What’s the Big Idea?

Humans are social creatures. We’re born knowing how to communicate in ways that will motivate our caregivers to give us the food and attention we need. As we grow, we pay close attention, often unconsciously, to the actions of those around us. We learn by empathy, mentally mirroring what we see others doing for storage in our kinetic memory banks.

But in a globally connected world, one in which we intersect constantly with cultures and perspectives radically different from our own, communication has become an increasingly complex and valuable skill. Conscious, informed communication is one of those things they generally don’t teach you in school, yet employers today list it as the skill they find most desirable, and most lacking in the workforce.

According to Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making and president of the Families and Work Institute, complex communication skills begin at home. Not surprisingly, numerous studies have confirmed that children who are raised in verbally rich environments grow up better able than less verbally enriched peers to articulate their feelings and connect with others. But human psychological development doesn’t stop at childhood. Exercises like practicing your elevator pitch for an imaginary person who could make a big difference in your life, says Galinsky, can improve your communication game well into adulthood.

Video: Essential Life Skill #3: Communicating, with Ellen Galinsky (free preview: full video available with subscription to Big Think Mentor


In a fast-changing world, only our higher-order thinking skills can keep us aware, engaged, and growing.  In The Seven Essential Life Skills, her workshop for Big Think Mentor, Mind in the Making author Ellen Galinsky teaches lessons learned over decades of psychological research into how humans learn throughout the lifespan.  The seven essential skills she teaches here, and demonstrates with stunning video footage of classic psychological experiments, are invaluable tools for adapting to, learning from, and thriving within a world in rapid flux.

The seven essential life skills you’ll hone in this workshop are:

  • Focus and Self-Control

  • Perspective Taking

  • Communicating

  • Making Connections

  • Critical Thinking

  • Taking on Challenges

  • Self-Directed, Engaged Learning

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