ABC in a Nutshell

“Do everything you can to not make a assumptions.  Be mindful of the assumptions you do have, and of your external and internal responses when they are challenged.  As often as possible, whenever possible, start by asking the person with whom you are talking, the question “what does this mean to you?” and be genuinely interested in the answer.  Being genuinely interested is essential.  So is genuinely valuing that person’s experience for its own sake.

Cut & place everywhere.

What helps you learn?

What influences a person’s learning, at his or her deepest levels? What shapes it, nurtures it, instructs it, inhibits or blocks it, or enriches it? I’ve spent my professional career and personal life exploring these questions. A Better Conversation is the next step to pursuing this passion.

I love chocolate cake, sunshine, clothes, the Dave Matthews Band, traveling, reading, watching tennis, and philosophy. All these things – and many more – help me learn and be the person who does her utmost to foster A Better Conversation.

But I have to give a special shout out to dogs. All my life, they’ve helped me the most.

This is Buddy.


Before Buddy there was Woody and Gracie….

I love dogs as much as I love to learn. I love dogs because they help me learn, listen and pay attention.  They help me over the hurdles, get unstuck and provide the light.

What are these things for you? What are the things that help you learn & find light?

Know Thyself – Advanced

This exercise is a complement to Know Thyself.

Choose a value that’s really important to you.  Something you’d go to bat for. Something you feel is the foundation of how you want to live. Now explore where your thoughts & understanding of that value come from.  Why is it so important to you?

Next step.  Notice how you feel if someone tries to tell you it’s not that important.  What comes up for you?  Be sure to notice and name all the things.  How do you want to respond?

Let yourself feel and claim all that.  You’re learning about you.  You’re getting that “knowledge” to which Socrates is referring.

Trust Your Gut

And your intuition. Just maybe not your immediate interpretation of what your gut & intuition are telling you.

Example: A while back I was sharing with a friend, a series of complex ideas I was working with. I’d recently interviewed a physicist who’d helped me get the tiniest clue as to what Einstein was talking about, and I was weaving it together with some of the philosophical and psychological theories with which I was much more familiar.

To say I get enthusiastic when I start connecting & sharing ideas is an understatement.  I get exuberantly exuberant.  I was talking at a rapid fire pace.

At one point in our discussion, I noticed a barely imperceptible – but perceptible to me – shift in my friend’s eyes. I immediately thought “she’s bored.”

We have the kind of relationship where we can be honest with each other, so I asked her if she was, indeed bored.

She was stunned by my question. It shook her up. “On the contrary,” she said. “I’m fascinated! What made you think I was bored?”

I said I just thought I’d seen a sign she was. I couldn’t even name what I’d seen. My gut had picked up something. I “could just tell.”

She assured me she wasn’t.

So I continued regaling her with my scintillating synthesis of theories.

My friend is exceptionally gifted at self-reflection in the moment.

She stopped me a few seconds later. “Wait,” she said. “I think you did pick up something. I did shift my eyes away. I can remember.”

Ah-ha, I thought to myself!

“But I wasn’t bored,” she said. ”I was fascinated. It’s just that I was still back on the first idea, which so interesting, I was still thinking about that…..and you’d already moved on to all the other ideas. I still wanted to think about the first part.”

OMG! What a head flip.

How many times in my life had this happened, and I’d assumed the person was bored? Just assumed! And believing my assumption was true, let myself be led down the rabbit hole of self-recrimination, shifting the conversation to something more light-hearted, chit-chat?!!!

Way too often!

Thankfully, my friend, being a psychologist and all, helped me explore those questions…and wow, what a change it’s made in how I check my immediate, reflexive interpretations of what I perceive. And being a highly perceptive person I’ve had more than my fair share of opportunities to do this questioning….and learn how often I’m right that I HAVE perceived something, but I’m wrong in how I’ve made meaning of that interpretation.

Exercise: Check with yourself. How often do you perceive or intuit something, then immediately think you know what the person is “communicating?” Have you ever checked with someone to learn if you’re right? How often is it an assumption you take as a truth? And what would happen if you learned there may be much more to the story than what you originally tell yourself?

My life changed, for the better. Maybe this can help you too.

{Btw, for a much more complex and sophisticated account of what I’m trying to say here, I highly recommend Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011)}.