(NEWS CENTER Maine) -- Is it possible to play, joke around, and flirt in the #MeToo era? Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Jack Burke tackles this sensitive subject by suggesting that we strengthen our emotional intelligence and engage in what he calls “real” diversity training.

Jack begins with three definitions.

  • PLAY To be engaged in an activity for enjoyment, or to participate in a game.
  • HUMOR The quality of being amusing or comic.
  • FLIRT To behave as though attracted to or trying to attract someone, but for amusement, rather than with serious intention.

Jack goes on to say, “The key to enjoying friends, colleagues, and dating interests is real diversity training. If you have a problem with race, color, religion, or sexual orientation, you have some serious work to do. What I’m talking about here, is how our brains are different. We laugh at different jokes. One's idea of fun is another's boring. Flirting can be fun and harmless only if both people feel that way.”

Knowing how to act, and how to read others’ reactions, requires a certain level of emotional intelligence -- the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's own emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

“To be good at all of this,” Jack says, “we have to have had feedback”:

  • "That's not funny."
  • "You're the only one having fun."
  • "Your friend doesn't like to play rough."

Can we teach and learn emotional intelligence? Jack says yes!


"Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman, Bantam Books, 1995.

“Schools are teaching kids empathy and self-control. It helps at home, too” by Pam Moore, The Washington Post, Feb. 21, 2018.