Tag Archives: Albert Einstein

It is Important to Speak, but not More Important than it is to Listen

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about leadership and followership, the overwhelming majority of literature dedicated to leadership, and the dearth of literature dedicated to followership. When writing that post, it reminded me of the same relationship between speaking and listening. That is, how much literature do we see dedicated to speaking or communicating and how much do we see dedicated to listening?

Don’t get me wrong, I think that communication is an essential part of the human experience, but dont we think that learning to listen should be equally (if not more?) important than speaking. We can make the same comparison we did with leadership: how much time do we spend speaking in relation to how much time we spend listening? We spend far more of our time listening. So, shouldn’t it follow that we need to learn how to be excellent listeners?

Of course, if we don’t know how to speak (at all) then the listening is futile, but I suspect that if the majority of people were excellent listeners, we might be able to aid the speaker in communicating their point. Just as I made the case with followers who can make a leader better, I think that listeners can make a speaker better, too.


A slight tangent: how many courses are there in communication? There are probably quite a few more than there are in listening. In fact, there’s even an entire academic discipline dedicated to communication. Is there one for listening? Some may argue that clinical/counseling psychology might be how listening creeps its way into an academic discipline, but that’s only one piece of the training for clinical/counseling psychologists. It’s important to note that psychologists who don’t go the route of counseling won’t get this kind of training, so it’s necessary to specify clinical/counseling.

I like to think I’m a pretty good listener (and have been given affirmative feedback), but I don’t doubt that I would benefit from the insights of academic research on listening. In fact, I bet we all could benefit from academic research on listening. Until then, we’ll have to rely on the wisdom of quotes:

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

“If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut.” – Albert Einstein

“Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.” – Andre Gide

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen Covey

“We have two ears and only one tongue in order that we may hear more and speak less.” – Diogenes Laërtius

And one last one that I really like:

“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” – M. Scott Peck

There is No Such Thing As “Left-Brain” and “Right-Brain”

Let me just begin by saying that before I knew better, I often referred to the “left-brain” and the “right-brain.” When I got old enough (and studied the brain a little bit), I learned that those are just colloquial terms that referred to the functions most commonly found in the left hemisphere and the functions most commonly found in the right hemisphere. While I understand the importance of using labels to effectively communicate what could be perceived as complicated theories, I think it’s important that we don’t talk about the ‘left-brain’ and the ‘right-brain.’

The primary reason for this — there is only “one” brain, for which there are two hemispheres. When we begin to talk about the ‘left-brain’ and the ‘right-brain,’ it severs us from reality (even slightly). The secondary reason — we’re now learning a great deal about . This is the idea that — essentially — the brain can change. Through environmental, behavioral, or other changes, the actual structure of the brain can change. I recently came across a great RSA talk by on “The Divided Brain.” I’ve included a few quotes that I found worth repeating. Below, you’ll find the video embedded.

On empathy:

“If you can stand back & see that the other individual is an individual like me, who might have interests & values & feelings like mine, then you can make a bond.”

On imagination being in the right hemisphere and reason being in the left hemisphere:

“Let me make it very clear: for imagination you need both hemispheres. Let me make it very clear: for reason you need both hemispheres.”

In case you don’t watch the video the whole way through, he closes with a :

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift. The rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant, but has forgotten the gift.”

The Theory of Relativity and the 2012 London Olympics

A few hours ago, I was in the for the mid Atlantic watching  in Women’s Soccer in the quarterfinals. The reason I mention that it’s the flagship Whole Foods is because they have an area where there’s 12 (maybe more?) big screen TV’s playing an assortment of sports. As the are currently “the thing” right now, that’s what was on almost every TV. (Aside: I was actually surprised not to see them on every single TV.)

Anyway, as I was watching Canada salt away the second half, I was also keeping tabs on a few other events. There was , , , and . It was really cool seeing badminton because, well, for one, I haven’t seen it since the and for two, it was ! While it was a bit dizzying to keep tabs on all these sports, I started to notice something — tennis started to look veeeerrrrryyy sloooowwww. This seemed odd to me because tennis players 180+ km/h. For those of you reading this in the US, that’s approximately 112 mph. So — not slow.

Why did it look slow? The badminton players could hit the birdie (or ) back and forth over the net 4 or 5 times before the second tennis player can hit the first tennis player’s shot. Incredible!

As you’ll note from the title of this post, I mentioned the . Why? Because the Theory of Relativity can explain why the  gameplay of tennis looked slow in relation to the gameplay of badminton. There’s a that sums up the theory of relativity quite nicely:

When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.

If You Can’t Explain It Simply, You Don’t Understand It Well Enough

The title of this post comes from one of my favorite historical figures: Albert Einstein. Although, there is some as to whether or not he actually said it. In today’s fast-paced internet climate, it’s important to be mindful of attribution. Remember the one that made the rounds during ? I’m sure you’ve seen attributed to Mandela. And one of the lesser known misquotes, H. Whitman when . I’ve read a lot of Einstein’s work (more than the average person, that is), and I would say that it sounds like something he would say.

I’ve had and as a result, have been exposed to quite a bit of jargon. The psychological literature has a fair bit of jargon. Part of that is necessary because researchers of psychology are — at times — creating new ways of understanding human behavior. Through this new understanding, new language is sometimes necessary.

In the business degree I’m currently working on (nearly halfway done!), I’ve been exposed to quite a few disciplines: economics, finance, marketing, operations, etc. All with their own unique set of jargon. Sometimes, it can be difficult to keep the jargon straight as some words used in one discipline are the same words used in another discipline — but in a different context or with a different meaning.

Jargon can be quite useful when communicating with people who understand the jargon. The “in-group,” as it were. However, jargon has a tendency to severely exclude the “out-group.” Sometimes this is intentional, but I’d rather talk about the unintentional exclusionary nature of jargon. And that’s why I chose the Einstein quote as the title of this post.

“If you can’t explain something simply, then you don’t understand it well enough.” As I said, jargon can be useful — at times — but at other times, it can be really painful. That is, it can be quite demeaning to be in a group of people who are speaking in what may seem like a foreign language, while you sit there trying to make sense of it. Part of the problem is that, sometimes, people using the jargon really don’t understand the material well enough to explain it to you in analogous terms. There’s also just the habit of using certain words when talking about certain concepts and as a result, it can take a concerted effort to not use jargon.

Don’t get me wrong, I like jargon. I enjoy expanding my understanding of language and the different words we have to describe things. (Today, I just learned what eleemosynary means: charitable or philanthropic.) Although, I think it is important to take note of one’s company. If you’re working on a project and not everyone is of the same understanding of the topic, it is of paramount importance that the language used be accessible to all (or most) parties involved.

For anyone that has been on the receiving end of jargon-filled discussion, there is likely greater compassion when noticing that someone else is experiencing a sense of , with regard to jargon. Maybe this all stems from a person’s . This is one of the personality traits from the “.”


It’s ironic that in a post about jargon, I find myself slipping into the habit of using some jargon to explain things. That’s how easy it can be to not notice that you’re doing it. The next time you’re in a conversation with someone or in a group-setting, take notice of the reactions of those people around you, particularly, when you hear a piece of jargon spoken. I bet you could use it as an opportunity to quietly explain the concept in more accessible terms and you just might make someone’s day.

The Scientific Evidence for Precognition: Psi Phenomena, Part 3

In the of this series of posts on the scientific evidence for psi phenomena, I discussed the myriad proof for telepathy. In , I talked about the evidence of clairvoyance (and remote viewing) and also mentioned that there are probably still lots of studies that were done by the government that have yet to see the light of day (and may never see the light of day). In this, part 3 of the series, I will talk about the evidence for .

Precognition is knowledge of an event that has yet to occur that can’t be deduced from ‘normally known data’ to be present. In short, precognition is an ability to know the future. Writing, in short-hand, about the scientific evidence of psi phenomena has become easier because in the last 20-30 years, there have been researchers who have done a lot of hard work. More accurately, they’ve summarized much of the data up to the point of their study and some have even written brilliant meta-analyses either critiquing or in support of the data. For precognition, there was a meta-analysis published in 1989 in the Journal of Parapsychology called: “‘.”

A forced-choice precognition experiment is where the experimenter gives the participant a number of options (for a future event) where the participant has to select from those options. This can be contrasted with those studies that were done called free-response studies. A free-response study is one in which the range of options/targets for the participant are seemingly unlimited. A good meta-analysis of free-response studies (). There is one other kind of methodology that is used in testing for precognition: unconscious perception. In this method, the participant’s precognitive ability is being tested, in a sense, without their knowledge. The precognitive abilities are tested through skin conductance and EEG activity. I’ll talk about that a little later on in the post. Let’s talk about the results from the forced-choice experiments.

In the forced-choice meta-analysis, Honorton and Ferrari were able to gather 2,000,000 individual trials by more than 50,000 participants. Most of these studies involved participants guessing Zener cards after the deck was thoroughly shuffled (and some obscure randomized factor done through computers or by cutting the deck to the temperature of a distant city). . Yes, a septillion. That’s 10 with 24 zeros after it. To purport that the results do not support the evidence for precognition would be preposterous.

One of the critiques of precognition studies (and parapsychology in general) is that the . However, in the study I was just referencing, the one about forced-choice, the researchers took a closer look at the methodologies used by the studies they reviewed. Stunningly, what they found, when the quality of the methodology improved, so too, did the precognition results. Meaning, as the methodology got better, so did the results for precognition.

Earlier, I mentioned that I was going to talk about skin conductance and EEG tests of precognition. Some of the research that is coming out of tests of these nature can be simply — mind-boggling. Rollin McCraty and researchers at the Institute of HeartMath were attempting to find evidence for intuition through electrophysiological means. Meaning, they wanted to see if the body had foreknowledge of an event before the mind did. To do this, they used skin conductance, EEG, and ECG, to measure the response in various areas of the body before an image was shown to the participant. These images would either be emotionally arousing or not. The participant had no conscious foreknowledge of what image was to be shown to them.

The researchers found that participants’ body knew when the participant was to see an image that was emotionally arousing. The reactions of the participants’ body prior to seeing an emotionally arousing image versus the reactions prior to seeing a calm image were significantly different. In fact, they found that this information was received by the heart before it was received by the brain. You can read the papers written by the researchers:

As was stated in the conclusions of these articles: “Overall, we have independently replicated and extended previous research documenting prestimulus responses.” Meaning, these studies are not the only studies of its kind — offering evidence for precognition. There are other studies () that claim the same.

I have a hard time differentiating my favorite from my non-favorites with regard to psi phenomena and the Big 5, but there’s a special place in my heart for precognition. Particularly because of what it means for us as humans and our interpretation of time. There’s a fantastic two-part episode of Star Trek called that does a wonderful job of depicting a possibility when it comes to the directionality of time.

Of course, we think that time moves from the past to the present to the future — but what if this were not true? Albert Einstein is , “. . . for us physicist believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” Another good on this matter: “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” And one more from : “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Whether or not you believe in the possibility of or the inherent direction of the , it is clear that from our (movies and books), there is some part of humanity that is fascinated by the idea.

Your Words and Thoughts Affect Others – Believe It!

A week ago, I did a post on how our and mentioned that I would be doing a post about how our words not only affect our reality, but the reality of others. In pulling together some outside resources for this post, I was quickly overwhelmed. There is an abundance of material that supports the fact that our words have contribute to the lives of those around us.

In 1993, came out with a book called “.” In it, Dossey explains prayer and healing, describes factors that influence the efficacy of prayer, and cites evidence that support the conclusions.

In 1998, Elisabeth Targ, daughter of famous American physicist, author, and ESP Researcher, , was part of a research team that did a study called: “.” The conclusion of the study:

These data support the possibility of a DH effect in AIDS and suggest the value of further research.

In 2000, researchers conducted a systematic review of the available data on the efficacy of all forms of distant healing in the . The article was called: “.” The conclusion of the study:

Given that approximately 57% of trials showed a positive treatment effect, the evidence thus far merits further study.

In 2003, researches from the published an article in called: “.” The conclusion of the article [emphasis added]:

Previous laboratory research in this domain suggests that DHI [Distant Healing Intention] effects warrant serious study, but most scientists and funding agencies are unaware of the evidence or the relevant literature. By following these evolving guidelines, researchers’ designs and their ultimate publications will conform more closely to the quality of standards expected by scientific journals, and such publications will in turn attract the attention of a broader range of scientists. This seems especially important for alternative healing research in general and for distant healing in particular;  both realms enjoy broad public support but have largely eluded serious attention by mainstream science.

There are even books that have been published that claim to teach the reader . One more study I wanted to mention was one done by the on the to work at a distance.

This pilot study shows that healing intent can be directed at distance, and suggests that healing by prayer is measurable.

Each year, more and more evidence is published to support the effect that our words and thoughts have on those around us. The is a good place to keep an eye on, especially their yearly conferences. Researchers come from all over the globe to talk about their findings with their colleagues. The that I mentioned earlier always has fascinating research that is relevant in this arena. These particular studies are focused on the effect that our words and thoughts have on the healing of others (at a distance). However, in the book I mentioned by Dossey, there’s a chapter called: “When Prayer Hurts: An Inquiry into ‘Black Prayer.'”

To close, I’ll share a first-person experience I had that demonstrates exactly what I’m talking about. During some sort of group bonding or orientation process, the facilitator had us all stand in a circle. He told us we were going to do a little experiment. He picked the smallest girl and put her in the middle of the circle and picked me (one of the stronger males of the group) to go outside and wait in the hall. While I was gone, he told the group that he was going to bring me back into the room and have me try and lift the girl in the middle of the circle and that they were to send positive thoughts and energy towards me. After a few minutes, he called me back in and asked me to lift the girl in the middle of the circle — swoosh! I lifted her with ease! It felt like I could have lifted her with one hand and swung her around like a rag doll.

The facilitator then said that was enough and asked me to put her down and go back out into the hall. While I was there, he asked the group to now send me negative thoughts and energy, while I was trying to lift the girl. He called me back into the room and I went to lift her. Nothing. I thought maybe I was just a little tired from lifting her before, so I steeled myself and got set… lift… and nothing. I couldn’t even get her heels off of the ground. The facilitator then went on to explain what had just happened. He explained to us the power of our thoughts and energy on those around us and more importantly, the power of a group of thoughts on one individual (or to extrapolate, on other groups).

Your thoughts and words have an impact on your life and your thoughts and words have an impact on the lives of those around you. Next time you catch yourself thinking something negative, will you replace it with a positive thought?