10 Things I Learned from “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)” by Tavris & Aronson

“Why do you hate so-and-so, so much?” And he had answered them, with his shameless impudence, “I’ll tell you. He has done me no harm. But I played him a dirty trick, and ever since I have hated him.”

–Dostoyevsky, “The Brothers Karamazov”

Can you justify such behavior? Image from Steve Martin's movie "The Jerk", 1979
Cat Juggling! Can you justify such behavior? Image from Steve Martin’s movie “The Jerk”, 1979

The human brain is excellent at keeping itself free of blame. We have a self-image that we’re a good person, and we also do things that harm others. The cognitive dissonance this causes can be uncomfortable… until we rewrite our memories or justify our actions. Continue reading “10 Things I Learned from “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)” by Tavris & Aronson”

I Smell a Rat! The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Did you know the original Universities were designed as Prisons to keep unruly young men caged up while their hormones drove risky behavior that threatened the local social harmony?

Rather than allow young people to take risks that help them to grow and experience life, we continue to indoctrinate them with social rules to help keep the order.

The risks available to busy students are far less violent than what may be the alternatives.

I don’t remember everything from University. There certainly weren’t a lot of dangerous risks in the small town where I studied.

Dorm life was a party — and we could smoke indoors! A “career” after graduation seemed a lifetime away. Econ 101 taught me the benefits of Free Trade.

I hated this class! Photo "Amherst63-012" by NealeA, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
I loved this class! Photo “Amherst63-012” by NealeA, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

And while I learned a lot I’m sure, there is plenty that I didn’t learn.

Maybe you, too?

•We didn’t learn how to start a business in university — the mindset of an entrepreneur.

•We didn’t learn how to create and maintain a budget — the mindset of habit.

•We didn’t learn to negotiate — the mindset of persuasion.

This is the reason I’ve started PersuasionReadingList.com — to learn what I should know to understand what moves the human mind, and to share these concepts of influence with you. Continue reading “I Smell a Rat! The Prisoner’s Dilemma”

“Verbal Judo” and 10 Things I Learned from George J. Thompson

People hardly ever say what they mean. Most people are driven by emotions, especially in highly-charged circumstances. Their words reflect those emotions, even if they act otherwise.

The kid (or coworker) that grumbles throughout a task — is still doing that task (even though she’s not framing it in a positive way).

"Verbal Judo" teaches you to redirect verbal aggression as a Professional
“Verbal Judo” teaches you to redirect verbal aggression as a Professional

The spouse, during an argument, who throws out the incorrect idea that “you never do the dishes! you never do the laundry!” Continue reading ““Verbal Judo” and 10 Things I Learned from George J. Thompson”

Why she isn’t wrong (and you are, you jerk)

“Don’t do that!”

“Don’t accept that excuse! It’s not true!”

“Don’t coddle her!”

Have you heard any of those before?

I’ve heard these and similar arguments come out of my own mouth more than once. I’ve heard them from other parents, from coworkers, from my own family. We all have.

Have they ever worked to solve your problem?

Photo "CL Society 218: Crossing arms" by Francisco Osorio, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
You angry? Photo “CL Society 218: Crossing arms” by Francisco Osorio, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

Monday night was no exception. After a rough swimming lesson, my daughter refused to behave during a quick stop at the store. Continue reading “Why she isn’t wrong (and you are, you jerk)”

How to Win at the Thanksgiving Table

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends with PRL!

This Thanksgiving you’re certain to find yourself in a conversation about politics.

Trust me! This is a toxic conversation that you do not want to be a part of.

As Dale Carnegie teaches us,

The Only Way to Get the Best of an Argument is to Avoid It!

If you cannot avoid an argument, I encourage you to ask questions of the other people. Listen and ask questions. Work to understand their positions, with your questions leading people to a high ground position where everyone agrees.

  • Yes, these scandals are horrible. No one deserves to be treated like this, don’t you agree?
  • Yes, the President does say some provocative things. Does it help him keep the conversation focused where he wants?

If you’re unable to bring the conversation to a higher level, you risk telling someone they’re wrong.

Never tell someone they’re wrong!

They’ll fall back into a defensive position, justify everything they’ve said, and point the finger back at you to tell you why you’re wrong.

Instead, do your best to paraphrase the words of the other, in a sincere attempt to understand them. Let them talk themselves out for a while. They might want to be heard, might want to be right. You’re not going to change it over the weekend.

And then remind everyone that you’re thankful that you’re all family, that you want to enjoy the weekend together, and that politics could spoil everything so let’s talk about something else.

No one wants to spoil the party. Give them an out from the toxic conversation, and move on.

I recorded a short (5 minute) video discussing these ideas, you can see it here:


If you think this will be helpful for others that you know, please feel free to share this with your friends and family!

Thanks PRL readers, and enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday!


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Never Expect Perfection

Communication is hard.

We have to find the right words to express our idea in a way that the other person can decode and understand in their own brains.

"Oysterman, FSA" photograph by Russell Lee, public domain, 1938
This is what you asked me to do, right? “Oysterman, FSA” photograph by Russell Lee, public domain, 1938

Translating our ideas to others is hard. Their own perspectives color their understanding.

I’ve been learning this a lot lately. Continue reading “Never Expect Perfection”