Cognitive Bias Series: Making a Stranger Into a Friend

By Angela Noel

January 18, 2018

I need help.

Few three-word sentences are so loaded with meaning. On the one hand, I could be asking for something simple, like directions or the time of day. On the other hand, maybe I need something more, like a kidney or a cashier’s check payable to a bank in Nigeria. Either way, I’m guessing you react to that phrase. I know I do.

Many of us have a complicated relationship with needing and granting “help.” This relationship, bound up in the shortcuts our brains use–our cognitive biases–can make all the difference in building meaningful, collaborative connections with others. In this post, as I promised in the introduction to this series, we’ll explore how we build relationships, contribute in our communities, and get work done. Believe it or not, this little brain elf is called: The Ben Franklin Effect. Continue reading “Cognitive Bias Series: Making a Stranger Into a Friend”

Why Sarah Silverman is Pretty Radical and Currently My Hero

By Angela Noel

January

Since my last post on performing radical acts of empathy, my friend Hayley posted a story on Facebook about comedian Sarah Silverman’s actions in response to a fellow who called her the c-word.

This twitter exchange, and how the guy responded to her outreach has been shared many times over. No one necessarily needs me to comment on it or to say any more about it. But I’m going to because when this kind of beauty happens just when I’m thinking about what it means to perform radical acts of empathy, I’m pretty sure that’s a sign from the universe. Continue reading “Why Sarah Silverman is Pretty Radical and Currently My Hero”

Performing Radical Acts of Empathy in 2018

By Angela Noel

January 4, 2018

In 2018 I want to perform radical acts of empathy.

I first heard the phrase, “reading is a radical act of empathy” at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis during an open house for writers.  Months later I heard author Kelly Barnhill, winner of 2017 Newberry Medal for her book The Girl Who Drank the Moon say the same thing on a children’s podcast, Brain’s On. “Reading is an act of radical empathy” she said, ” . . . It’s a reminder that my own point of view is not the only one . . . We have to be able to be another person . . . so we can stop being such selfish jerks.” Continue reading “Performing Radical Acts of Empathy in 2018”

The Seductive Power of Coffee and Clinging

By Angela Noel

December 28, 2017

I have a teensy weensy Starbucks addiction. The app seduced me. Though remembering my stupid password is probably the hardest and most frustrating trial of my life (and I’m including childbirth), I love the simplicity of paying with that barcode and walking away with an expensive little piece of indulgent heaven.

Because earning those reward stars (though my husband informs me they are worth less than a penny) makes me happy, I choose to go more often than I should. They’ve got me. They got me good. But this post isn’t about Starbucks or the wondrous app. It’s about a real jerk. Continue reading “The Seductive Power of Coffee and Clinging”

Reflections on the Little Drummer Boy

By Angela Noel

December 21, 2017

I begin to feel the holiday spirit the first time I hear “The Little Drummer Boy” each year. This song, written by Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941, helps me sight the essence of what I believe is my–maybe everyone’s–purpose here on this planet.

Let me explain. Continue reading “Reflections on the Little Drummer Boy”

All I Want for Christmas: A Wish List

By Angela Noel

November 30, 2017

The holidays approach. This also means my birthday is soon to arrive. In fact, it comes the same day as St. Nick. I’m one of those Christmas babies who get gifts but once a year. And though I lamented that fact as a child, now in my fourth decade of life, I realize this collision of Christmas and birthday can, maybe, help me get what I really want this year. Because, while “double” the presents for a Christmas Birthday wasn’t realistic, I did tend to get a more valuable “combo” gift on occasion. And that’s what I’m counting on now.  Continue reading “All I Want for Christmas: A Wish List”

Awesome Nuggets: Thanksgiving Edition

by Angela Noel

November 23, 2017

It’s Thanksgiving!

Weird thing about gratitude: In the act of calling to mind all the good things we have in our lives, we’re actually receiving a powerful benefit. As Alex Korb Ph.D discusses in The Grateful Brain, studies have shown that calling to mind what we’re grateful for has a direct effect on depression and an indirect effect on anxiety. As we express gratitude our brains increase dopamine production, making us both feel good, and increase our activity levels–a kind of “more of that, please” response. So offering thanks for the gifts we’ve been given is also a gift to ourselves. Continue reading “Awesome Nuggets: Thanksgiving Edition”

Cognitive Bias Series: Taming the Elves in Our Brains

By Angela Noel

November 16, 2017

Certain four-letter words get a lot of attention. I won’t write them here because you already know what I’m talking about. These words have power. Some studies have shown that cussing actually tempers the pain response in the brain. Preliminary theories tell us swear words trigger a “fight” response, helping the body dull sensations of pain.

But I want to talk about a different four-letter word: bias. The word itself won’t lesson pain. Its power comes from describing a whole host of unconscious actions governing our responses to all kinds of sensations and experiences. Saying the word out loud won’t increase or decrease pain, but bias operating in our lives just might. Continue reading “Cognitive Bias Series: Taming the Elves in Our Brains”

Two Mathematics Concepts You Should be Thinking About

By Angela Noel

October 26, 2017

I have two favorite mathematics concepts. That sounds weird, I know. I’m a communications and writing major, an author and a blogger, but I’m also a collector of mental oddities. I find little scraps of interesting tidbits from all kinds of places and add them to the museum of my mind. The scraps can come from anywhere, a technical specification, high school algebra, Nietzsche, an ad on the radio, or a quote in a magazine. I pull them out to illustrate ideas, as either analogies or examples. Most of the time, they’re useful little tools, bringing context to complexity. Sometimes, they confuse people. I hate it when that happens.

Hopefully, this isn’t one of those times. Because these two concepts form so elegant a metaphor for life and human interactions, I can’t resist sharing them with you.

Mathphobes, please keep reading. I’m not about to amaze you with knowledge of multivariable calculus–mainly because I don’t know the first thing about it. These two little gems I learned in my first fifteen years, and you did too.

I’m guessing though, that many of us left these things buried where we hoped never to see them again: in the textbooks of our youth. But, maybe I can change your mind about their usefulness and application in daily life.  Continue reading “Two Mathematics Concepts You Should be Thinking About”

Five Essential Qualities of Everyday Leadership

By Angela Noel

October 16, 2107

Some bosses inspire fear, others devotion. The call to leadership asks for the best in a person, but does not always get it. Bosses make our lives better or worse with the simplest of inconsequential acts. A “good job” can mean the world. A well-placed critique can change a career. But a thoughtless comment will damage any relationship, never more so than when one person has the ability to terminate the other’s livelihood. Worse, a pattern of ego-driven blindness can turn a leader into an employee’s personal Satan. Continue reading “Five Essential Qualities of Everyday Leadership”