Of Note: What’s this really about?

Submitted By:
Jessica Flaxman, Rye Country Day School, Rye, NY

Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection by Charles Duhigg
Random House, February 20, 2024

In his new book, Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection, author Charles Duhigg offers comprehensible frameworks and sticky phrases to guide us to better conversations regardless of setting. Building on the strong foundation of Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle and more recent publications such as Stone, Patton, and Heen’s Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, Duhigg identifies just three questions that all our exchanges essentially seek to answer: What’s this really about? How do we feel? Who are we? Better still, to engage successfully in these inquiries, Duhigg asserts that we need only three competencies: the ability to make decisions, the ability to understand emotions, and the ability to recognize who we and others are. In dialogue, he says, our questions of one another can also easily be adapted to allow for deeper connection: for example, instead of asking where someone attended high school or where someone is from, try “What advice would you give a high schooler?” or “What’s the best thing about where you grew up?” And, when in a conflict, we are wise to focus on controlling ourselves, our environment, and the discussion boundaries rather than the person with whom we are speaking. In Duhigg’s optimistic estimation, supercommunication is an achievable skill for anyone willing to bring a level of intentionality to their conversations, to think “harder about how conversations unfold, why they succeed or fail, and the nearly infinite number of choices that each dialogue offers that can bring us closer together or push us apart.”

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