How to Connect Quickly & Deeply With Anyone | Charles Duhigg

Charles DuhiggHave you ever marveled at someone who can walk into any room and instantly connect with the people there? What special gift do they have that makes communication seem effortless for them but so difficult for others?

My guest today, Charles Duhigg, reveals that these super-communicators don’t possess any magical abilities. In fact, unlocking the secret language of connection is a learnable skill, as Duhigg lays out in his new book Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection.

Charles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better. His books have been translated into over 40 languages.

Duhigg explains that beneath every conversation, there are actually three different types happening at once – the practical, the emotional, and the social. The key is identifying which type of conversation is taking place and then matching that same wavelength. When we get stuck at cross-purposes, not truly hearing each other, it’s because we’ve lost sync.

By learning simple but powerful techniques to tune into the right frequency, we can transform even difficult conversations. Duhigg shares how this ability to connect authentically, whether one-on-one or with thousands, is a skill anyone can cultivate.

Communication impacts every aspect of our lives. Are you ready to learn the hidden language that builds trust, dissolves conflict, and helps you connect deeply with others? Tune in to unlock the secrets of the supercommunicators.

You can find Charles at: Website | Instagram

If you LOVED this episode:

  • You’ll also love the conversations we had on our partner podcast, SPARKED with Ben Guttmann about how to communicate simply and clearly.

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photo credit: Ilulia Matei

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Episode Transcript:

Charles Duhigg: [00:00:00] The ability to communicate with each other. The ability to trust each other and build trust. All of us know how to do this. It’s literally an instinct that we’re born with because of evolution. You know this. You know this on an intuitive level. And the more you listen to your intuition, the more you let go and trust yourself in a conversation, the better that conversation is going to go and the more you’re going to connect.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:00:26] So have you ever just marveled at someone who can seemingly walk into any room and instantly connect with every person there? What special gift do they have that makes communication seem effortless for them, but so difficult for others? Maybe including you? I know that’s been me struggling at times. My guest today, Charles Duhigg, reveals that these super communicators, as he describes them, they don’t possess any magical abilities. In fact, unlocking the secret language of connection is a learnable skill. As Charles lays out in his new book, Super Communicators How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection. Charles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of New York Times bestsellers The Power of Habit and smarter, faster, better. His books have been translated into over 40 languages, and he explains that beneath every conversation, there are actually three different types happening at once the practical, the emotional, and the social. And the key is identifying which type of conversation is taking place and then matching that same wavelength. When we get stuck at cross purposes, not truly hearing each other, it’s because we’ve lost sync. And by learning simple but powerful techniques to tune into the right frequency, we can transform even difficult conversations. And Charles really shares how this ability to connect authentically, whether 1 to 1 or with thousands, is a skill that anyone can cultivate. You can become a super communicator, and that really matters because communication impacts literally every aspect of our lives. So if you’re ready to learn the hidden language that builds trust, dissolves conflict, and helps you connect deeply with others, that’s where we’re headed in today’s conversation. So excited to share it with you. I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project.

 

[00:02:17] So Charles, this is really fun for me, in no small part because I’m a massive geek about the topic that you’ve just completely been going into with super communicators, but also because you and I have known each other for over a decade now, and we started Good Life Project. in 2012 as, as a film production, like we were on on location video. The very first conversation we ever actually recorded was me and you sitting in a little conference room in the New York Times building in New York City. And now, 11 years later, this will be 12 years when this airs to our community. We’re back in conversation. Yeah. And I never told you that back then, probably because I was terrified. I didn’t want to look like such a newbie, that this was actually the first time we’d ever been doing this thing, and you were so gracious, but you.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:03:04] Seemed like a pro. You guys handled it really, really well. I had no idea. I had no idea. But it is funny. Like ever so often that’ll come up online, like like the clips will pop up and it’s like, oh my God, I look so much younger in that. In that video. I remember those days.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:03:21] You and me both. I actually had like a smattering of hair back then, which has long since left me.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:03:26] So yeah, it happens.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:03:28] It does, it does. So really excited to dive into this, this topic because it touches on so many different domains of life right now. You can look at communication and how, you know, there seem to be people who move through life and really struggle to just connect with anyone else. And then there are these other people who seem to move through life and somehow be anointed. Yeah, like they can just walk into any room. They can sit down across the table from any person and this magical thing unfolds. I feel like there is so much mythology around this, and also misinformation and assumptions that aren’t true. So I love that you sort of like, took on this topic and said, let’s actually deconstruct this a bit and look into it. You know, like these people just have something about them. They are able to connect with others in a way that is, you know, almost godlike. It’s not necessarily something that you’re just born with or not.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:04:24] No, not at all. And that’s a really good way of putting it right, is that we we all know those people who are on both sides of the spectrum, and we’ve been ourselves on both sides of the spectrum. Right. There’s times when you like, walk into a meeting and you just know exactly what to say or what to say to a friend to make them feel better. And other times that you’re hanging out with someone and you really want to connect with them and it’s you just can’t. And what’s interesting is there is this myth that this is an inborn characteristic, that good communicators are born knowing how to communicate, and the bad communicators are socially awkward. And there’s and that’s not right at all like what we’ve learned, particularly in the last decade, because we’re kind of living through this golden age of understanding communication, because of all these advances in science, is the people who are good at communication. It is a skill that anyone can learn. And the reason they’re good at communication is because they’ve simply learned how communication works, like they’ve sat down, and either through intuition or through coaching or through experimentation, they figured out that there are these rules, right, that that help us connect with other people, and that if you observe the rules, your conversations go really well. And if you don’t know the rules, you get fouled up even though you don’t intend to.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:05:36] Yeah, I mean, that lands so strongly with me. And this is also, you know, speaking as somebody who has made a living creating or co-creating conversations with people for over a decade now. But when I look at my younger life, I was not somebody who ever would sit down and feel comfortable with a complete stranger. Yeah. And then just like, you know, in minutes, going deep and having like, these incredible conversations about topics that, you know, really care about, I was the opposite end of the spectrum in in different situations and circumstances. I still am. Totally. So what’s interesting to me is I think it’s also it’s context-sensitive.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:06:15] Yeah. No, it absolutely is. And my guess is if you look at people who are great communicators, oftentimes there was something in their childhood or their youth that made it hard for them to connect to other people. And so they they basically had to learn how to do it. They had to, to work on recognizing the skills. And for me, this project kind of started with this situation that I think I’m assuming is probably familiar to you and everyone is listening, which is there would be these times that I would come home from work and I would be in a bad mood, and I would like start complaining to my wife like, oh, like, you know, my boss is a jerk and my coworkers don’t understand me, and nobody’s like giving me enough credit and yadda yadda yadda. And, and my wife would say something very, very rational and reasonable and practical. She would say like, look, why don’t you take your boss out to lunch and you guys can, like, get to know each other a little bit better. And she was very well-intentioned in doing so. Right. But instead of hearing what she was saying, my reaction was to like, get even angrier and to be like, why aren’t you supporting me? You know, why are you taking their side? And we’re married and we love each other, and we’re usually pretty good communicators.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:07:19] And I couldn’t figure out why this would happen again and again. And it wasn’t just with her. Obviously, this happens all the time, right? I started calling up neurologists and others and saying like, what do we know about communication? And what they said made a lot of sense as soon as I heard it. What they said is like, look, most of us, when we think about a discussion, we think it’s like one thing, right? It’s about one topic. And that’s not right at all. Actually, every conversation is usually three different kinds of conversations, and they’re happening in sequence and they’re mixed together. And so there’s usually like a practical conversation, right? A conversation about like how do we solve this problem? Which is what my wife was saying. And then there’s an emotional conversation, a conversation where the goal is not to solve a problem. It’s just learn how each other feels to express our emotions. That’s the conversation I was having. I was upset. And then there’s also a social conversation, which is a conversation about, you know, how we relate to other people and how other people see us.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:08:14] And all three of these conversations are equally legitimate conversations. But the thing that happens, what’s known in psychology is the matching principle is that if two people are having different kinds of conversations at the same time, then they miscommunicate they fail to hear each other. It’s like two ships passing in the night. So when I would come in and I was having an emotional conversation and my wife would respond with a practical conversation in all these, this good advice, the reason why I couldn’t hear what she was saying was because we were literally speaking different kinds of languages. We were using different parts of our brains. And so one of the things that we know is that in order to really connect with each other, we have to be able to recognize a what kind of conversation is happening right now. And B, we have to learn how to invite each other to have the same kind of conversation at the same time. Because if I say something emotional and my wife responds with an emotional conversation and then she says something practical, then I’m ready to come back and get into a practical mindset. But if we’re having these two different conversations at the same time, that’s when everyone walks away frustrated.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:09:20] And that makes so much sense. And yet it’s one of those things I think nobody pays attention to, let alone realizes, oh, there are three different contexts we could be having here. Totally. And if we don’t meet, there’s just nothing good is going to come out of this. You tee up a really interesting story about, uh, a guy in the CIA, Jim Lawler, um, and how this notion came in when recruiting intelligence ops.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:09:43] Yes, absolutely, absolutely. And Jim Lawler is like so Jim Lawlor ended up being one of the most successful CIA recruiters in history, right? He like he turned he got dozens and dozens of people to basically become CIA assets overseas. And he was terrible at it when he started, like he was in his 30s. He’s sent to Europe and he’s just he literally, like, is incompetent at trying to have conversations with people. And what he discovered was that, like, well, he actually told me this story. That’s kind of a great story, which is that before he’d joined the CIA, he had been working for his dad in sales, and he was like a terrible salesman. His dad had this. They sold metal joists and stuff in West Texas. He was just a terrible salesman. And so he would he would go to places and he’d try and make his pitch and they’d, you know, businesses would just brush him off. And then he went to this, see, this one woman who’s a her son was in the office with her, and she was on the phone when Lawler got there and he was waiting for her to finish. And then, you know, she finishes her phone call and he kind of makes his pitch and she’s like, look, I’m not interested in buying any of your joists. But then she just starts talking about her life and she starts talking about like, how hard it is to be a mom and a businesswoman.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:10:49] And she always feels like she’s like letting someone down. And Lawlor who’s like, you know, at this point, like 26, he has no idea what to say, right? He’s like the deer like like deer in the headlights. And he’s like, uh, okay. Because he doesn’t have kids. He doesn’t know what to do with some, you know, adult suddenly unloading about like, their life. So he just does the same thing. He, like, starts talking about how, like, he’s not getting along with his brother because his brother’s a better salesman than he is. And it’s caused all this tension. And Lawlor feels really bad about himself, and they just connect because they’re having the same kind of conversation, right? Inadvertently, he had matched the kind of conversation that she is having. He had matched her emotionally, she had shown vulnerability, and he had reciprocated that vulnerability, which is an important part of how conversation works. And and then he like says like, do you want to buy any steel? And she’s like, no, I still don’t want any steel. But two weeks later, she calls and she places one of the biggest orders in the company’s history. And Lawler is like, I don’t think we can give you the pricing that you’re looking for. And she was like, that’s okay. I feel like we have a connection. Like, I feel like you and me, we’re going to work together for a long time and this is what we know.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:11:50] And that’s how exactly the strategy he used with overseas assets is that he learned that if he speaks the language they are using, if they’re talking about how they’re concerned and they feel uncertain of themselves, and they feel worried that rather than being saying, like, it’s all going to be okay, I promise I can take care of this, I’m going to keep you safe. If he turned to them and he’d say, look, I feel the same way that all the time, like I’m worried I’m going to get. Deported from this country. I’m worried someone’s going to. I’m worried I’m going to get fired. I’m worried that my wife is going to leave me. If he’s as vulnerable with them as they are with him, then they feel like they have a connection. They feel like they can trust each other, or if they come in practical and they say, look, the reason I don’t want to give you secrets is because you know, you’re not paying me enough and I’m worried I’m going to get caught. And he gets practical and he says, look, let me take you through all the steps we’re going to take to make sure that you don’t get caught. If he matches them and invites them to match him, that’s when we connect.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:12:43] So let’s say somebody wants to really better understand how to identify which of the three types of conversations are happening at any given moment. What would be tells for somebody to basically be able to pick up fairly quickly? Oh, this is what’s happening here. And let me step into that same mode and meet them there.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:13:01] It’s actually pretty easy once you start looking for it. If you just listen to what someone’s saying and ask yourself, are they talking to me about emotional things? Or are they talking to me about how they feel? Or are they talking to me about practical problems? Or are they talking to me about a social issue like how other people see them, or how they see themselves because of their background and their identity? You all we really have to do is draw our attention to it, and we tend to notice pretty quickly. And, and, and I’ll give you an example in our conversation. The other thing I’ll mention though, is that oftentimes you can just ask.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:13:34] So you don’t have to hide it.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:13:35] You don’t have To hide it. You don’t have to look for a tell. You can say, like when I come home and I’m upset. My wife now says, like, do you want me just to listen to you and understand how you’re feeling? Or do you want to try and solve this? And sometimes that’s enough for me to be like, actually, I need you to listen. Until now. And now that you’ve asked that question, I’m ready to start solving it. One way that I’m another thing that people use sometimes is, do you want to be heard, hugged, or helped? They actually use this a lot in schools. Like when a kid is upset, the teacher says to them, do you want to be heard, hugged, or helped? Right and heard means you’re having an emotional conversation, like you just need me to hear what you’re saying. Hugged is kind of a social thing, right? Like you need to know that I, another person, care about you and that I’m comforting you and helped is a practical conversation. Like you’re asking me to help you solve this problem. A good example is like I think in our conversation. Let me ask you this. You do a ton of conversations like this when you want to help nudge a conversation into an emotional place, what do you do in order to signal that to the other person? To invite them to join you in an emotional conversation?

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:14:46] Yeah. I mean, it’s such an interesting question. And to me, there’s something that happens before I would do anything to invite someone into it, which is creating safety. To me, one of the things that I always try and do is create a container of psychological safety in any number of different ways. It’s going to be different for different people. But, you know, then if I want to invite them into something which is deeper and more emotional, I might share something that’s emotional myself. To telegraph that this is a safe space to share on this level, in this context. So there’s one of the models that I live by when, when certainly deepening into conversations is often, um, shorthand the fact to get to the feeling. Um, so it’s not unusual for folks to kind of want to tell their story in a very factual way, like this happened and this happened then this happened, then this happened which which is like there’s value in that. Right? But what I’m always more interested in, I think a lot of what you’re often interested in is like, but what’s underneath that. Yeah. So oftentimes the simple question tell me more. It gives some of the opportunity to move beyond the fact and, and opens the door to feeling.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:15:51] What I hear you saying. And I think this is this is what the literature says. And I think it’s really, really wise is that there’s something important about vulnerability, right? That if you say something emotional, you’re exposing a little bit of vulnerability. It invites the other person to reciprocate that vulnerability. And in doing so, you create this trust, this psychological safety, or simply saying to someone like, tell me more about that, is showing them I’m interested in what’s going on. And in the literature there’s this thing called known as deep questions. And deep questions are actually really, really interesting. There’s a guy named Nick Epley who’s a psychologist. And one of the things I love about Nick is he has studied conversation and questions most of his career, and he comes to it pretty honestly. When he was in high school, he was pulled over twice for for driving while intoxicated. And he was like the, you know, the quarterback of the football team and Mr. Popular on campus. And the second time he’s pulled over, his parents are super freaked out and they’re like, look, man, there’s a problem here. And he didn’t hear them at all. They were like, tell us what’s going on? Like, why are you feeling this way? Like, why do you feel like you need to drink and drive? Why are you being a jackass? And he’s like, you guys don’t understand me, I hate you, etc..

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:17:01] And so they’re like, look, you got to go talk to a therapist. So they sent him to this therapist and the therapist instead of lecturing him or interrogating him or anything like that, just says, look, I just want you to tell me, why do you think this happened? What were you feeling right before you had that drink and got into that car? Not like I’m going to judge you for it. Just literally, like, I’m just curious what you were feeling. And then Nick would answer that question and she would ask another question, a follow-up, and again and again. And eventually Nick started listening to himself and he realized what he was saying was, I drink because I feel uncomfortable. And then once I then I have to get home and I don’t have another option. And at that point Nick says, like, actually, like now I understand why I’m doing this thing. Not because the therapist told him what he was doing, not even because she led him down like a garden path towards it.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:17:53] She just asked questions that asked him how he felt. And this is what we know about deep questions is that deep questions invite us to expose vulnerability because they ask about something about our beliefs or our values or our experiences. And what’s crazy is they don’t have to seem that deep, right? Like if you meet someone and you ask them instead of what do you do for a living? You say to them, what do you love about your job? That’s a deep question. You’re inviting them to tell you something about how they see the world and what they enjoy about life, and how they see meaning in their own work. And then when they answer that with a little bit of vulnerability, when they say, like, what I love about it is it lets me help people’s lives. And, you know, not all my coworkers are the best. If you reciprocate that vulnerability and you say, I totally understand what you’re saying, and I feel the same way, because here’s what I love about my work. You can’t help but trust each other, right? It’s almost impossible not to build that psychological safety, because we’ve both exposed a little bit of who we are to the other person.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:18:52] Yeah, I mean, that makes so much sense to me as you’re sharing that, I’m realizing that that oftentimes I’ll also just ask people, you know, like a simple question like, well, how did that make you feel?

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:19:03] Yeah, it’s a great question.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:19:04] And nobody asks questions in conversation every day. People are like, somebody just shares this thing. And then we rarely ask that question. And I wonder sometimes if we don’t ask questions like that of friends or family members or coworkers, because we’re afraid of what the answer is going to be, because if it’s not awesome or great or but actually, like, I’m really struggling, we feel like a burden upon us. Yeah. To then respond to it in a way that was meaningful and thoughtful and we don’t know how to do that. So we just decide not to go there entirely, which keeps a level of separation between us.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:19:35] I think that’s really smart. I think it’s a really, really smart insight. And of course, that sense of obligation that we feel that that worry that something will be that we won’t perform live up to it. That’s actually a totally incorrect. Right. Because if if we ask someone, how do you feel? And they say, I’m actually feeling kind of down, all we have to do is say, tell me more about why you’re feeling down. And we have fulfilled their need. They’re signaling to us like they actually want to talk about what’s on their mind. And that doesn’t mean we have to solve the problem for them. In fact, we shouldn’t solve the problem for them.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:20:07] That’s a different conversation.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:20:08] That’s a different conversation, right? And sometimes our instinct when somebody says I’m feeling really down is to try and pick them up, right? To try and give them all these reasons why they shouldn’t feel down. You’re so great. And but that’s not what they’re asking for. That’s a practical conversation. That’s us trying to, like, solve the situation. What they’re saying to us is, I feel down and I want someone to hear why. And sometimes just by explaining it to you, I’ll figure out more about myself and doing so. And the more that we seek to match them where they are, and then invite them to match us. Like sometimes, like one of the best things that I think you can say to someone after you’ve asked them, like, why do you feel that way? Tell me more about it is if you say to them, like, can I tell you how I’ve handled this situation in the past? Ask for permission to change the conversation to a practical conversation. Oftentimes people are like, hell yeah. Thank you for inviting me to change the conversation from this, you know, pity party for myself into something else. But the point is that we have to invite them. We have to open up the door to that, not force it on them. Yeah.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:21:12] In this same vein that you make a really interesting point in the book, which is that we’re often taught that perspective-taking is the most effective way to actually build this bridge. Yeah, and it can be, but it’s not always the best way. And sometimes there are different ways in I mean, I remember talking to somebody recently about empathy and conversations and who was sharing, you know, like we feel this human compulsion to say when somebody shares something, we want to then reciprocate on the similar level. And that can be a mechanism to build this mutual, progressive vulnerability. But sometimes it turns into something different, which is a little bit of like a competitive, totally like sharing type of thing, and that they’re simply being able to respond differently. Like, that’s not the only path.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:22:03] That’s exactly right. 

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:22:04] To deepen the connection and let somebody feel seen, heard and held.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:22:07] That’s exactly. So. And I think this is a really good point. So so reciprocity is a really important part of conversations. Right. Like giving back and forth. But there’s a difference between reciprocity and stealing the spotlight for yourself. So we’ve all been in this situation right. Somebody you know we come to someone and we say like, you know I’m kind of bummed. I’m feeling down because my my aunt is sick and they say, oh man. Yeah, my dad was sick last year and this is how I felt about it. And it’s kind of like, okay, like, I mean, we have this this experience in common, but I’m not I’m talking about myself here. Or even worse, they’re like, oh man, my dog was sick last week. And you’re like, you’re like my aunt being sick and your dog being sick. It doesn’t seem like the same to me. So the question is, how do we show what’s known as conversational receptiveness, this, this reciprocity. In a situation like that, what reciprocity means is not matching woe to woe. What it means is showing the other person that you have heard them. So sometimes if someone says, I’m feeling really down because my aunt is sick, all that they really need to hear is us saying, it seems like this is really bothering you, and I’m sorry that it’s bothering you.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:23:15] Tell me more about it. Right? We’ve reciprocated. They’ve showed us that they’re upset and we’ve reciprocated that by saying, I recognize that you’re upset and it’s valid that you’re upset. It’s totally valid that you’re upset. Not because I have an aunt that got sick myself, but because I hear you in pain. And I just want you to know that I see that and tell me more about it. That is reciprocity. And it’s a form of reciprocity that doesn’t steal the spotlight. And as that conversation gets deeper, you might very well say, like, would I hear you saying is that you’re feeling really down about this? And I understand that because, you know, I had a parent who or I had a family member who got sick a year ago, but instead of trying to force my story on them simply by showing them that I hear what they’re saying, that’s what reciprocity is.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:24:00] Yeah. Which can be so powerful. You know, I’ve had friends who have been in deep grief or friends who are dealing with who have cancer, and they’re not looking for reciprocity and they’re not looking for the practical conversation either. Like all they want to do is not be ignored. Yes, because so many people don’t know how to respond in those situations. So they just back away and literally asked a friend of mine once if, like, what should I say to you? Or to anyone else who’s like in this situation? And she’s like, honestly, just anything like that must be so hard. Yeah. That’s it.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:24:35] You know, my dad died about five years ago. And the interesting thing for anyone who’s had a parent pass away is it’s obviously sad and it’s hard and it brings up all these all these emotions. It’s also really interesting. Right? It’s it’s oftentimes like the most interesting thing that has happened that month, because it does bring up all these new emotions and these new experiences. And I would come back and people would ask me, you know, hey, where were you last week? And I’d say, you know, my father passed away and I was at the funeral and nobody ever asked me anything about the funeral. They never asked me anything about my dad. And I was like, if somebody had said, what was your dad like? I would have loved to have told them about that, right? Like, I would have loved to have told him about this thing I just experienced that was so, like, meaningful and profound. And that doesn’t mean that they have to say, you know, my dad died too, so I understand what that’s like, but simply showing curiosity in someone else’s experiences, that’s the thing that helps us connect. And it’s interesting, I’ll mention, and this is on a completely different tone in the book. There’s this this story about The Big Bang Theory, this TV show that like, biggest sitcom. One of the things that the writers of that show found, which is why it succeeded so well, is they found that when they have characters obviously try to connect with each other, then it almost doesn’t matter what the character is saying.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:25:55] The audience likes them. So there’s something about our psychology, and this is a product of evolution, that when someone shows that they want to connect with us, we tend to to see that as a very trusting, trusting gesture. And laughter is a great example of. Us. There’s been all these studies that have looked at when people laugh, and you would think that people laugh in response to something that’s funny and that’s not true. That’s only true for like 20% of the time when people laugh, it’s usually because they’re showing someone that they want to connect with them, and then the other person will laugh back to show that that desire for connection has been acknowledged. It’s like an evolutionary trait that’s developed within our brains. And in fact, NASA uses this to try and figure out who will be good astronauts. They pay attention to how astronaut applicants laugh when they’re in interviews, because they found that the people who laugh genuinely, who match the laughter of the interviewer, those people are signaling that they want to connect. And it’s the signaling that we want to connect that matters as much as the connection itself. We tend to think that the other person is trustworthy because they’re showing us they want to connect with us.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:27:07] That research around laughter are so fascinating. I remember years ago reading research that said, we rarely laugh in solitude. Totally. And so this syncs completely with that because it’s not just like, yeah, we can think something’s really funny and maybe a little chuckle, but like, it’s a social signal.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:27:25] It’s an Absolutely social Signal.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:27:26] And that’s a huge part of laughter, which we don’t really think about. We’re just like, if something’s funny, we laugh like, that’s just the way it is. But no, actually, you’re sitting on a couch alone and watching, like, something. You’re probably not going to laugh even if you think it’s funny. But if somebody’s your bestie is next to you, you guys may be cracking up next to each other.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:27:41] totally. Or just notice, like next time you’re talking to a friend and they laugh, ask yourself, did you just say something funny? Probably the answer is no, right? You didn’t say anything that funny. And so one of the interesting questions is how do we operationalize this. Like how do we make this something that like in one of my favorite examples about about how to do this, um, is around listening and particularly this, this concept known as looping for understanding. So most of the time when people are listening, the way that they try and show that they’re listening is that they do things like they nod while someone is speaking or they, like, make eye contact. The problem is, when we’re talking, we’re so focused on our own words that we tend not to notice what other people are doing. So when we talk about active listening, about proving that we’re listening to someone very often, what matters is what we do after they stop speaking. And in particular, there’s this technique known as as looping for understanding, which is it just has three steps. It’s like the simplest thing on earth. Ask someone a question, tell them what you just heard them say, and then ask them if you got it right. Right. So like somebody says like, I think that none of us should vote in the presidential election, say like, you know, why do you think that way? And then repeat back to them in your own words what they just said and then say, like, am I understanding you correctly? Did I get that right? That’s how we operationalize this reciprocity, this this listening receptiveness. And it’s very, very simple, right? It’s stuff that we learn to do, like when our parents told us to do when we were like five years old. And it turns out if you do this in a conversation, it transforms hard conversations. It’s basically impossible to have conflict when people are looping for understanding, because what we’re doing is we’re proving to the other person we want to hear them.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:29:27] So what I’m hearing you say then, is.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:29:31] Exactly you’re doing it really well.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:29:32] You see it makes so much sense. It’s funny because I have been in some way trained in that methodology in different contexts. Years ago, when I was a kid, I spent a hot minute as an outside salesperson, and that was, you know, they they sent all the like people to this place and, you know, outside of D.C. and for a week I had sales training and they were teaching you all these quote techniques. And we were like cold sales. We literally knock on doors of offices, walk in and say, like, I’m here to talk to the CEO. Terrifying. And I was horrible at it. But I remember one of the things they said to do was exactly this. They’re like, basically ask a question and then reflect back, you know, like what I hear you say is this did I get it right? And keep going because the person is probably going to say, look, well, kind of mostly. But there’s this one other thing that actually it’s not quite right. And then they’re going to share it and then you say, oh, okay. So then what I’m hearing you say so like you keep it going around until that person is nodding like, yes. And I’ve also heard a variation of this offered by therapists, especially dealing with family and relationships where people are just really talking through each other. And this is like this really core therapeutic modality to get people to start to legit, especially when there’s some sort of resentment or anger built up in the relationship to break through it. Because once the resentment, the anger is there, you really no longer hear or see each other. No, you hear or see the representation of what you feel has been built over sometimes years or decades. That’s exactly right. And it breaks through the fiction of what you think is going on, to get to the truth of what’s going on.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:31:08] And this is a this brings up a really interesting thing, which is how does. Communication work within our brains. So there’s been these experiments again in the last decade that have shown that when you and I connect in a conversation, as we are now, if we had the ability to measure all these things, what we would see is that our eyes are starting to dilate at the same rate. Our breath is starting to match each other, even though we’re not aware of it, even though we’re not in the same room, our heart rates are starting to match. If we could measure it, the electrical impulses on our skin are similar. And most importantly, and the reason why this is happening is because if we get see inside both of our brains, what we would see is our brains beginning to synchronize, right? That’s what communication is. Communication is me having a thought, saying it, and you basically experiencing the same thought, understanding it. And this is known as neural entrainment in the psychological and neurological literature. And so the point that you just made when we’re having a conflict, when we’re having a conversation in conflict, we’re not entrained. Right. Because instead of hearing what you’re saying, what I’m doing is I’m I have a story inside my head. I have I have a series of thoughts or brainwaves within my head, and I’m investing in those ones instead of listening to what you’re trying to tell me.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:32:22] And you’re doing the same thing. And so the question is, how do we break through if communication is about us becoming entrained, about having the same thought at the same time, really clicking right? That’s why we call it clicking. How do we do that? The number one step is to disrupt that story that’s inside our head. Like to put us in a place where I can actually listen to you. And if I say to myself instead of like my job being to respond to the attacks you’re making, or my job being to defend myself, if my job is to just listen as closely as I can and try and repeat back in my own words what you just said, I’m going to entrain with you. And more importantly, I’m going to invite you to entrain with me. Because if you feel like you’re being listened to, almost automatically, we start listening more closely. Back again, this is reciprocity. When someone listens closely to us, when it’s clear they’re making an effort, we feel an obligation to listen closely to them. And then we become entrained. And even if we don’t agree with each other, at least we understand what the other person is trying to say.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:33:24] Yeah. And I just think that’s so important. It’s funny, like this is elements. I’ve used this phrase exquisite attention for years now, talking about the, almost like the spell that can be cast between two people when they are in sync on a level where it feels like the world outside of that interaction falls away. So you’re describing sort of like this is the physiology of some of what’s actually happening inside of that state, like inside the spell and why it’s so powerful. Yeah, because I would imagine even if we like, we’re not sitting across from somebody and like, measuring, you know, like their brainwaves and their all these things. But there’s got to be something about our sensory system beyond the words that are being said that takes it up. Absolutely. That knows that this is unusual in a really powerful and beautiful way.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:34:13] And if you think about it, that’s evolved within our brains, right? We basically have this ability to pick up on that stuff that I just mentioned without even realizing it, because that is the thing that makes a species survive. Like the ability to to communicate with each other, the ability to trust each other and build trust. Without that, you can’t build families and societies and cultures. They they help people do better. And so the people who are good at this stuff, they end up surviving and others don’t, and it evolves. But here’s the important part of it is that all of us have this capacity. It can feel very overwhelming for us to tell you, like, you know, there’s three kinds of conversations and you should match each other and you should ask deep questions. It almost seems like too many instructions, right? It’s too much to remember. But the important thing to to know about this is all of us know how to do this. It’s literally an instinct that we’re born with because of evolution. And so the goal of of this book, super communicators and this science in many ways is just to remind people of what they can do, because sometimes we can get so deep inside our own heads that we stop paying attention. We stop paying attention to other people. We stop remembering to listen and to show that we’re listening. And part of the goal of super communicators is just to say, look, let me just remind you of how communication works, because you know this. You know this on an intuitive level. And the more you listen to your intuition, the more you let go and trust yourself in a conversation. The more that conversation is going to, the better that conversation is going to go and the more you’re going to connect.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:35:45] Yeah, that makes so much sense. What’s your take on how technology plays into all this? Because on the one hand we’re having this conversation, you know, we’re like, we are not in the same place. You can see each other, we can see our body. We I can hear your breathing, I can see your facial expressions. But we’re not physically present in the same room, which we used to do for six years. And like the earlier part of the podcast. And that all got blown up. And overnight, we had to say. And part of our ethos was. Was we we only recorded in person in our own studio in New York City, because I didn’t feel like I could get the depth and level of connection in a virtual or remote environment. 2020 hits. We basically have to make a decision. We’re either shutting down or we’re tap dancing and saying, let’s try this whole new world and see if we can recreate that same sense of safety and intimacy and nuance that would let conversations be real and deep and rich. And I realized I was wrong. I realized that we can, and that on the one hand, and that the technology allowed me to do something that I never thought was possible. So that’s on the on the gift side. Yay! But on the take side, so much of the technology now makes us no longer present in interactions that we’re having. Absolutely. And like no matter how much you know who I want to do these things and engagement, when we’ve got something that is, you know, every nine seconds there’s a vibration going off in our front right pocket. It’s got to be brutalizing. Even if you really want to connect with other people in some way.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:37:16] Yeah, it’s A really great point. And it’s it’s really interesting to hear that you guys had this. Can I ask you one thing, that realization that you can get as deep and as meaningful virtually as you could in person, was that right away, or was that something that kind of kind of gradually you learned?

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:37:32] We learned gradually. But also I think there was something that happened that but for the pandemic would have I think we still would have gotten there, but maybe it would have taken another five, ten years, which is that everybody, the entire world was forced to get comfortable in the virtual space, you know, in a matter of weeks rather than in a matter of years, because your very existence, often your livelihood, depended on it. So everyone was weird and fumbling and awkward in the beginning. And the platforms actually got a lot better really fast. So it was all of a sudden people are like, oh, like, I actually I can do this. Like the technology isn’t a barrier. Everybody knows how to use this. And like, I kind of know the sound has to be okay. And like, I have to be in a well-lit room. And what I didn’t see coming was the potential for the intimacy and safety of a person’s personal space. Their home often would transfer into the virtual space and lend that sense of safety and intimacy to create a tether that often crossed continents. That blew me away because I never saw that coming.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:38:42] There’s a story in the book about, um, these two conversations. There’s this group that wanted to try and figure out how to help people have conversations around conflict and for the conflict. The conflict that they chose, just kind of by chance, was the guns debate. So they invited all these people who were pro-gun and all these people who were anti-gun to Washington, D.C., and they sort of at the newseum, they met for three days, and they trained them in communication methods. And even though these people basically were like enemies, when they walked in, everyone walked away saying like, this was so meaningful. I learned so much about the other side. This was so great. And then to keep the conversation going, they move it online. They had a private Facebook page and like literally within 45 minutes where all these people who, like, walked away being like, you know, this is great, I love you. This is fantastic. Within 45 minutes, once they were online, they were calling each other like jackbooted Nazi thugs. Right? Like and like, you know, trying to own the libs and and so there was this interesting question like, what happened? Why? Why did this work so well in person? And then it fell apart once it went online. And what the researchers figured out was that we have been talking to each other for roughly about two millennia, right. So we have worked out a whole series of cues and signals and ways of transmitting communication that are so subtle that we can’t even notice them at this point that have to do with verbal communication or in personal communication.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:40:08] But, you know, a phone conversation is really rich, right? You can still get you can get deep with someone on the phone. On the other hand, we have only been talking online since 1983. And so as a result, there’s a bunch of like little things that like, are still getting worked out about how to do this online. And as they’re getting worked out, the problem is it’s too fine to work them out. But the problem is that when we don’t say, oh, look, we’re at the beginning of this, there’s going to be mistakes. I need to overexplain to someone what I’m thinking or feeling when I’m typing, as opposed to when I’m talking, when we don’t realize that we’re that we need to overemphasize that’s when something bad happens. And so one of the interesting things that I heard you say is that it’s not like they flipped a switch and suddenly you went from in-person to virtual and you discovered, oh, virtual is as good as in-person. It was a process, right? You learned how to communicate with people in a virtual manner that’s a little bit different from in-person. And all of us were learning because we were having these zoom meetings, and the platforms were learning how to make this even easier for us.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:41:15] And as we learn that we get better and better at it. But that doesn’t mean we are an expert on day one. And so the same way that, for instance, if I’m talking to someone in a foreign language that I’m not very fluent in, I’m going to overexplain what I’m trying to tell them, because I just assume that they’re going to misunderstand some of what I’m saying, because I’m not good at speaking this language. When we’re online, we should kind of make the same assumption. That’s why, for instance, when you say something, um, ironic, if I was to say it something to you, ironic right now, you would know from the tone of my voice that I’m being ironic. And when I type something ironic, I hear that tone of the voice inside my own head. But you, as the reader, you don’t hear it. You think I’m just being mean, right? Or saying something weird. And so it’s just part of this is just giving us ourselves permission when we’re online to be a little bit more careful, to overemphasize a little bit more what we’re actually trying to say with the full acknowledgement that, like, it’s just because we’re learning a brand new language and it takes a while to do that.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:42:17] Yeah, I mean, that makes so much sense to me. I also wonder that what you just described, that experiment, the other element there in my eyes would be the difference between a conversation that is private and the conversation that is going to be observed. Absolutely. And when you know that the conversation is going to be observed by potentially a group of people within whom you want to have a sense of belonging, and sometimes it is your primary group of people, and a whole bunch of things may depend on you being a member in good standing of that community, that you’re not just having that conversation with the one other person online. Now you’re having a conversation with everybody else who you believe to be watching that conversation. So your social signaling to everyone else, and that may profoundly change what you’re going to say. It may even make you say things that you feel really bad about saying, but the desire to not be ostracized from the group overwhelms that. Absolutely.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:43:18] And this is the social conversation. And the interesting thing about the social conversation is that it can happen when people are watching us. It can also happen when it’s just one on one. But we’re thinking of those other people inside our head, right? Like if I say something that I know would upset my mom or upset my grandmother, there’s something inside my head that says, like, even though my mom and my grandmother never hurt, didn’t. Let me say this and they never will. I kind of feel bad about saying it because I know that it would bug them. Right. And this social conversation is really, really important because sometimes our instinct is just to pretend it doesn’t exist. Right? If we’re talking to someone who comes from a different social background from us, a different race, a different ethnicity, a different gender, a different socioeconomic background, sometimes our instinct is to pretend that those differences don’t exist because they can feel uncomfortable. But what we know is that when we’re in a social conversation, when we’re talking to them about society, or we’re talking to them about other people, even if we’re just gossiping about like the office place, which is a social conversation that oftentimes by acknowledging those differences, we actually connect better. So, for instance, you know, I know that you live in Boulder right now and that you have one kid who’s who’s older. My kids are younger. I think that there’s a difference there that’s interesting. And by acknowledging it by saying, like, you have some wisdom that comes from raising a child that I don’t have yet.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:44:43] That’s highly debatable.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:44:45] Highly debatable, highly debatable. And I have some instincts that come from being in the in the middle of it that you maybe have forgotten. Like when we pose it that way, it’s not offensive to point out these differences. It’s actually recognizing and acknowledging that we have something unique to say. And the same thing is true when it’s a racial difference, right? When when someone who’s white and someone who’s black is talking to each other. And this is something that happened in the book we talk about at Netflix, there was this incident inside Netflix that kind of tore the company apart, and they were trying to figure out how to have conversations to come back from it. And it was around race. It was a white executive used the N-word, and it just became this thing that that was eating the company up and destroying it, that the answer was to say, like you as a black employee at Netflix, you have a set of experiences that are different from mine as a white employee and hearing those, recognizing those, validating that those experiences are real, that’s really, really important because I want to learn from them. And similarly, as a white employee, I have a set of experiences that are different from yours and validating and and recognizing that those exist, that let’s us understand each other better, that helps us in train. And so ignoring those differences, which feels sometimes like the easiest thing to do oftentimes is not what lets us connect, rather acknowledging the differences, validating the importance of those differences, recognizing the virtues of those differences, how they give us perspectives that are really interesting and wonderful and worth sharing. That’s the thing that makes us feel like we can all come to work, or to home, or to a conversation and be our full self.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:46:28] To not just push that aside and say like, can we actually just center this, have a conversation about it with curiosity, not saying we’re going to resolve this or show that one side is right or one side is wrong, but can we actually just get curious about our differences?

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:46:46] And the point is not to resolve it right? Like resolving it is a practical conversation. Right? And maybe there is a time then, like if there’s something going on that we have to be practical about, we can have that conversation. But rather than saying like the goal is to resolve, this is just to say, I want to hear what your experiences are like. I want to show you that I’m hearing what you’re telling me. If it’s okay, I’d like to share what my experiences are like. That’s how we get beyond those stories inside our heads that prevent us from hearing each other.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:47:12] One of the things I’m curious about, we’ve kind of woven the notion of safety in and out of this conversation today. And you write about this, you know, how do we make hard conversations safer? We’re just talking about that a bit also. And we talked about the difficulty of sometimes doing that when the conversation is happening at scale or in an observable way. Do you feel like there is a way to have a conversation at scale that in some way, shape or form can bring enough safety into it so that the conversation can be what everybody wants it to be?

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:47:46] That’s really interesting. That’s a really good question. And when you say it’s scale, what do you mean? Like, what are you thinking of.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:47:51] Within a company or even like a one to many type of scenario?

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:47:55] Yeah.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:47:55] Like you and I are just having a conversation. Two people talking to each other. You and I also both speak from stages. It’s one person speaking and there are sometimes thousands of people in the audience. And sometimes you have that feeling where you feel like as the speaker, you’re on stage, but you feel deeply connected to everybody in that sometimes theater, and then people will walk out who are in like the third balcony in the last row and feel like you were just speaking to them. Yeah. And that to me, has always felt like a bit of a superpower to be able to do that. And I’ve often wondered, like what lets that happen?

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:48:33] So I think part of a big reason, and there’s a lot of research that has looked at that and the the most consistent finding. Is that two things are happening that that speaker is doing, that the audience is giving the speaker permission to do. The first is that they are the speaker is inviting the person to connect with them. And the way that they do that is by exposing a vulnerability. When I say exposing a vulnerability, most people think of that as like getting up and being like, my father beat me when I was a child. That’s not you don’t have to do that to expose the vulnerability. Sometimes exposing a vulnerability is getting up and just saying, like, hey, it is so great to be here. Thank you so much. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. When I say that, I’m signaling to the audience, like, I really want to entertain you, I really want I really want you to enjoy this. I hope that you enjoy this. And that is a vulnerability, because it puts the power in the audience’s hands to decide whether they think I’m doing a good job or not. And when I do that, I’m inviting them to connect with me. I’m inviting them to remember those times that they have given a speech and that they really wanted it to go well, and that they tried hard. It’s also why, when I think I’m giving a speech and I assume this is true for you and for a number of people, the thing that makes it successful, like what you didn’t say is you didn’t say I was so polished. I hit my lines so well. The timing was exactly right. That’s why people connected with me. It’s not about being polished.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:50:03] Yeah, I’ve never had that experience, by the way. Right.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:50:06] It’s about being genuine, right? It’s about being real on that stage. It’s about exposing something about yourself. And this is the thing that we know is that when it comes to conversations, particularly the emotional conversations, but all of them, vulnerability is the most powerful tool that we have. And vulnerability does not mean that I need to tell you a sob story. Vulnerability does not mean that I need to need to ask you about all the trauma you’ve experienced. Sometimes vulnerability is just laughing that when someone says something that isn’t that funny, laughing to show them that you want to connect with them because you’re making an invitation like, I want to be your friend, and they get to choose whether they’re going to laugh back and join you in that laughter, or whether they’re going to brush you off. And it’s the act of exposing yourself a little bit, talking about what you believe or what you feel, or an experience you had, asking someone about their beliefs or their values or their experiences. That’s what creates that real sense of connection and safety. And it can be one on one, or it can be one to thousands. Does that correspond to your experiences? Does that seem right?

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:51:12] It definitely does, because I think I spent probably the better part of the first part of my speaking career, for lack of better word, um, trying to be like, literally like having every step, every word, every thing, every story dialed in. And do you feel competent doing that? Sure. Do you feel like you’re in service of an audience genuinely and connecting them and giving them what they like? They showed up for not often. And it’s only when literally I remember being in the middle of a keynote going blank, which is like every speaker does it. At some point you completely forget. I often don’t use slides, so there’s nothing to prompt me what’s coming next. And I’m standing on the stage starting to hyperventilate. I feel like, you know, there’s sweat just exploding out of my body. And I literally I look at somebody in the front row and I smile and I’m just like, I just completely spaced out. Where was I? And she she she shouted out a word which brought me back. I giggled and kind of laughed at myself. And the audience just went along for the ride because all of a sudden they’re like, wait, he’s not a robot? Yeah. You know, like he’s one of us. And then at that point, it almost felt like they wanted to see me win and recover. Yeah. And then like, that was a moment where I was like, what just happened there? Because. And can I do more of that? Not blank go blank, but can I just like, show up as me? And again, there’s often this mythology that, oh, you’ve got to tell the big horrible story and the redemption story. It’s like, no, it just sharing your humanity is. Yeah, is such a big part of it. Um, because that’s, like you said, vulnerability. That’s where it really happens.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:52:52] I love that story. I do something kind of similar, which is, you know, sometimes I’ll often talk about the power of habit, and I’ve been talking about it for a decade now. And so I kind of, you know, so what I’ll do is when I’m talking about the power of habit, I’ll always try and tell a new joke. And the joke that I’ll choose is a joke that I’m only 50% certain is going to work.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:53:11] Right.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:53:12] And the reason why I choose a joke that’s only 50% certain is because when it bombs, it’s even better, right? When I tell a joke and it bombs and nobody laughs, and then I and then I’m like, okay, I guess that joke, I’m not using that joke again. It reminds people like, I’m trying like like I’m not on autopilot. I’m up here trying to trying to entertain you, trying to connect with you. And that trying is what matters. That’s where the humanity comes from. And it’s really powerful. And we can do it in conversations too, right? It’s as simple as just saying to someone like, you know, what do you love about your job? That question exposes a vulnerability. Like when I ask that question, it’s a little personal and it shows to the other person, like I’m exposing something about myself. I’m the kind of person who’s willing to ask that kind of question. Will you play along and will you answer it? Because you could brush me off and be like, that’s a weird question. I don’t want anything to do with you anymore.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:54:09] But if you never ask it, but.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:54:11] If you never ask.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:54:11] It, you never open the door.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:54:13] Exactly.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:54:13] And if you brush, if somebody brushes that question off, chances are the openness or willingness for connection in the first place was never there. Totally. Totally. So at least it’s almost like you’ve just pre-qualified the person. Now you can move on to someone else to maybe really have that connection.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:54:26] Or maybe they’re signaling like, look, I see you trying to like, move this into an emotional conversation, and I’m just not interested. Like, I’m here for a practical conversation, right? like

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:54:36] Yeah, Maybe there’s just not resource for it in That moment.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:54:38] Totally. And like, sometimes, like, if you’re there to, like, you know, you want to buy a car and the car salesman is like, trying to nudge you and you’re like, no, no, I’m not interested in telling you.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:54:47] Tell me about your childhood.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:54:48] Yeah. I’m not interested in telling you about my hopes and dreams, my friend. I want to know, like, what kind of discount you’re going to give me. That’s okay. It’s okay to signal that. The point is, though, that you should be aware of the conversation you’re having. Like that shouldn’t happen by accident. That should happen because you’re making a choice. And if you’re on the other side of that, not the used car salesman. But if you’re someone who’s trying to connect, you should remember these in these skills that we all have, that we can actually have a deeper conversation with someone simply by asking them to.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:55:19] Yeah, I love that I started asking this question at the end of every Good Life Project conversation after we first sat down 12 years ago, so I’m going to ask it to you. Even though this is our second time recording a conversation for the first time ever, which is in the Container of Good Life project. If I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:55:41] Oh, that’s a really good question. I wish you’d asked me this a decade ago, and I could see how my answer has changed over time. The final chapter in Super Communicators is about the the Harvard study of happiness. Right? And most people are familiar with this. It’s the largest longitudinal study that’s ever gone on to try and figure out why some people end up being happy as they get older and others don’t, and successful. And what’s interesting about it is that the language that those researchers have used, because it’s been a long time now, has changed quite a bit over time. They talk about connection now. They used to talk about love. They’re like the secret was love. And they didn’t mean romantic love. They meant the love between friends. But the thing that’s been consistent is that if you look at why people are happy, they’re happy because they have connections with other people and the connections that we have with other people. It doesn’t have to be a huge number of people. The number of people doesn’t matter, but the depth of the connection does. And the way that we create deep connections is through conversation. Like, I love spending time with my wife or not talking to each other when we’re watching a movie together or when we’re going on a walk.

 

Charles Duhigg: [00:56:47] But the times that I remember most are the conversations that we’ve had, and that’s probably true for all of us. So when I think of like, what the good life is, what I think of the good life is, for me at least, is having people around me whom I love, who I’m having conversations with, where we can actually connect with each other. And that gets harder and harder as we get older, right? Because we get inside our own heads and we we start deciding that some people are worth talking to and others aren’t. And that person’s never going to change. And it doesn’t matter what I say to that, to that guy, he’s not going to listen to me. But if we try, if we understand how to have different kinds of conversations and to invite people to match us and to match them, then we can have those conversations that make us feel really connected. And if I can do that for the rest of my life, I am certain I’m going to die happy.

 

Jonathan Fields: [00:57:39] Thank you. Hey, if you love this conversation Safe bet. You’ll also love a conversation I recently had on our partner podcast, SPARKED with Ben Gutman about how to communicate simply and clearly. You’ll find a link to Ben’s episode in the shownotes. This episode of Good Life Project was produced by executive producers Lindsey Fox and Me, Jonathan Fields. Editing help By Alejandro Ramirez. Kristoffer Carter crafted our theme music and special thanks to Shelley Adelle for her research on this episode. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life Project. in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable, and chances are you did. Since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor, a seven-second favor, and share it? Maybe on social or by text or by email? Even just with one person? Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those you know, those you love, those you want to help navigate this thing called life a little better. So we. Can all do it better, together with more ease and more joy. Tell them to listen, then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered. Because when podcasts become conversations and conversations become action, that’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields, signing off for Good Life Project.

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