How to bring more confidence to your conversations

Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.

Andrew Horn: So we've all had that moment where you're at a bar you're maybe dancing a little bit moving around and you see someone looking at you out of the corner of your eye and then your movements become a little more constricted, you become a little more in your head, you're worried about what they might think about you. So that's that external motivation. In any moment you can ask yourself am I doing this because I want to or because I think people will like it? If we're basing it off of the reality that someone else will like it we'll never really know. We open ourselves up for that social anxiety, the fear of negative judgment, the unknown of external validation. So we can always ask ourselves what do I want to do right now? What is interesting to me? What will feel good to me? And act off of that to eliminate social anxiety to bring more confidence into our conversations. So that's how we find our authentic voice and use it.

And your authentic voice is a deep down understanding of who you are, what you care about and what you believe. And it's only when we have that foundational understanding that we're able to bring confidence into social situations. Because if we're not basing our actions off of this internal understanding we're constantly looking for external validation, for other people to tell us what is cool, what is acceptable, what is appropriate. And if you look at the actual definition of social anxiety it's literally the fear of negative judgment, so again, it's based in that external validation.

And I love Carl Sagan who says we can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers. And so to find our authentic voice we need to ask ourselves these courageous questions. Ask yourself what's the dream, if I could not fail what would I do with my time? Ask yourself what am I not doing that I would like to be? Ask yourself what is most challenging for me right now?

And we can trust questions in conversation just ask yourself the last time someone asked you a question, looked you in the eyes and listened to you, how did it feel? Universally good, it always will. So whenever we're asking questions we can trust that we're learning and growing and that we're leaving a good impression. And there's one simple question we can ask ourselves to fundamentally transform our conversations. So 60 seconds, whether it's going on a date, whether it's going into a big conference, whatever it may be ask yourself what am I most excited to learn about the people that I will meet? What am I most excited to learn about the people that I will meet?

So what you will do is you will establish something I call the curiosity compass. You'll establish a series of questions that are authentic to you that you genuinely want to ask these people. And basically what happens now is you're focusing more on being interested than on being interesting, which is one of the oldest techniques in the book to actually feel more confident in social situations. So when you've identified your curiosity compass it's much easier to exist with anyone and feel comfortable.

And so having these questions just lodged to memory are going to make you feel better when you're in these social situations. Outside of the question of what do I most want to learn about these people I also think it's important for people to think about what I call your go to questions. And so your go to questions are three to five questions that you generally always want to know to people. So this could be what are you most excited about? This could be what's the dream? What's your priority right now? What's the next big thing you have coming up? It could be what's something awesome you've learned recently? And what happens is you think of Yogi Berra the amazing New York Yankees catcher and he used to say, "You can't think and hit at the same time," because hitting is this incredibly fast just volatile act and so once the ball comes out of that hand and it's coming into the batter's box you're not thinking about it everything in your body has just been trained to react to it and hit that ball where you want it to go. And so I think that when you're in conversation there's so many things that we can worry about, many stories we can bring into it, but when we have those questions logged to memory we're so much more likely to bring those types of things into conversation to lead us towards more interesting conversations that we're generally going to care about.

And another powerful exercise that we can practice for asking better questions is something called the golden rule of questions. And we all know the golden rule in life, treat others the way that you would like to be treated. So the golden rule of questions, ask questions to others that you would like to be asked yourself. If you just take some time to identify here are the types of things that I would like to be asked about, here are the types of things that I want to talk about then now you've also identified some of your authentic passions personally in the form of questions that you can give to someone else. So this golden rule of questions is a great way to, again, further deepen your understanding of the questions that you want to be bringing into conversation and any sort of interpersonal situation.

  • To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
  • Finding your voice requires asking the right questions of yourself.
  • There are 3-5 questions that you would generally want to ask people you are talking to.

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The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source: whrc.org

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source: whrc.org

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source: whrc.org

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

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