Quick question: If someone yawns, how likely are you to yawn too?
Fair warning, be careful how you answer. Say no, and you just might be a psychopath. Just kidding. Well, not really.
According to a study by researchers at Baylor University in Texas, yawning when you see others yawn is a significant sign of empathy. The more you feel connected to people, the more likely you are to yawn when you spot someone else doing it.
The flip side? The less likely you are to yawn, the less empathetic you are. Congratulations. You aced the psychopath test.
Baylor researchers recruited more than 100 college students and gave them a commonly used test of psychopathic traits such as being antisocial, selfish, manipulative and impulsive, and domineering. Then they showed their recruits a series of short videos of people yawning, laughing or showing no facial expression whatsoever and recorded participants’ reactions.
They found that participants who showed more empathy were more likely to yawn after watching someone else yawn. Those who tested high for psychopathic traits — and thus were less empathetic — were less likely to yawn.
Now before you start labeling your employees, bear in mind the lack of yawnpathy may mean something else. Maybe they’re just remarkably well-rested people. It may also mean they haven’t had the chance to get to know others yet, researchers said. Once they form relationships, they’ll be yawning away just like the rest of us.
Therein lies an important visual cue for you, too. Yawning could just be an important sign you can use in developing your learning strategy.
It’s no big secret we live in an era of collaboration. From large organizations to small, bosses are looking to their employees to produce more and better results faster and cheaper.
That kind of heightened productivity and efficiency comes from better collaboration. Employees who work better together, share results and share lessons learned with one another stand a better chance of succeeding than those who don’t. And organizations that encourage it do too.
Collaboration is transforming our models for leadership as well. Generational changes in the workforce and a desire for more open and inclusive leadership are forcing leaders to balance hard-driving, top-down “I lead, you follow” tendencies with more collaborative and open approaches to management.
While not everyone is flattening their corporate hierarchies just yet, chief learning officers are emphasizing softer skills in leadership development like emotional intelligence.
It’s not just collaboration that should focus your attention. As chief learning officer, your ever-expanding duties include much more than creating and delivering content and information effectively and efficiently.
Beyond keeping the trains running, your job is to make connections. It isn’t just to fuel the knowledge that fires your organization’s productivity engine. Your duty is to grease the wheels of collaboration that goes beyond just developing the hard skills or product knowledge your employees need to do their daily work.
Your duty is to help people make connections not just to knowledge and to each other, but also to knit together the loose seams that pop loose across your organization. Increased collaboration and more inclusive leadership are core to that mandate.
So the next time your team meeting spurs an ill-timed yawn, don’t see it as a sign of disrespect. Next time someone stretches and lets out a big yawn halfway through your onboarding, don’t treat it as a sign of boredom. Well, maybe treat it like that a little bit. But also treat it as an opportunity.
Take a look around. If someone else yawns too, then maybe you’re on the right track. It might mean it’s time to take a break. But it might also be a sign that your people are getting better connected. And that’s good news for everyone.
Editor in Chief