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Mar 11, 2018

Candor, Empathy, and Connected Minds: ASLA Panel

In October 2017, I was lucky enough to have the chance to give a talk at the annual ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) annual meeting in Los Angeles, CA. In addition to viewing palms against sunny skies, I was so pleased to see talented designers having really critical discussions. My talk was about candor in communication – basically summarizing that it’s the only way I know how to be in the professional world. I also happen to believe that candor gives us the most bonding and stress-free way to move through life as a human.

Humans have been around for 2.5 million years; how is that we still don’t have a set evolutionary mechanism that helps us be better communicators? Sure, there is technology, but has technology actually allowed us to have relational engagement with one another at an emotional level? When humans communicate in the right way, that is when biological magic happens – our neurons mirror one another, we produce oxyocin and other happiness-making hormones, our pupils dilate to couple one another.┬áIn exploring the topic of this talk, these are all questions that I asked, hoping for some echo in the dark about our evolutionary future – as artist/designers, but also as human beings. What I found was the voice of Thalia Wheatley and her Social Systems Lab at Darmouth. I took each of her studies to be fascinating affirmations about the potential of human connection in communication. She even gets into some interesting exploration of spatial computations and how they allow us to map out the social world. For those searching, there is also immense clarity of information (++ beautiful dots) in Ekman’s Atlas of Emotions, which I used as an exhibit to talk about the range of human emotion and its affect in every single human interaction.

While I’m no scientist, and certainly not a perfect communicator, I do hope that I was able to share some wisdom on this topic. The talk is now available through ASLA’s learning dashboard, and even provides CEUs for landscape architects and architects. You can find me at “Communicate and Collaborate: Putting Words to Action for Better.

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