary caregivers that love is conditional and must be earned. This can lead to shallow, transactional relationships with friends and can also set people up to fail. A narcissist may have an irregularly high number of ex-friends.
  • Grandiose sense of self: A narcissist wants to be the one talking. They often hog conversations, displaying far more interest in talking about themself than in trying to learn about you.
  • Picking on you: A narcissist’s self-image sometimes depends on feeling superior to others. This can lead to the narcissist actively trying to lower your self-esteem. They may begin picking on you for things such as your fashion or your hobbies. Often people who date narcissists find themselves adjusting their behaviors to avoid criticism from their partners.
  • Gaslighting: Gaslighting means intentionally denying or negating someone else’s memories in order to manipulate them. When you’re having to question your own memories, wondering, “Did that really happen?” it’s possible you’re being gaslighted.

Link to the rest at PsychCentral

PG decided to post this as an introduction to a personality type that might be useful for creating a fictional character. If you’d like to learn more, here’s a link to Famous People with Narcissism.

Caveat: PG is not a psychologist or psychiatrist and all he knows about narcissism is what he’s read and heard about the personality type from others. He suspects he has dealt with more than one narcissist in the past, but he could be wrong.

Yes, lawyers can be narcissistic, at least until the state bar disciplinary committee catches up with them and turns them into former lawyers. PG has dealt with a few of those as well.

How to Create Character Mannerisms from Backstory Wounds

From Jane Friedman:

The best way to deepen and enrich our characters is to develop them from long before they enter the story we’re writing. Every character (really, every human being) struggles with one or more wounding experiences that create life-long emotional responses. These backstory wounds result in the lies our characters tell themselves, or what Lisa Cron in Story Genius refers to as “misbeliefs.”

By borrowing from acting techniques, especially those developed by Konstantin Stanislavski, writers can follow a logical sequence of development to create a character that feels real and alive while their wound and misbelief may remain buried and invisible—even to the character.

Backstory wounds in action

Backstory wounds come in all shapes and sizes, but they share one thing in common: Whether seemingly trivial or clearly debilitating, the wounding experience is unforgettable and causes lasting pain. The wounding can be singular or repeated, and because we each experience pain in our own way, even small wounds can be damaging. Examples include bullying, abuse, poverty, loss of a loved one, physical disability, fear during a natural event, failure.

Because we process pain by trying to make sense of it, we turn to self-reflection, and that can quickly turn into self-blame. Self-blame forms the lie or misbelief that dominates all future behaviors.

Here’s an example of the wound and the misbelief in action in a character:

A child witnesses her father leave when her parents divorce. She reflects that the divorce must be her fault—she was naughty, or cranky—and the lie that forms is “My dad left me and Mom because he doesn’t like my behavior, so I must be defective.”

The lie begins to emerge as a statement of fact: “Defective people (like me) can’t form relationships.” This fact perpetuates fear: “I’ll be abandoned again, because I’m defective.” And fear of further wounding holds this character in thrall: “To keep myself from being abandoned again, I won’t form relationships at all.”

This character will grow up with an emotional shield that could result in all sorts of possible character arcs: a cold woman who callously murders her partners; a broken woman who hops from one affair to the next; a timid woman who walks away from any possible partner; and so on.

Character behaviors and traits emerge from the wound

Character behaviors are patterned by the character’s emotions that result from the misbelief. Actors study human behavior to develop mannerisms or tics that are outward physical manifestations of those misbelief-generated emotions.

We can use the same sequence of developing our characters to create mannerisms, traits, and tics that reflect their deep-seated emotions in a way that shows the wound and misbelief emerging through those gestures.

Here’s the step-by-step exercise to help you uncover your character’s wound, its lasting impact, and how it reveals itself through your character’s actions on the page.

  1. Choose your character, and brainstorm 5 possible wounding backstory events for that character. Try to make them each a little different, with different impact. Remember that these events happened long before the start of your story.
  2. Choose what feels like it could be a powerful event for your character and write a full scene around it. You may or may not use this scene in your story; if you do I suggest burying it deep in the narrative.
  3. Identify the lie or misbelief that results from the wound that emerges from this scene. For example, bullying might result in the lie that your character must protect himself.
  4. Identify the lasting emotions in your character that are produced by the lie. The bullied kid feels that to protect himself, he must act tough; or, he might fear that trying to protect himself will lead to abuse.
  5. Identify the behaviors that result from those emotions. The tough kid might bully other kids, or take up boxing, or wear clothing that feels/looks like armor; or the fearful kid might run and hide from any conflict.
  6. Identify the mannerisms, traits, or tics that result from those behaviors. The tough kid might affect a swagger, or a sneer. He might wear all black. He might push others out of his way in his rise to the top. He might abuse substances, or conversely refrain from them in order to be fully in control. The fearful kid might have a speech impediment, or an odd way of not looking directly at others, or he might have OCD.

To take this back to our woman who was wounded by divorce, she may have traits like standing rigidly and speaking forcefully, or tugging on her sleeves as if to hide her skin, or insisting on perfection in everything and everyone around her because being less than perfect results in abandonment.

The traits that define your character will rise directly from their wound.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

How to Tell if You’re a Super-Recognizer

From Psychology Today:

A manager at a local bookstore stopped to ask if I needed any help, then paused.

“Is your name Ainsley?” she asked.

“Yes, it is!” I answered, surprised.

“You probably don’t remember me, but I used to manage the bookstore in Corner Brook. You shopped there on Saturdays with your family.”

Corner Brook is my hometown, and she was right: I didn’t remember her. I had moved away 30 years earlier when I was only 8 years old.

“You were able to recognize me now from seeing me in passing as a child?!” I said. “You have an unbelievable memory!”

“Oh, it’s nothing special,” she replied. “I’m just good with faces.”

Though she might have downplayed her feat, she is in all likelihood a super-recognizer, part of a small segment of the population with an exceptional memory for faces.

What is a Super-Recognizer?

Human beings are hard-wired to recognize faces. A whole region of the human brain—the fusiform gyrus—is devoted to analyzing the faces we see and recalling the ones we’ve seen before. We’re so primed to pick out faces that we see them even where they don’t exist.

Psychologists once assumed that everyone had more or less the same ability to identify faces unless they suffered a brain injury or neurological illness that damaged the fusiform gyrus. In the early 2000s, though, researchers realized that some people are born with very poor facial recognition, a condition known as prosopagnosia. And if a small number of people are born with a terrible memory for faces, they reasoned, perhaps there are others who are born with a phenomenal memory for faces.

Since then, experts have come to believe that facial recognition ability lies along a bell curve, like IQ and other human capacities. The vast majority of us are somewhere in the middle, but a scattering of people fall at the extreme ends of the spectrum, with exceptionally good or exceptionally weak face identification skills. The top 2 to 3 percent of this bell curve are called super-recognizers. They excel at two tasks:

  1. Face perception. The ability to match images of the same face to each other even if they look different due to age, facial hair, or camera angle.
  2. Face recognition. The ability to match a face to a name or identity.

What It’s Like to Be a Super-Recognizer

The best super-recognizers describe their talent as a photographic memory for faces. They only need the briefest glimpse to memorize a face, and they store that information for months, years, or even the rest of their lives.

As one super-recognizer, a 26-year-old female Ph.D. student known in the research as CS, explained: “It doesn’t matter how many years pass; if I’ve seen your face before I will be able to recall it.”

Like many super-recognizers, CS hides her extraordinary ability to avoid making other people uncomfortable. “I often pretend not to recognize someone because it scares them if I say, ‘Oh, I remember you, you were behind me in line at a supermarket in 1996 wearing a yellow soccer jersey!’”

Another super-recognizer named Yenny Seo has found her aptitude for faces more awkward since the advent of social media. “I would start a new class in uni,” says Seo, “or I would meet people through social gatherings and I would remember visually what kind of photos I’d seen them in. I’d already be so familiar with them and I’d know in my head: ‘Oh, you are that person’s sibling, or you used to date so-and-so,’ but I also knew it’d be really creepy if I said that out loud, so I’d keep it on the down low and just say: ‘Oh, nice to meet you.’

Link to the rest at Psychology Today

PG thought of a variety of ways to use Super-Recognizers as characters.

Here’s what happens when you break up with a narcissist

From Business Insider:

It is challenging and exhausting being romantically involved with a narcissist, and they can also cause havoc when they leave. Breakups are always hard, but when you’ve been in a relationship with someone who uses others and is obsessed with themselves, it can be even harder.

On the surface, narcissists can seem charming, engaging and charismatic, which can make them difficult to leave in the first place.

Dr Judith Orloff, a clinical psychiatrist at the University of California Los Angeles, told Insider that narcissists can make you fall in love with them quickly, because they’re very adept at becoming the centre of your universe.

“Narcissists present a false self, where they can seem charming and intelligent, and even giving,” she said. “Until you don’t do things their way. Then they get cold, withholding and punishing.”

Here’s what to expect if a relationship with a narcissist ends.

It can feel brutal and sudden

One minute you may feel like everything your partner has ever wanted, and the next you’re left wondering what on Earth went wrong. This is because narcissists are great at playing a part while they’re getting something from you, according to Orloff. But when they’re done using you, they have no difficulty in casting you aside like a used tissue.

There will be no apologies or remorse, and you may well never hear from them again, regardless of how long your relationship was. If they do return, it will be because they’ve realized they can get something from you.

Be prepared for begging, pleading, or bargaining

If you’re the one who chose to leave, good for you, because that’s hard to do, Orloff said. They are likely to give you the fight of your life because they’re not done with you yet. Narcissists hate losing their supply, so they won’t let you go easily.

Prepare for them to promise “to change.” They might suddenly start doing things for you that you’d been complaining about. They may say “you’ll be lost without me,” or “you’ll never find someone like me.”

Don’t listen, Orloff advised. It’s just a trick to get you to come back to them out of fear.

If that doesn’t work, they may try different tactics

If their begging isn’t successful, narcissists can turn mean. Psychiatrist Dr. Edward Ratush told Insider that narcissists are master manipulators, and will have learned over time how to use your thoughts and behaviors to control you.

“Strategically, separating from a narcissist can resemble defending oneself against a shark: you have to punch them right in the nose,” he said. “Despite the fierceness of their appearance, they often crumble when confronted. Their bullying ways will quickly dissolve and reveal what’s beneath.”

The best defense against the narcissist’s tactics is a good, strong sense of self, Ratush said — “a solid grasp of your needs and how they can be used against you.”

Link to the rest at Business Insider

Character Type and Trope Thesaurus: Grotesque

From Writers Helping Writers:

Grotesque

DESCRIPTION: A grotesque is a character whose deformities mask their likable personality and arouse pity and sympathy from others. They have extreme physical or behavioral features that can be unsettling, disturbing, or even repulsive. Because of this, grotesques can challenge preconceptions of what is beautiful and acceptable.

FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Quasimodo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Frankenstein’s monster (Frankenstein), Erik/the Phantom (The Phantom of the Opera), the Beast (Beauty and the Beast), Edward Scissorhands (Edward Scissorhands)

COMMON STRENGTHS: Alert, Cautious, Creative, Curious, Focused, Independent, Intelligent, Introverted, Loyal, Observant, Passionate, Pensive, Perceptive, Persistent, Private, Quirky, Resourceful, Simple

COMMON WEAKNESSES: Antisocial, Callous, Compulsive, Hostile, Jealous, Judgmental, Morbid, Obsessive, Paranoid, Possessive, Resentful, Suspicious, Uncommunicative, Uncouth, Volatile, Withdrawn

ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES

  • Withdrawing from society and living an isolated life
  • Attempting to hide their deformity
  • Approaching new people and situations with caution
  • Expecting a negative reaction from new people
  • Obsessing about a person or ideal they perceive to be perfect
  • Obtaining a sense of connection by observing social interactions from a distance
  • Being alert to potential threats
  • Emotional volatility
  • Always keeping their guard up
  • Showing staunch loyalty to anyone who shows them kindness
  • Being possessive of a friend’s time and affection
  • Exhibiting extreme responses in socially awkward situations (shutting down, fleeing, lashing out physically, etc.)
  • Doggedly pursuing an objective that could soothe their pain
  • Making do with few resources
  • Having an active imagination and vibrant inner world
  • Fantasizing about what life would be like without their deformity
  • Being critical of others
  • Scorning the vanity of others
  • Suspecting that everyone is out to get them
  • Being slow to trust
  • Seeking revenge against those who have wronged them
  • Being driven to gain the advantages their deformity has denied them
  • Being morally corrupt

SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM

  • Discovering their actions have hurt someone they care about
  • Being approached by someone who seems to be seeking friendship or romance
  • Facing a new social environment full of strangers
  • Discovering their deformity has once again kept them from achieving a goal or gaining fulfillment
  • A friend going absent or radio silent
  • Being put on display or thrust into the limelight

INNER STRUGGLES TO GIVE THEM DEPTH

  • Feeling lonely and isolated but being too afraid to pursue relationships
  • Meeting someone who sees the beauty of the character’s soul but being unable to trust them
  • Wanting to meet a mentor’s expectations but lacking the tools to do so
  • Wanting to accomplish a greater purpose but being hampered by their deformity
  • Wondering if they’re being punished for their deformity—because of a past mistake, a character failing, etc.
  • Achieving public validation but not seeing themselves as worthy
  • Having to choose between gaining respect or doing the right thing

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

Princess, Washerwoman, Warrior, Goatherd: How Real are Your Characters?

From Writer Unboxed:

In traditional storytelling, especially in fairy tales, the main characters often don’t have names. Instead they are referred to only by their roles: the tailor, the shepherdess, the knight, the princess, the giant. When a character does get a name, often it’s an emblematic sort of name, like Snow White (named for her skin as white as snow) or Rapunzel (named for the herb her mother stole from the witch’s garden.) Then there’s Prince Charming, named thus (I guess) because his parents assumed he’d grow up to be much admired, and would learn pretty court manners in preparation for the prince job. Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk) has a real name; but you’ll find quite a few different stories with a Jack in them, and he’s usually making mischief and/or getting into trouble, so that one may be emblematic as well – what about the Jack in a card deck, also known as the Knave? Generally those stories are not big on character development. We may have a dramatic change of circumstances: the goatherd slays the dragon and gets to wed the princess (too bad it she’s not keen on the idea); the tailor is kind to the elves and is given magical assistance as a reward. But an individual human journey that draws us in deeply? Generally not. Maybe fairy tale characters don’t need names.

Legends are different, being almost always associated with a particular location, a notable event that took place (or may have taken place) there, and a person or being: Robin Hood, William Tell, King Arthur. Each of those has some historical basis, but in the cases of Arthur and Robin, the old story has morphed over the years into an elaborate piece of (mostly) fantasy. For Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, this is largely down to a twelfth century Welsh cleric and writer, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and to a lesser extent to Chrétien de Troyes, a French writer of the same general period. There are many more such examples. The stories are grand, heroic, stirring, and often deeply romantic, and they’ve been retold and rewritten over and over right to the present day. The retellings and reworkings tend to reflect the culture and values of their time; the storyteller shapes the tale to resonate with its audience. Generally the original character names, or recognisable versions of them, remain.

Today’s writers, and fantasy writers in particular, have produced some ground-breaking work when re-interpreting well-known, and often well-loved, traditional stories. A case in point is Juliet E McKenna’s The Cleaving, published recently by Angry Robot (UK). In this compelling novel, the heroic trappings of the Arthurian story are stripped away, and we are confronted with the gritty reality of the time and culture through the eyes of the women in the tale. It’s a challenging read at times, especially for anyone who loves the pageantry and romanticism of the Arthurian legend. It’s also deeply rewarding. These characters are not the idealised figures of legend, but real individuals struggling to take back control of their lives and their world. We recognise their names—Ygraine, Morgana, Nimue, Guinevere—and because the Arthurian tale is so familiar to us, it hits us with striking force when these characters don’t adhere to the old story, or when the author’s vision of that story is so different from the old tale of chivalry and honour. McKenna shows us how little choice women in their situations would actually have had. The interaction between the workers of magic, Merlin and Nimue, is a particularly strong element in this novel. In the legend, Merlin’s intervention governs some key aspects of Arthur’s rise to the throne, and the author’s take on this is fascinating.

I’ve written before about some brilliant feminist reworkings of myths that have been published in recent years. From Claire North, we have Ithaca and House of Odysseus, the first two novels in a planned trilogy, The Songs of Penelope. Genevieve Gornichec’s The Witch’s Heart is a wonderful reworking of Norse mythology with an unforgettable central character. The illustration for this post honours that Norse connection – I couldn’t resist the ravens. Gornichec’s new title, to be published this month, is The Weaver and the Witch Queen, described as a blend of Viking age history and myth. These two authors use the framework of myth, but their characters are fully fleshed individuals, real people whose journeys feel entirely authentic as we share them. For a highly original fairy tale reworking try Alix E Harrow’s Fractured Fables series, or Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.

Times change, and stories change with them. We don’t often listen to someone telling a story these days. Audiobooks are great, but they lack the spontaneity of the tale told by the fireside, which can change in every single telling. If we tell a story, we usually do so in writing, and the stories we absorb generally come to us as in published form, whether it’s as print, e-book or audio. The exception, I guess, might be telling stories to small children rather than reading them. Keep doing this, folks, it’s a great bonding experience! Also, it’s good brain training when you have to make things up as you go.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

PG notes that a story doesn’t need to be ground-breaking to be interesting. He’ll also note that, while audiobooks “lack spontaneity” so do physical books and ebooks.

Are Your Characters Misleading Your Readers?

From Fiction University:

Things might not always be what the seem. 

One of the many strengths of point of view (POV) is that readers get to experience the story world through the eyes of your POV character. And characters can assume incorrectly, have an unfair opinion, or just flat out be wrong. 

But sometimes ambiguity sneaks in there when you don’t mean it to, and you’re not actually saying what you intended to say.

Enter the word seemed.

Seemed isn’t always what it seems. Sometimes it reads like an opinion the POV character is making, and others it reads like the author explaining what they know about the situation. And there’s a wide gray area where those two overlap, due to narrative distance and point of view.  

In general, the tighter the POV and the closer the narrative distance, the more the word seemed feels like an assumption or an opinion. The more distant the POV and narrative distance, the more told it feels.

Let’s look a little closer. 

Say you want to show the POV character making an assumption. You night write it like:

Bob seemed happy, but his smile never wavered.

Seemed in this case implies that Bob is faking being happy. The POV character senses something feels off to them, and they’re not sure they can take what they see at face value. Bob seems happy, but they don’t think he is happy, because his smile doesn’t look right to them. 

The “seemed happy” is offset by the “but his smile never wavered.” There’s visual evidence to back up the assumption. 

Compare that to:

Bob seemed happy, laughing and joking with all the kids.

The only thing in this sentence that hints that Bob may not actually be happy is the word seemed. If Bob really is happy, and his laughing and joking isn’t an act, then it inadvertently misleads the reader. There’s nothing to suggest why the character is making this assumption, which makes the POV character feel a little shifty. Are they hiding information from the reader? Did the reader miss something? Is the author telling readers something the POV doesn’t know?

However…

In a tight POV, this could be the character’s opinion.Bob seemed happy, (becausehe) was laughing and joking with all the kids.

The because in this case is implied, not stated (because that would be telling). The “laughing and joking with all the kids” could be the evidence presented to backup why the POV character thinks Bob seems happy. But readers can’t tell for sure.

This is a good example of how context matters. The next sentence would confirm if this was the POV character’s assumption or the author butting in to tell readers Bob isn’t really happy. 

Bob seemed happy, laughing and joking with all the kids. But his smile never wavered. 

Bob seemed happy, laughing and joking with all the kids. He smiled as he chased them around the yard.

See the difference? That “but” shows readers why the POV character is making that assumption. Bob seems happy, but his smile is a clue he’s really not. 

In sentence two, the smile supports that Bob is happy, and contradicts the seemed. The POV character would think Bob was happy, because there’s no evidence to suggest he isn’t, and they wouldn’t use the word seemed. Seemed is unnecessary at best, telling at worst. 

Link to the rest at Fiction University

9 Negative Character Arcs in the Enneagram

From Writers Helping Writers:

The Enneagram personality theory is a wonderful tool for writers. Beneath the surface of the system’s nine types, you can find development guides that include all the working parts of solid transformational character arcs. Last week, we discussed the positive character arcs in the Enneagram. Today, we’re going to look at the flipside: nine negative character arcs in the Enneagram system.

As a personal-development tool, the Enneagram can help us identify, first, which of the nine types best suits our own tendencies. From there, we can use it to bring awareness to any number of our own pain points, growth factors, and potential blind spots.

But there’s much more to the Enneagram than just that. Particularly as presented by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson in their groundbreaking book Personality Types, the Enneagram also offers several vertical maps of progression and regression within each type. In short, it can offer hints as to where someone (ourselves or our characters) may be sitting within a spectrum of mental and emotional health.

For our personal use, the Enneagram can help us move higher up the ladder toward optimal health—to achieve positive character arcs. That’s what we looked at last week. As authors, however, we also sometimes need to write about characters who are headed in the opposite direction—away from health. In character-arc speak, the thematic movements of a positively arcing character will be away from a Lie or limiting belief and toward a more expansive and liberating Truth. Meanwhile, a negatively arcing character will be moving away from the story’s posited thematic Truth.

. . . .

As I discussed in the last post, the Enneagram system is a deep well to dive into, full of many complexities. What’s in this post is the barest ripple on its surface, based on my years’ long personal study and growth within the system and particularly on the type comparisons and descriptors found in Riso and Hudson’s book The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

In that book, they introduce the Enneagram like this:

The core truth that the Enneagram conveys to us is that we are much more than our personality. Our personalities are no more than the familiar, conditioned parts of a much wider range of potentials that we all possess.

The nine personality types of the Enneagram.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

PG continues to lead a sheltered life and must admit he had never heard of Eneagrams before.

He did a little quick and dirty online research and discovered the following:

Definition and Meaning

The Enneagram is a system of personality which describes people in terms of nine types, each with their own motivations, fears, and internal dynamics.

The Enneagram is an emotionally focused system of understanding people — honing in on one’s core emotional motivations and fears. Each of the nine personality types has its own driving force, which is centered around a particular emotion.

Some Enneagram types experience strong emotions, while other types aim to avoid emotions in one form or another. However, whether running from emotions or diving into them, each type describes some aspect of emotional experience.

. . . .

The nine types of the Enneagram are divided among Heart Types, Head Types, and Body Types.

  • Heart types depend on their emotional intelligence to understand their own reactions and connect with others.
  • Head types depend on their intellectual intelligence to make sense of things and navigate the world around them.
  • Body types depend on their instinctual intelligence to follow their “gut” and respond to threats and opportunities.

The Heart Types of the Enneagram

Heart types react with emotions first. They connect with other people on an empathetic level, and make sense of the world by understanding their feelings about it. These types are guided by the feelings connected to their emotional relationships with other people. They value things such as emotional support, recognition, and inclusion. Types Two, Three and Four are the heart, or feeling, centered Enneagram types.

Type Two

The Giver

Twos want to be liked and find ways that they can be helpful to others so that they belong. This type fears being unlovable. Read more about Twos.

Type Three

The Achiever

Threes want to be successful and admired by other people, and are very conscious of their public image. Type Threes fear failure and not being seen as valuable by other people. Read more about Threes.

Type Four

The Individualist

Fours want to be unique and to experience deep, authentic emotions. Type Fours fear they are flawed and are overly focused on how they are different from other people. Read more about Fours.

The Head Types of the Enneagram

Head types react with analysis first. They connect with other people on an intellectual level, and make sense of the world by understanding the systems and theories that underlie what they observe. These types are primarily focused on control, which they gain by maintaining stability, security, and competence. Types Five, Six, and Seven are the head-centered Enneagram types.`

Type Five

The Investigator

Fives seek understanding and knowledge, and are more comfortable with data than other people. The biggest fear of the Type Five is being overwhelmed by their own needs or the needs of other people. Read more about Fives.

Type Six

The Skeptic

Sixes are preoccupied with security, seek safety, and like to be prepared for problems. For the Type Six, the greatest fear is being unprepared and unable to defend themselves from danger. Read more about Sixes.

Type Seven

The Enthusiast

Sevens want to have as much fun and adventure as possible and are easily bored. Type Sevens fear experiencing emotional pain, especially sadness, and actively seek to avoid it by staying busy. Read more about Sevens.

The Body Types of the Enneagram

Body types react with an instinctive, gut feeling. They connect with other people based on their physical sense of comfort, and make sense of the world by sensing their body’s reaction to what is happening. The primary drive for this triad is to maintain their independence and limit control from outside influences. They respond by being either overly controlling, overly passive, or overly perfectionistic. Types Eight, Nine, and One are the body, or gut, centered Enneagram types.

Type Eight

The Challenger

Eights see themselves as strong and powerful and seek to stand up for what they believe in. The greatest fear of the Type Eight is to be powerless, so they focus on controlling their environment. Read more about Eights.

Type Nine

The Peacemaker

Nines like to go with the flow and let the people around them set the agenda. Type Nines fear pushing people away by prioritizing their own needs, and they tend to be passive. Read more about Nines.

Type One

The Perfectionist

Ones place a lot of emphasis on following the rules and doing things correctly. Type Ones fear being imperfect and can be extremely strict with themselves and others. Read more about Ones.

Link to the rest at Truity

PG is not certain he entirely understands (or even vaguely understands) Enneagrams. However he found another article on Truity titled Myers and Briggs vs Enneagram.

PG had heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test. However, he doesn’t understand that one very well either, but when he took what was supposedly a short Myers-Briggs-like test a long time ago, he was classified as an extraversion something something, something. (PG isn’t quite certain how may somethings there were.)

During his wander through online personality tests, he discovered The 5 Best Free Online Personality Tests which evidently gives you options in case you don’t like the results of a single personality test.

At any rate, he does think that the various character features mentioned in this sort of thing may help an author with the task of constructing fictional characters that aren’t all the same.

Fear Thesaurus Entry: Losing Autonomy

From Writers Helping Writers:

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental health condition, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life.

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

. . . .

Fear of Losing Autonomy

Notes
Autonomy fluctuates throughout life but will decrease with certain changes, such as getting married, having a baby, and growing old. A character who fears the loss of their independence will look for ways to maintain their freedom, sometimes at a cost to their own happiness or satisfaction.

What It Looks Like

The character moving out of their parent’s home as soon as possible
Living alone
Setting clear goals for autonomy within relationships
Maintaining superficial romantic relationships so they don’t infringe on the character’s independence
Avoiding family members who exert too much influence
Hiding signs of illness or mental struggles from loved ones

Changing the topic when the subject of assistance comes up
Refusing to use tools that are meant to help, such as a cane, hearing aid, or glasses
Refusing to move in with a relative, even if doing so makes sense
The character dismissing concerns for their safety or well-being
Being deliberately cantankerous or rude to caregivers
Continuing to engage in activities that have become dangerous (driving, drinking alcohol, running, etc.)

Common Internal Struggles

Feeling pressured to let others help despite a desire to remain independent
Fearing that a loss of autonomy will result in a loss of identity
The character wondering if they’re being selfish or stubborn for declining help
Living in denial about their need for assistance
Seeking to justify any loss of cognitive or physical abilities
The character feeling as if they’re a burden for needing any kind help
Feeling worthless
Becoming paranoid about signs of further decline
Resenting the people who are trying to help, then feeling guilty about it
Feeling as if life is no longer worth living

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

Character Builder

PG had never heard about Character Builder before he stumbled on this video.

In addition to any other comments, PG (and, he thinks, others) would be interested in hearing from anyone who has used this software/service or a similar tool.

Do We Really ‘Lose Our Filter’ as We Age?

From Neuroscience News:

Many of us will have experienced some unexpected honesty from the older people in our lives. Whether it’s grandma telling you your outfit is unflattering or grandpa saying he doesn’t like the meal you’ve prepared, we often explain it away by saying “Oh, don’t mind grandpa, he’s just lost his filter”.

But do we really have a “filter”, and do we lose it as we get older?

What do we mean when we say ‘filter’?

When someone has no “filter”, it means they say things without thinking about their audience. They may blurt out something rude, inappropriate, or unkind, without considering the likely consequences.

“Filters” are an important part of our everyday social interactions. A brief Monday morning chat with your boss is more complex than it may seem. For example, you might stop yourself from telling them they smell awful after their morning bike ride into the office and should’ve showered before your meeting. You might consider telling them about the fungal infection you discovered on your toenail over the weekend but decide against it. Of course, what you do or do not say also depends on how well you know them and what’s considered socially acceptable in your workplace.

Your “filter” relies on cognitive processes such as inhibitory control, which stops you from saying the first thing that pops into your mind. It also relies on social cognition, which refers to the ability to understand and predict other people’s behaviours, thoughts, and intentions. This helps us to recognise what behaviour is appropriate in a particular social setting and to adapt our behaviour based on this.

The prefrontal cortex, which is located within the frontal lobes of our brains, acts as our “filter”, helping us say and do things in a socially appropriate way. When this part of the brain isn’t functioning properly, we might act as though we’ve lost our “filter”.

What happens to our ‘filter’ as we age?

As we get older, our brains start to shrink. This is a normal part of the aging process known as brain atrophy. It affects how well our brain cells can communicate with one another. Importantly, brain atrophy doesn’t happen to all areas of the brain at once. It is particularly noticeable in the frontal lobes.

Researchers have linked age-related shrinking in the frontal lobes with declines in inhibitory control and social cognition. Studies have also found older adults respond differently to socially awkward situations than younger adults.

For example, older adults have more difficulty recognising when someone’s said something embarrassing or tactless, and show poorer understanding of sarcasm.

So as we get older, normal aging processes in our brains may make it much easier for things to slip out through our “filters”.

Link to the rest at Neuroscience News

PG thought this might be of assistance to those who are building an older character.

How Emotionally Intelligent People Use the ‘Emotional Postmortem’ to Control Their Emotions and Improve Their Relationships

PG thought this item might be useful for character-building.

From Inc.:

“Oh, boy. This time I messed up.”

That’s what I was thinking when some years ago, I let my emotions get the best of me. I believed a colleague had stolen something of mine. Not literally; I thought he stole an idea. At least, that’s how I felt.

I knew the way I should handle it. I knew I should approach him calmly, state my concern without any type of accusation, and give him the chance to explain the situation.

But that’s not what I did.

Instead, I went in like a ticking time bomb, asking emotionally charged questions before …

I went off.

In the end, it turned out to be a huge misunderstanding. I felt horrible, because the colleague was a nice guy, and up until that moment we had a pretty good relationship. Of course, I apologized profusely, and he said it was OK and we’d consider it water under the bridge.

But to this day, every time I think of that moment, I cringe.

If you’ve ever had a moment like this one, maybe you can relate. In emotional intelligence terms, we refer to this as an emotional hijack.

In an emotional hijack, a small part of your brain known as the amygdala, which serves as a type of emotional processor, “hijacks” your brain and causes you to react without thinking. In my case, some built-up tension and various other factors caused me to see a situation unclearly, jump to conclusions, and hurl harsh accusations at a colleague.

It’d be great if we could identify the circumstances that lead up to emotional hijacks before they happen, but that’s not usually how it works. But learning to analyze an emotional hijack after it happens can be almost as valuable.

I like to call this process the “emotional postmortem.”

Just like a medical or project postmortem, the goal of an emotional postmortem is to determine the cause of “death,” or failure. When you identify the cause for a hijack, you can devise a plan to help you avoid repeat episodes in the future.

Link to the rest at Inc.