After reading Atomic Habits by James Clear several years ago on a recommendation from Andy Kaufman, I am a big proponent of incremental change. It works for getting things done and it works for coming back from burnout. Incremental change works. I use that approach in coaching, in my business and beyond!
So in every book I read, I look for golden nuggets. Small actionable activities that can help me and others learn, grow, make progress, feel better, create contentment, whatever it might be. Reminded by Robert Biswas-Diener and Christian van Nieuwerburgh that old books don't mean useless books, I have been dipping back into some books that are more than two years old!
This holiday my friend and colleague Lisle Baker sent me two such interesting reads. The first is the Good Lawyer by Douglas Linder and Nancy Levit and in that book on page 22 I found my first nugget.
Referencing an article in the The New York Times by Pam Belluck which explored the popular idea that reading literary fiction could make us more emotionally sensitive (intelligent). Sadly, since the publication of the book and the original research, more than just the theory has been discredited. However, I am curious to know what others think.
When you read literary fiction - not just popular formulaic fiction, but the type of fiction that leaves much to the imagination and describes complex characters - does it help you to understand and maybe even read people better?
I like this theory because it aligns with the work that Geoff Crane has been doing around emotional, social and motivational intelligence. To achieve goals we need to engage our imagination. To consider how others might be feeling, we need to engage our imagination and so on...
Here is a way to test out the theory for yourself.
Step 1: Take an assessment based on reading facial expressions. This one from the The Greater Good Science Center caught my attention.
Wait a couple of days - otherwise you will likely remember the answers to the quiz!
Step 2: read a short piece of literary fiction. Not sure where to find such a thing - well here is a link to some examples. All quick but thought provoking reads by recognized scribes. I wish there were more examples of literary works by non-white people! I will keep looking.
Step 3: Take the assessment based on facial expressions again and compare your scores.
This is not the most scientific experiment - and I am not claiming that it is a basis for measuring the applicability of the theory, but I found it an interesting exercise nonetheless.
Let me know what you discover in the comments.