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Postcards from Scotland

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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 23/10/2017

After a long period of silence from the Centre we are about to be noisy in the next few months. In fact we have three  Postcards from Scotland titles appearing in the next few weeks. The first is called Knowing and Growing: Insights for Developing ourselves and others and it is by educational psychologist and motivation expert Alan McLean. It is out now and available to buy on our Postcards website as well as Amazon.

In my foreword to the book I explain why I think it important and compelling. However, as  Alan’s work has something of an international following I didn’t make any specific reference to Scotland but I could have. When I was editing the book I repeatedly thought of an article, published in 1970, by the Scottish poet and essayist Alastair Reid about his Borders upbringing:

'Ask who someone is, and you will be given a catalogue in reply, of family connections, of employment, of memorable feats, of external idiosyncrasies, but nothing more - nothing which might come from insight or observation or personal judgment. It is as though all the human characteristics we associate with ‘personality’ and an inner life just did not exist. In short, what perplexes me about the Scots as a vague generality, and about the Borders in overwhelming particularity, is the almost complete absence of the analytical dimension, the capacity to see into oneself and other people.'

As a Scot I really identify with Alastair Reid’s observations. When I used to run personal and team development workshops in Scotland I repeatedly saw how so many Scots lacked not just communication skills but the type of personal insight Reid outlines.

This may have improved a bit in recent years thanks to the the amount of personal development material there is in bookshops and in the media. But the problem is still there. If Alastair Reid were writing this article today he would probably say the Scots lacked empathy and emotional intelligence, as this is partly what he is talking about but these weren’t fashionable words back then.

The social commentator Gerry Hassan has written repeatedly about ‘the empathy deficit’ and ‘the serious problem with emotional intelligence’ apparent in some parts of Scottish life. He is specifically concerned with how in certain key areas of life (notably politics and football), people ‘find it difficult, near impossible, to imagine the world from someone else’s vantage point. This hurts us; it hurts us badly. It hurts hundreds of thousands Scots individually and as a society.’

Alan McLean’s book is important as it helps readers develop much needed insight into their own and others’ emotions but also it provides strategies for improving inter-personal skills.

There is a lot of interest in this book currently and it is likely to be used by a lot of Scottish schools as well as by coaches and leaders. This heartens me. This won’t simply be beneficial for the individuals involved, the public realm would be enriched by more in-depth and emotionally intelligent conversations.


For more information on the book and to read my Foreword click here.





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