TOM of ToM

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

19 April 2018

Theory of Mind (ToM) is an ability that humans develop in their early lives that allows them to understand others and to fully function in our social society. Several cognitive skills are required to be able to be so fully functional. And while different societies and cultures may have different sequences of steps to a fully functioning theory of mind, the entire human race learns the same set of social skills.

One step along the way of developing your theory of mind is understanding false belief. There are times when we will believe things that are not true, and we naturally act according to those beliefs. I imagine this happens every day on Wall Street. Mr. Broker researches a stock and believes it will make his customers a significant profit. Two days later he finds out that it tanked, and he gets reamed out by every client who believed his false belief.

Another important step in our cognitive development of ToM is known as hidden feelings. We begin to realize that people can feel one way on the inside but express different emotions on the outside. For instance, prospects may yes you to death and seem excited about working with you, and later you find out they only wanted to get you off the phone quickly.

Developing our ToM happens very early on in our childhoods; however, as we continue to age, I believe we should be cognizant of these functional skills on a regular basis. Getting to our TOM of ToM could make all the difference when we are in those next business meetings or trying to pull in those new clients. Remember, these folks may have different information and beliefs going into many of these encounters. And though you may think they are being cagey or sneaky, it is simply human nature.

Not too many games require you to put all your cards on the table to start. What would be the challenge?