In this course, learn how to give effective constructive criticism, how improv theater can help you have better conversations, how to maximize the potential of selfish employees, what evolutionary biology reveals about finding common ground, and more. Hear tips and tricks from authors, comedians, television producers, biologists, and even former CIA operatives that will perfect your communication skills.
What You'll Learn
How to practice non-judgment in conversation
To master constructive criticism
To build confidence
Daniel Dennett's image was originally posted by Fronteiras do Pensamento and the image has been changed. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Salman Rushdie's image was originally posted by David Shankbone and the image has been changed. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
- Author, "Midnight's Children", Winner of the Booker Prize
- Comedian, Actor, Podcaster, and Author, “Comedy Sex God”
- Philosopher, Writer and Cognitive Scientist
- Evolutionary Biologist
1. Lead Vibrant One-on-Ones: A Podcaster's Techniques for Opening Up Dialogue with Reluctant People
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in trying to achieve our goals more efficiently that we lose sight of the fact that collaboration is our species’ superpower. Most of the greatest things we’ve been able to achieve have been the result of the meeting of minds. So as important as it is to organize your life, it’s at least as important to learn how to connect with other people, opening up to them in the moment and enabling them to do the same. After almost 300 episodes (as of this writing) of hosting his podcast You Made it Weird, Pete Holmes has learned a few precious things about how to have a great, open, present conversation.GreenlightingDeclare the conversation a “safe space”. The idea is for both people to practice non-judgment.Build trust. Assure the other person that the conversation will stay between the two of you. (And be sure to honor your intention.)InterruptingUse interruption strategically: to build creative flow between the two of you, to foster honesty in the other...
2. Criticize Constructively: Follow Rapoport's Rules
We all know that criticism ought to be “constructive”. But in practice we often just end up paying lip service to the idea of constructive criticism—beginning with something like: “I really love what you’re doing on this project, but …” and then launching into everything that’s wrong with it. Happily, the Russian-born mathematician and biologist Anatol Rapoport has come to our rescue here with a few concrete rules for intelligent dissent. They will ensure that you, the target of your criticism, and anyone else who hears your critique will benefit, and nobody’s feathers will get too badly ruffled.Explain the position you reject as clearly, vividly, and justly as possible for your target to say, “Thank you, I wish I could have formulated my ideas that way.”Mention anything you have learned from your target.Make a list of points on which you agree, especially if you’re discussing issues for which there are no tacit or general agreements.Only then do you make some criticism ...
3. Forge Fearlessness Using Improv’s “Yes, and” Tool
We’re often at a disadvantage when it comes to problem-solving because we think too fast, and our analytic brains shut off new ideas before they’ve had a chance to emerge. Improvisation, on the other hand, creates “a set of experiences that allow you to fine-tune and hone all of the necessary skills needed to think on your feet and simply react and adapt.” So says Bob Kulhan, the improv coach who studied under Tina Fey at Chicago’s ImprovOlympic theater.Say “Yes”Accept everything that is brought to you at face value. Make no exceptions.“Yes” yields a positive, open environment.Say “and…”Build directly upon the idea you’ve just accepted.This does not have to be complementary. Consider taking the idea apart or approaching it from a new angle.“Yes, and” endows people with fearlessness. They can make no mistakes.Edit lateTake your critical hat off.Create a space for editing after the “Yes, and” environment is well established.“Yes, and” allows for divergent thinking. ...
4. Ask the Right Questions and Measure the Right Things
Big data on its own is meaningless. Human intuition on its own is deeply flawed and full of blind spots. But taken together, they can help us gain deep insights into complex systems. We can better navigate the political landscape, design a better car, figure out which of ten possible strategies is most likely to succeed. It’s not a question of “either/or”, says Michael Slaby, who wrestled with some of the most complex and fast-changing data sets imaginable as Chief Innovation Officer for Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign. It’s a question of applying intuition and big data in the ways they work best.Balance intuition and dataIntuition helps us ask a question or form a hypothesis about what we want to measure. Intuition is bad for extrapolating our micro-scale experience to larger scales.Data gives us the ability to aggregate, allowing us to see larger systems more effectively than we do in our own heads.Strive to quantifyAvoid using intuition as a crutch. When something ...
5. Find Common Ground: What Evolutionary Biology Tells Us about Human Conflict
By nature, humans are generous, kind, compassionate, aggressive, mean-spirited, cowardly, and cruel. And for the most part, we share the view that the first three qualities in this list are virtues, while the remainder are vices. But if we recognize vice as vice, why is it so difficult to eradicate? Much of the answer can be summed up in one word: tribalism. As evolutionary psychologists like Heather Heying understand, group loyalty, or tribalism, has been advantageous to our species from the very beginning. We tend to identify with groups and cooperate within them. In the post-industrial world, this has expanded beyond family and bloodline to include political loyalties, sports fandom, and more—but the rules of the game are the same: Within our tribes, we tend to practice our higher virtues. But when it comes to other tribes, all bets are off. This is why it’s possible come to the conclusion that anyone who voted for Candidate X must be a terrible person. Tribalism empowers us to...
6. Cope with Challenging Personalities: How to Harness the Talents of the "Me" Generation
Millennials are generally thought to be the most narcissistic generation in history, and this presents great challenge and opportunity for the managers who oversee them in the workplace.As with most personality disorders, narcissism exists on a scale. In this lesson, TIME Senior Writer Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Narcissist Next Door, explains that there’s a big difference in intensity between “lowercase n” narcissism and ‘capital N” Narcissism. The latter is clinically described as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Only about 3% of the population has NPD, which is consistent with other similar disorders. Existing near the “capital N” side of the continuum means a lot of self-destructive and confrontational behavior. But if you slide down toward the other end of the scale, Kluger explains that there are times when “lower case n” narcissism can be a good thing. It serves as a way to express thoughts and creativity.By learning to mute the traits of the occasional cap...
7. Shape Serendipity: Methods for Maximizing Productive Interactions In-person and Online
Jack D. Hidary built his career as an entrepreneur in the finance and technology sectors and is currently focused on clean energy technology and policy.From conference crashing to crowdsourcing, Hidary is a serendipity junkie and master of maximizing the returns on relationships made in-person and online. In this lesson, he explores the ways in which serendipity can be sought out and harnessed on a day-to-day basis.The Basic PrincipleIncrease your value. Think of yourself as a multi-faceted gemstone.In-person Encounters: The Art of Conference CrashingFind nearby conferences on topics outside your professional field and personal interests.Ask for permission to audit.Get to know the language of your shamans.Leverage your perspective as an outsider.Don’t follow directions; create a networking schedule instead.Devote time to workshops.In-person Encounters: Visioneering ExercisesDiversify working groups across departments and areas of expertise.Allot specific time and space to focused b...
8. Cultivate a Community of Practice
First he learned English, then three years later Hector Ruiz graduated valedictorian from his Texas high school. Ruiz went on to become a leader in the information technology and consumer electronics sectors as an engineer, corporate strategist and chief executive.For all his hard work and success, Ruiz understands that he couldn’t have done it alone. He learned from a young age that there is no shame in relying on others, and he carried this skill over into his business life. In this lesson, Ruiz explores how establishing a community of learning and practice can help you and your business grow.In Life – Learn to rely on othersAsk for help when you need it; return the favor when others are in need of your skills and expertise.In Business – Establish mutually beneficial relationshipsNo business can succeed in isolation; share expertise, cross-pollinate ideas and exchange services for a better bottom line.Partner with other companies when competing with a bigger player in your spac...
9. Create Engagement: Approach Conversations with Curiosity
What’s the best way to spark another person’s interest––to get them connected, engaged, and invested in an idea or a new venture? For film producer Brian Grazer, whose book A Curious Mind chronicles his adventures over decades of having weekly “curiosity conversations” with accomplished strangers, the secret is curiosity. Approaching them with genuine curiosity about who they are and how they think, and igniting their curiosity with an “olive branch” in the form of one or more great questions.Treat conversations with new people as an act of generosity. Offer up some information. Bring an olive branch to the conversation by commenting on something of interest to the other person.Find a way to intersect with the speaker’s unique psyche. What is this person going through emotionally?This is an opportunity to understand how the speaker’s emotions inform what she hopes to do or achieve professionally. What is this person’s purpose in life? What does she value?
10. Win with Red Teaming: A Case Study in Strategic Empathy from Inside the CIA
In conflict and competitive scenarios, even in the ordinary course of business, it’s easy to fall into a siege mentality, viewing the other side in black-and-white. They’re the enemy. Their values are fundamentally opposed to those that you and your organization represent.The trouble with this is that regardless of whether the situation is ultimately win-lose or win-win, dehumanizing your adversary is a losing strategy. In fact, as difficult and counterintuitive as it may seem, you’re much better off seeing things from their point of view.Red teaming is the practice of exercising compassion and empathy for your adversary, with the aim of pragmatic, strategic gain.Offer unorthodox analysisWhen entrenched in conflict, it’s difficult to set aside the conventional wisdom of the people in your group.Assemble a Red Team to assume the role of your adversary. What would you be feeling in this context? What would your next move be?It’s difficult to make strategic predictions when you do...