Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Don't Forget to Feed the Elephant

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Don't Forget to Feed the Elephant

Article excerpt

Johnathan Haidt, social psychologist and professor of ethical leadership, claims I have an elephant. More precisely, that my inner self is like an elephant with a rider on top who tries to nudge and guide it in a productive direction. When the elephant side of me is startled, has an overwhelming craving, or is caught up in a wild giggle, there isn't much the rider can do to dissuade the elephant; the elephant is master. The rider has more success by knowing how to steer clear of distractions, dangers, and chocolate mint ice-cream. I may be tempted to think that the real me is the elephant rider who is working to rationally and logically keep my inner creature under control, but the beast of emotion, intuition, and visceral reaction is also an important, informative part of me. It is also a part of you.

When we focus on topics related to social and emotional competence, we go beyond factual knowledge. We address other powerful sources and processes that seem to have minds of their own, that may not be dissuaded by our alleged logic alone-fortunately. Although we can become overwhelmed by emotion and seemingly irrational responses to our environment, our emotions and intuitions also can help keep us safe and evoke helpfulness toward others. These diverse sources of information are important.

When in harmony, the rider and elephant are a powerful combination. As we gain factual knowledge about social relationships, the riders becomes better equipped to assist the elephant. …

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