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Bryan Cranston
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Liv Boeree
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Amaryllis Fox
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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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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: 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.

Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

Credit: Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
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White dwarfs hold key to life in the universe, suggests study

New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.

NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
Surprising Science
  • White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
  • Carbon is an essential component of life.
  • White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
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"Forced empathy" is a powerful negotiation tool. Here's how to do it.

Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
  • The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
  • What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
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Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist

A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Surprising Science
  • A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
  • Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
  • The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
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How to catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE before it’s gone

Unless you plan to try again in 6,800 years, this week is your shot.

Image source: Sven Brandsma/Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Comet NEOWISE will be most visible in the U.S. during the evenings from July 14-19, 2020.
  • After July 23rd, NEOWISE will be visible only through good binoculars and telescopes.
  • Look in the northwestern sky below the Big Dipper after dusk while there's a chance.

UPDATE: NASA is broadcasting a NASA Science Live episode highlighting Comet NEOWISE. NASA experts will discuss and answer public questions beginning at 3PM EST on Wednesday, July 15. Tune in via the agency's website, Facebook Live, YouTube, Periscope, LinkedIn, Twitch, or USTREAM.

Before last evening, July 14, 2020, the easiest way to see Comet NEOWISE — the brightest comet to zoom past Earth since 1977's Comet Hale-Bopp — from the United States was to catch it about an hour before sunrise. Now, however, you can see it in the evening, where it will remain for until the 19th. This is a definite don't-miss event — NEOWISE won't be coming back our way for another 6,800 years. It's the first major comet of the millennium, and by all accounts, it's unforgettable.

NEOWISE just got back from the Sun

Comet NEOWISE is named after the NASA infrared space telescope that first spotted it on March 27th. Its official moniker is C/2020 F3. It's estimated that the icy comet is about three miles across, not counting its tail.

NEOWISE is now heading away from our Sun, having made it closet approach, 27.4 million miles, to our star on July 3. The heat from that encounter is what's given NEOWISE its tail: It caused gas and dust to be released from the icy object, creating the tail of debris that looks so magical from here.

As NEOWISE moves closer to Earth, paradoxically, it will be less and less visible. By about July 23rd, you'll need binoculars or a telescope to see it at all. All of which makes this week prime time.

An evening delight

star constellation in sky

Image source: Allexxandar/Shutterstock/Big Think

First, find an unobstructed view of the northwest sky, free of streetlights, car headlights, apartment lights, and so on. And then, according to Sky & Telescope:

"Start looking about one hour after sunset, when you'll find it just over the northwestern horizon as the last of twilight fades into darkness."

It should be easy to spot since it's near to one of the most recognizable constellations up there, the Big Dipper. "Look about three fists below the bottom of the Big Dipper, which is hanging down by its handle high above, and from there perhaps a little to the right." Et voilà: Comet NEOWISE.

Says Sky & Telescope's Diana Hannikainen, "Look for a faint, fuzzy little 'star' with a fainter, fuzzier little tail extending upward from it."

The comet should be visible with the naked eye, though binoculars and a simple telescope may reveal more detail.

You may also be able to snap a photo of this special visitor, though you'll need the right gear to do so. A dedicated camera is more likely to capture a good shot than a telephone, but in either case, you'll need a tripod or some other means of holding the camera dead still as it takes a timed exposure of several seconds (not all phones can do this).

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