The communication error we all make, and how it intensifies conflict
Ever had an argument that never ends? There's a reason for that, says psychotherapist Esther Perel.
Esther Perel is a psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author who is recognized as one of today’s most insightful and original voices on modern relationships. Fluent in nine languages, she helms a private therapy practice in New York City and serves as an organizational consultant for Fortune 500 companies around the world. Her celebrated TED talks have garnered nearly 20 million views and her international bestseller Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence is a global phenomenon translated into 24 languages. Her newest book is New York Times bestseller The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity (HarperCollins). Esther is also an executive producer and host of the popular Audible original podcast Where Should We Begin?
Esther Perel: There are conversations that will intensify conflict or the potential thereof. And there are conversations who will intensify understanding, potentially even resolution. Conversations that are sure to polarize in which for everything you say I come back with what I have to say, without ever taking into account what you just said. You know what happens. When people disagree they literally have the capacity to listen to ten seconds of what the other side has to say. Ten seconds – that’s three sentences. And by then they already are busy creating their rebuttal. They are no longer listening. They are just preparing their return, their retort. When you have that kind of conversation here is what happens. One is I am constantly just going to come back at you. I am not integrating what I heard from you and it doesn’t influence anything of what I’m saying. So basically you’re saying the same thing over and over again and I’m saying the same thing over and over again and those two never meet. And the more I say X, the more I make you say Y. It’s like I’m going to – it’s me who is reinforcing you saying the fundamental thing with which you disagree with.
I come with expectations of what I think you think or may say or may want. All relationships are colored with expectations about myself and about the other. My expectations influence that which I then see or hear. It is a filter as well as my mood is a filter. We in communication have the ability to set the other people up because we will draw from them the very things with which we expect from them even when it’s the opposite of what we really want. We create the others in relationships and in communication. It isn’t just that’s who they are and that’s who we are. That is one of the most important things to understand about relationships and communication is how people actually co-create each other in the context of a relationship and why we are not the same person with different people. Because those people make part of who we are.
When we are in conflictual relationships we will often be prone to negative attributions which is that when you speak to me a certain way it’s because you have a bad temper or you have a nasty personality. When I speak to you in a certain way it’s because I had a lot of traffic getting here this morning and because I’m having a bad day. You are a bad person, I have just bad circumstances. I essentialize you and I contextualize me. All of these things will intensify conflict. It’s the opposite that will create the potential for understanding. Is my ability to take in what you say, to mull it over, to include it in my response so that I make you feel that you matter, that what you say makes a difference, that it enters me, that you’re not just talking to the wind.
What is lacking is the ability to see that speaking is entirely dictated by the quality of the listening that is reflected back on us. If I’m talking to someone who is on their phone I will be expressing myself and experiencing the communication completely different than if I am speaking to someone who is looking at me in the eyes, who is shaking their head, who says to me I get it, I understand. Not necessarily I agree. So when you listen to me the first thing I need to know is that I have your attention. The second thing I need to know is that maybe you can acknowledge the validity of my point of view. That doesn’t mean you agree with my point of view but my point of view makes sense. And potentially you may even empathize with my point of view. You can understand why I would think or feel or experience things the way I do. That reflecting back, acknowledging, validating, empathizing. That sequence is where the depth of communication takes place. Because ultimately if I speak to you and in the end I leave feeling even more alone I’m literally in an existential crisis. There is nothing worse than to be alone in the presence of another.
Ever had an argument that never ends? There's a reason for that. Esther Perel, the Belgian-born psychotherapist and author, posits that in order to be heard correctly you have to approach the other party as neutral. Too often, she says, people approach conversations with agendas and expectations. Because of this, arguments can easily fracture into two sides parroting what their talking points are without actually listening to each other. Esther says that the best way to communicate is to sincerely listen to the other person as you would want to be listened to. That might seem like simple advice, but the average person only truly listens to about three sentences or 10 seconds before preparing their own retort in their head, and blocking their conversation partner off. Esther Perel's exciting new book is The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity.
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
We’ve mapped a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Take the virtual tour here.
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Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.