There are many barriers to communicating clearly in our modern world. Every day, people misunderstand one another, but they rarely realize there’s a problem until it’s too late. How can you make sure that you say what you mean—and that other people hear you? Here are two top insights from our latest release, TALKING TO STRANGERS by Malcolm Gladwell. Make yourself understood.
Key Insight 1: People tend to trust one another by default
For the most part, humans think of their peers as trustworthy. Tim Levine, a psychologist, developed the Truth-Default Theory, which states that people operate from the assumption that everyone else is honest. This tendency to default to truth is a feature, not a flaw, of the social norms that help society run smoothly. For people to have relationships and conduct business from day to day, a baseline level of trust must be present.
Key Insight 2: How people look and behave doesn’t necessarily align with what they think and feel
It’s human nature to believe in transparency, the idea that the look on a person’s face conveys accurate information about how the person feels. In the field of psychology, there are classic facial expressions that people associate with emotions like happiness or sadness. But this theory is reductive. Transparency is a true enough phenomenon when actors on shows like Friends convey emotion with their facial expressions. But in real life, the link between how people look and act and how they think and feel isn’t necessarily there. A facial expression does not necessarily provide a glimpse into a person’s inner life. Make yourself understood.