The best lawyers are empathetic lawyers. How to learn the skill? Read fiction, according to an Oct. 4 article in The New York Times, "For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Checkov." According to the article, recent studies show that, in contrast to popular fiction, “literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity."
Not convinced? One test had a group read excerpts from award-winning literary fiction and another read excerpts from Smithsonian Magazine. Each group then viewed photographs of eyes and was asked to pick the adjective best describing the emotion that each photo showed. Result: The first group scored well, the second did not.
Researchers also did the tests with one group reading popular fiction, while the other read literary fiction. Again, the second group did better. Why? Popular fiction is driven by plot, with interchangeable characters. Literary fiction, by contrast, engages the reader with a character, leading to more empathy and understanding of other lives.
Looking for a suggestion for something to read to boost your empathy quotient? Check out Paul Auster's "Sunset Park," a beautiful examination of what it means to be human. Or, of course, there’s always Shakespeare, especially "Othello" and "The Merchant of Venice."
To reading! To the empathetic lawyer!