tv Celeste Headlee We Need to Talk CSPAN March 4, 2018 5:00am-6:01am EST
starting now is offer celeste headley talking about the importance of civil communication. >> good afternoon. hope you are enjoying the book festival. my name is our styles and i'm delighted to have you join me in the 11th annual savanna book 1st. the festival is presented by georgia power. david and nancy cintron, she and family foundation, and mark and pat, many thanks to jack and mary romanos come our
sponsors for this glorious venue trinity united methodist church. we would like to extend special thanks to our individual donors who have made and continue to make saturday's free festival events possible. 90% of our revenue comes from donors just like you. we are very excited to have savanna book festival apps available for your phones, just look in your program for instructions for how to download it. immediately following the presentation, celeste will sign copies of her book out here and if you are planning to stay for the following either presentation we ask that you move forward so the measures can get a good count of available seats so we let everybody and that we can.
take a moment now to set your phone to do not disturb. if you don't know how to do it you can also turn it off. no flash photography. same thing if you don't know how to not use the flash don't take the picture. for the question and answer portion, we need you to raise your hand and an usher will ring a microphone to you. here is the hard part. don't start asking your question until the microphone gets there because we can't hear you. in the interest of time and to be fair to everyone we ask that you keep your questions short and no long stories. celeste headley is with us courtesy of savannah state university, bob and linda, celeste is the host of the georgia public broadcasting program on second thought, as well as a previous cohost of the takeaway, midwest correspondent for national
public radio's day-to-day and classically trained soprano. in between all of this she has written a book called we need to talk. a very good book about communications, one that i will have my wife read very soon. please give me a warm welcome to celeste headley. [applause] >> i'm a buddhist, so this feels a little uncomfortable. we tried it the other way for a really long time. generation after generation we have taught our children and ourselves that if something is going to cause an argument we don't talk about it. it used to be we didn't talk about politics and religion. now we have added race, we have added climate change, we have added guns. eventually we are just going to
add everything into we are just not talking about anything difficult anymore. we don't talk to people unless they agree with you. you don't talk to people if you are never going to be challenged. that means you are not learning anything new about the subject. forgive me if i get a little bit emotional because after the shooting in florida last week i keep seeing headlines, quotes from people saying it was an unspeakable tragedy. it is not unspeakable. it has to be spoken of. we have to speak about it. [applause] >> i honestly could not care less what your views are. we, all of us, most of us have people in our families that disagree with us, right? that is what makes holidays so awkward. you can get along with people who don't agree with you. you can talk to them. instead of avoiding these
subjects that leads to an argument, you have to learn to talk about them without arguing. it is much easier than you think. i just want to start with telling you exactly how to do that and there are a number of steps that will help you but there's really only one. that is stop trying to change people's minds. stop trying to convince them that you are right and they are wrong. when was the last time you had a disagreement with someone and at some point in the conversation they went you know what? i am completely wrong, you are right? i have totally changed my mind. it doesn't happen. science can tell you that but that is another one of those studies, i can go into research after research that tells you
we don't change our minds over the course of the conversation but we already know that. i have been talking a lot over the last week. the attempt to change people's minds is making us all frustrated and miserable. part of the reason we arguing about it is because we are trying to change people's minds and it is not going to happen. you are basically beating your head against the wall repeatedly and repeatedly and repeatedly and then thinking i'm never going to do that again. it is not the exercise, it is the beating of the head against the wall that is making you upset, don't do it anymore. you have 0 control over what someone else thinks, the way they view things, that is 100% not in your control but guess what is in your control? you. what you think, what you hear, what you listen to.
if instead of going into these conversations saying i will have it out, i will score points, when this debate, that will make you upset. instead of doing that, going to every conversation saying i won't leave this conversation until i have learned some, you can accomplish that 100% of the time. guns at this point is more divisive as a voting issue than race, abortion, same-sex marriage, marijuana. really? really? we can't talk about firearms? i don't care if you are a member of the nra, i can talk to you about it. how many of you know everything you need to know about guns, and you don't need to listen to anybody else ever because you have nothing to learn about it?
i don't care if you are a gun owner. you think you know everything about guns? i own a smart phone, i don't know anything about the phone. there's lots of stuff i own i don't know anything about. there is no issue on which you can tell me you are the ultimate expert and you have nothing to learn about it. that is not true. that means you are going to have to change your habits. i am tired of trying -- entire society doing the same thing over and over and over again and throwing up our hands and going they called me an idiot. of course they did. they didn't listen to you. it is possible you didn't listen to them. if we plan to progress you can't stand on principle.
it is literally in the phrase. you are just standing. you are not going anywhere. how many of you made promises at some point about the things you were going to do or not do? i am never going to, and then end up -- when i had a kid when i was pregnant i swore i was never going to raise my voice to my child in anger. yeah. we all make principles in our heads. it is ridiculous to think you are going to stand by the man never going to change. they are going to change. but the way they change is by realizing you don't know everything. what i didn't realize was my son was going to be a huge pain
in the butt. you have to evolve. right now we are not evolving of the reason we are not evolving as we put our own comfort above everything else and here's the thing about being comfortable. comfort is the enemy of innovation. have created bubbles around ourselves and we have done a great job of it. i could point to you all the research from pew. they have incredible othership, telling us the same thing over and over. one of the reports is called the spiral of silence because social media, which we dreamed was going to open up conversation, we social media was going to make people nervous about raising their voice and stating there opinion was going to embolden them and opened the conversation and make it more free and tolerance. it did the opposite. it turns out that people who
get shut down on social media are less likely to have a face-to-face conversation. social media is shutting down conversation, the opposite of what was that is why they call it a spiral of silence. we thought the smart phones in our hands which at their heart are a phone, we thought they would increase the number of conversations we have. at this point the average american, this research is three years old so i bet it is worse. at this point the average american adult spend 30 minutes a day texting and six minutes or less on the phone. companies like coca-cola, cisco, jpmorgan, goldman sachs have used their phones so little they eliminated voicemail systems. they don't pay for it anymore because it is not used. but here's the thing.
your smart phone is a crappy replacement for conversation. i do not know why we keep inventing new replacements for the thing that human beings do better than any other species. it is probably the only thing we do better than other species. i am not even trying to be funny here. we all know in a 1-to-1 fight we lose out with a mosquito. we are not impressive. but the one thing we do well, the reason we have dominated on the planet is because we collaborate. when you mess with one human you are usually messing with bunch of other humans. that is why we have succeeded. that is a formula we are messing with.
we are breaking it. because we think each and every one of us, google makes us think we are a few clicks from being an expert in every. we are beginning to think we are in and of ourselves enough for our family unit, our small little tribe and it is not true. there is no replacement for the human voice, none. it is so complex. in many ways magical, science cannot explain how it works. there's research at princeton into what is called neural coupling. what they did was they had one person coming to an fmri, functional won't resonance imaging machine that allows us to watch the brain thinking while the person is conscious. it took someone up to an f mri and had us tell them the story from their life, in one case
she told the story of a disastrous prom. a bunch of other people came in and listens to her telling the story. they found something really miraculous. they found out that when these people were listening in an engaged way to the other woman talking they -- their brains synced up. they moved in perfect sync. in fact it was so inexact at times that the listener's brain would anticipate changes in the speaker's brain by a fraction of a second. that his mind meld. if we saw it in star trek we wouldn't think it was realistic. that is what happens when a pair of human ears listens to a human voice. we can't explain it, we don't know how it works, we don't know why it works, but we know that is something humans do that other species can't.
we can bond with one another. we can reach one another on a level beyond what science can track. that is what we are trying to replace with emojis. seriously. you can't. there is all kinds of ways technology just can't replace what you can do with your voice. apologies. the process that begins with an apology and leads eventually to forgiveness and moving on is a relatively complicated physiological and neurological process. take your finger and put it to the top of your right here, move it up 1 inch and move it back 1 inch. that is the compassion center of your brain.
when the process of forgiveness begins you have to get an apology of some form in your compassion center goes on and leave through the rest of the process that makes you able to forgive that person and forget about it. if someone reads an apology in any form, nothing happens here. if you send an apology by email or, god forbid, text, nothing. crickets. why do we avoid calling the person or seeing them to apologize anyway? why do we do that? it is easier. it is tough to say you are sorry to somebody. it is really tough and painful and guess what. when you are apologizing to someone and they either hear or see that it is tough for you
compassion center lights up and then the process begins. the apology is effective because it is hard. if it is not hard, there is no point. this is another way in which you cannot replace human communication between one voice and one pair of ears. and listen, there are tons of things humans do terribly. there are lots of ways that our smart phone can fill in for things we are not great at. our brains are not computers. our memories are bad. we are bad at storing information and recalling it when we want to. that is what a computer is for.
that is great, that is awesome. like it or not, even though most people can't find their way home from their grocery store with with other phones anymore gps is pretty awesome. we used to have to rely on people to give us directions to our houses and some people are terrible at it. after falling their crappy directions and getting lost you get to their house and they are like high. that doesn't happen anymore. you don't have to get angry at friends and family members for giving you terrible, terrible directions. you have a gps. that is fantastic. mind tells me if there is a traffic jam which is always because i live in atlanta. there are plenty of things for us to use technology for. not conversation. there is no replacement. it can't be improved upon at
this point. and the other part of that is the adoption of smart phone technology has been so rapid. as of 2003, only maybe 10% of american adults in the united states -- raise your hand if you own a smart phone? over 90%. in the world today according to the united nations more people have access to a cell phone then a working toilet. that is incredibly rapid growth. it has outpaced our ability to understand the effect. because clinical studies take years and they have to be peer-reviewed and replicated. we are only now beginning to see some of the effects smart phones are having on our brains and it is not great.
for example they did a study in the uk in which they had hundreds of people sit down and have a conversation with strangers and afterwards they would ask them okay, tell us about the other person, what were they like, where is a friendly? in half of those conversations they were come and place a cell phone down on the table. it belonged to neither person, never made a noise but in those conversations in which there was a cell phone present and visible they were 62% more likely to say the end other person was unfriendly, and trustworthy and unlikable. i want you to about how many times you've gone to lunch with somebody and just set your cell phone on the table and felt good because you didn't look at it. the thing is it is having an effect on their brain because they can see it. the other side of that is having an effect on your brain because part of your brain may
-- 10% of your brain is thinking about that cell phone. it is basically insight or flight mode, ready for it to make a noise. which means if you sit at your desk and you are one of the people who habitually keeps your email open all the time like always have that outlook open, your iq drops by ten points. because part of your brain is about the email. it is occupied in wondering, making sure it is ready for that notification to come in. so again, i am not telling you to get rid of your cell phone, i'm just saying put it away. it is not about getting rid of technology and becoming the unit bomber in a shack. it is about being aware of the
power of that technology and being smart about it. it is not about not letting technology do the things we are bad at but reclaiming things we do better than anybody else. reclaiming what is basically our humanity. there is more really mind blowing research. my favorite researcher who will tell you what a dork i am because i have a favorite researcher, is nicholas epperly. he has been researching these intangibles of human nature for years. just recently, a few months ago, he did this very long study, a whole crew of people, when we read an opinion we disagree with in any form, doesn't matter if it is printed in a newspaper, book, and email, facebook, if we read it
we are much more likely to think we disagree because that person is stupid and ignorant of the real issues. if we hear someone telling us the same opinion, whether it is recorded coming in a podcast, telling us that opinion, we are much more likely to they will disagree with us because they have a different experience and perspective. what that means is the human voice is literally humanizing. it is the voice itself, some quality of the human voice that helps us to recognize each other as human beings deserving of respect. and we do deserve respect. every person deserves respect. not every opinion, but every
person. and it also means this process we are going through right now of transferring all of our communication to the digital world is dehumanizing us. of course we hate each other, we don't see each other as human beings deserving of respect. this is not a partisan issue, if you are thinking absolutely, those liberals are always jerks, or the other way, doesn't matter, what you are thinking, it is not partisan. every single person is equally prone to do this to the other side. every person is equally prone to confirmation bias. do you know what confirmation bias is? it is where you believe something and then someone gives you evidence proving that belief is wrong and it makes you believe it harder. we are the only species that suffers from confirmation bias and that is because
confirmation bias is not helpful. it is not really helpful. if you have a cat and the cat truly believes there are in the next room, a mouse, if you have a mouse and the mouse totally believes there is no cat in the next room and you show them evidence of cat in the next room, lots of cats and that makes the mouse believe harder there are no cat in the next room ice would basically be wiped off the face of the planet. so you have to ask yourself, why do we have confirmation bias? why do all of us have confirmation bias? how does it help us? because frankly, why would it survive through millennia of evolution if it did not in some way help? bible tell you what i believe even though we don't fully understand it yet. i confirmation bias is actually a strength.
i what it does is prove to us constantly that we need each other, that we need to talk to each other. because we are our own checks and balances. i need you guys to tell me when i said something that balls. and i need to believe you. we need each other. all of us. there is no virtue in the saying i don't talk to people like that. it is not a virgin no matter how vile you think their opinion is. that is not something to brag about. you can talk to everybody. i will give you two examples. one of them is georgia's own. do you know who arizona clayton is? one person. there is a street named after her in atlanta. clayton was a good friend of
the kings, doctor king and his wife, coretta. when they decided to create the great neighborhoods initiative, great society initiative to strengthen neighborhoods in atlanta, she was appointed as head of that program and had a bunch of different neighborhood captains at the neighbor came to her and said listen, when ono was an african-american, still is an african-american women and changed, i have to warn you one of them is a grand dragon in the kkk just so you know and she described that first meeting where all the captains came in and one refused to touch her or shake her hand. he written come in from time to time incident or office downtown and she would talk to him. about whatever. and she said doctor king told her you don't try to change hearts. leave that to god.
you have no control over whether a heart is changed. you don't have that power. but you can be a human being and respectful. and they would talk to each other. he ended up coming sometimes two or three times a week and sat down and it wonder she asked him why do you keep coming here? you don't even like me. he says i know but i like to talk to you. and about a year later after all this, he held a press conference and renounced his membership in the kkk. and he said because this woman you probably never heard of his when ono clayton, because i was wrong. i will give you one more example. and other black guy, african-american, a jazz pianist named darrell davis. there is a pbs documentary called accidental courtesy. what he does is convince people
to leave the kkk. he is so successful that he almost single-handedly dismantled the kkk operation in the state of maryland. people ask him what do you say? what is it you are saying to convince them? he says i don't say anything. this is really important. by actively listening to them i am teaching them about myself. and sometimes people just need to be heard. this is what i would say to you. after saying you can't change people's minds, after doctor king's that you can't change hearts and that is true, sometimes. sometimes the act of listening can be such a gift. ..
>> and by being heard. we have about 25 minutes left. i can keep talking, but there are usually a lot of questions. [laughter] so i'm going to go ahead and take questions if you have them. if there aren't any, i will keep going. >> celeste, over here. far back. >> oh, i see you. >> here. [laughter] a couple years ago you came to savannah, and you did a ted talk, and it was one of the best ever. >> thank you. thirteen million views, ladies and gentlemen. [laughter] [applause] >> tell us, if you would, something you learned doing a ted talk. >> next time get a haircut and put on makeup. [laughter] [applause] that is what i learned. [laughter]
other people will be watching this. brush your hair. [laughter] yes. oh, wait, they want me to -- here and here. they're going to bring you a microphone. >> [inaudible] okay. you talked a lot about the challenges to great conversations, but you didn't say anything specific about how to have great conversations. >> well, that's because i wrote a book about it. [laughter] and it took me a long time. no, i mean, the number one challenge to having a great conversation is listening, right? and it's not just a matter of none of you are going to leave her and go, she's right, i'm going to be a great listener from now on. here's the thing, human beings are not born knowing how to listen well. we're just not. it's not something we do well as a species. and anyone who's been around a baby knows that, right? you don't come out of the womb
knowing how to will listen. you come out of the womb knowing how to scream, and some of us never stop. listening has to be taught. that's the secret. how many of you were offered, at some point, a public speaking course in your life? how many of you were offered a listening course in your life? like, two. it's something you have to learn. quite literally. there's incredible research coming off the school systems in australia and new zealand that shows the only way to become a better listener is to actually work at it. it takes discipline. it's one of those things, it's not like information that you just master and learn and memorize and then move on. it's like going to the gym. like, nobody goes to the gym, gets a great pump, and then you're done working out for the res of your life. [laughter] that is listening. it is exercising a muscle that is not naturally strong. so get in there every day. >> how does the brain react to
the voice of artificial intelligence? >> we don't have a lot of good research on there right now. like alexa, if you talk to alexa, we don't really react to it the way that we do to a human being. and believe me, i'm one of the consultants for amazon trying to teach them how to make iowa are lex saw have -- alexa have real conversationings. [laughter] -- conversations. an unpaid consultant, i might add, because what am i going to saysome. [laughter] we don't know. we can't, we don't have any way at this point of measuring what it is that we're responding to in a human voice are. so we don't actually know what's missing in the a.i., but we -- it is missing. neuro-coupling does not occur between an a.i. and a human being. regardless of that movie. her? she? the name of that movie?
yeah. oh, she has a question. >> so i'm going to go buy three of your books and give it to three of my family members -- [laughter] and give them some thorough instructions from you. listen was one, but what would the other two be? >> the other one, obviously, put away your cell phone. put it away. and the last one would be if you're not able to have a conversation right then, walk away. if you can't focus and you can't listen, that's fair, that's fine. just excuse yourself. don't put the other person through the pain of talking to you when you can't listen. don't waste their time, just walk away. politely. other questions? don't you worry, i got plenty more. >> so there are a lot of people in -- i'm a millennial, and there are a lot of people in my
generation and i'm sure the one below us now finish. >> the i-gen, they're calling it. >> right, right. that's scary. but they would argue that they are having meaningful conversations over text and over social media, and, you know, what would you say to them? i know you're not supposed to change people's minds, but how would you approach that subject? >> i'd say you're wrong. [laughter] i mean, i just, you know, you can't just tell me what you feel. you know? show me the proof, right? and there is zero data. i mean, the scientific opinion on texting and e-mailing is as universal as the opinion on climate change. it's wrong. texting is not a conversation. and, in fact, they have found that even your closest friends and family members are no more accurate at detecting sarcasm in your e-mails than a complete
stranger off the street. here's the thing, when i tell people that, they go, oh, i totally believe that. except me, my friends totally know. [laughter] and i say that's not how math works. that is not how math works. we are great at figuring out what other people do wrong. we are excellent at it. but the fact of the matter is we're or terrible at being good judges of what we're doing wrong and what we're not. there's this book called people are not so smart, also a podcast. if you're ever feeling really confident, just read that book. [laughter] it's okay. it's true of all of us. even like really brilliant people. it's true of everybody. but the thing is, is that it's just wrong. a text is not a conversation. and you may be thinking you're communicating well, but you're not saying what they're hearing.
they're hearing and reading something different from what you have typed. into miscommunication is the number -- and miscommunication is the number one product failure in business, mostly because of e-mail. it costs $210 trillion a year. yeah, if you want to put it in dollars and cents. >> as a child, i remember hearing children to be seen and not heard. >> amen. no -- [laughter] >> children are told to keep quiet during entire school years. is that part of why we don't talk anymore and we secretly communicate? >> i don't think so. i don't think so, i mean, you're told to be quiet in class because there's too many kids trying to say what they want and it would be mayhem. it's the same in college courses. everyone can't sit there and talk while the professor's trying to lecture. you've got to be able to hear them. and not only that, but that has been the norm for as far back as
we have records. i'm not saying children should be seen and not heard. come on. but that's okay. when someone's actually lecturing, i mean, if you guys were all talking right now, there would be a brawl because the person next to you would be like, shut up, i'm trying to hear. and the person would be like, shut up, i'm talking to my mom. and it would be like that church scene in the kingsmen. [laughter] people who have seen the movie know what i'm talking about. there's times when you shouldn't talk, plenty of them. but we're not talking about that. i'm not talking about that. i'm talking about actual conversations which we're not having anymore. what we're having is exchanges where one person says what they think and believe, and the other person says what they think and believe, but they're not actually listening to each other. a conversation is an exchange of information. it's one person speaking, another listening and responding and then speaking and then going
back. we're not having that anymore. and that's certainly not what a tweet is. we need fewer hot takes. question. >> i heard your ted talk. it was wonderful. thank you. you did make a wonderful comparison, i think, there your sister, a good conversation in a short skirt. i'll let you to that one, but i do have a question here. i think i assumed, bad of me, that your book was going to be more anecdotal, and it sounds like it's really solidly researched and based on data. how long did it take you to do this, to do the research and write it? >> well, a long time. [laughter] i think there's probably, like, 30 pages of footnotes at the end. it's not fully just science. it's basically split into three kind of chunks. there's plenty of anecdotal, because i admit all the things i do wrong which could have filled another book.
and then there's the science behind what we know. and then there's what i learned in my professional experience as a broadcaster and a professional interviewer. it's kind of split evenly between those three things. so it takes a lot. but one of the reasons it takes so long is because when i first set out to become a better interviewer -- that was my initial effort years and years ago -- i went to those same research books that all of us have been reading for years. the ones that say look them in the eye and nod your head and say uh-huh to show that you're listening. and it's crap, that is crap advice. i don't know that those people actually followed their own advice. it count work i. -- it doesn't work. if you're staring into someone's eyes and making eye contact, it's uncomfortable, isn't it? [laughter] it doesn't work. and so i had to start from scratch. and sometimes i had to reach into research fields and science
that wasn't about communication in order to get my answers. i had to sort of just forget what i knew or thought i knew about the subject and and also what the hell, what were they writing about? like i don't even understand. there's no way. it's just literally teaching you how to act like you are listening. it is, that's what all that advice is about. here's how you pretend you're paying attention. when the most authentic way to do that is pay attention. [laughter] it's totally believable. so, yeah. and the quote you're talking about is actually a version of a winston churchill quote which says a conversation, a good conversation is like a miniskirt, long enough to cover the subject and short enough to retain interest. yeah.
[laughter] winston churchill would say something like that. >> [inaudible] >> oh, okay. hi. >> hi. i'm in adult education, and one of the things that we continue to learn is that lecture-style learning is the most ineffective. >> yeah. >> so can nettic learning where people are actively engaged, how do you have a conversation that includes that component? >> lecturing is the death of good conversation. honestly. if your intent is to educate someone, you're not having a good conversation. i mean, the first thing is, is you basically screwed with the power dynamic because you put yours above them. you made yourself their teach every. there's one part in the book -- i will almost tell you what to say or what not to say because it's completely situational. and if you're paying attention,
you'll know what to say. but the one phrase i want people to stop saying is actually. but actually -- [laughter] it's like i'm not a racist, but nothing good will come after it. [laughter] if you feel yourself wanting to say but actually, just stop. just stop yourself. you don't need to explain. and i think the example i used in the book is, like, you're not making the dinner and you're better to interrupt what someone's saying to explain that real champagne only comes from france. i mean, come on. [laughter] just let it go. [laughter] let it go. yeah. and it's the same thing in learning. i mean, what we're finding is that there's all kinds -- we know all kinds of ways to shut a brain down, and a human mind is already really prone to distraction. microsoft does some of the best research around into attention
span. and what they've discovered is that on the internet at least our attention span is about eight seconds, which is one second shorter than that of a goldfish. [laughter] in conversationing our attention span is about -- conversation our attention spend is about 30-60 seconds. so when you leave here, get something that has a second hand, a timer, and start telling a story and see how long 30 seconds get you through and then stop. because there's a good chance their attention span has expired. and the other side to that is the human brain can only hold on to three or four things at any one time. so if you're one of those people that starts talking to your spouse and is like, and another thing, and you just are kind of going through all the stuff -- [laughter] you are spitting in the wind, my friends. [laughter] choose one thing. choose one thing and say is it in 30-60 seconds.
and then be done and walk away, and everyone will be happier. yeah. oh, yeah. hi. >> [inaudible] >> yes. >> i'm not trying to break line. [laughter] >> you're good. >> i was always told in reading business books and advice from people who know that one should stick to their knitting; that is, know what business you're in and stick to that. why on earth would you change your appearance when your last ted talk gained 13 million listeners or viewers or? [laughter] [applause] i watched your ted talk last night and decided i have to go see this woman. and i'm a little disappointed because, frankly, i didn't think it was all about cell phones, but i understand everything you're saying. [laughter] my daughter --
>> question. >> yeah, there's a question. [laughter] >> the wife. >> there's a multiplication of technology. i'm talking about text messages. >> yeah. >> or forwarding twitter stuff. i forwarded something, my daughter like unfriended me. [laughter] and i called her and i said, listen, this is what i was trying to say. and she said, oh. the human voice brought it all together, so i apologize. >> was there a question? [laughter] >> why would i change it? i didn't. [laughter] i didn't. i just put it in a clip. [laughter] i lied about me learning that. [laughter] >> because we're more reticent to commune be candidate with each other in -- communicate with each other in conversation and that's making people more
reliant on texting and so forth, has there within any studies that says we now read differently? >> oh, we do. >> we used to learn empathy by reading novels. >> you still do. >> we not as good as we used to be as readers? >> that's a complicated question. >> thank you. [laughter] >> we are not as good readers, meaning that we don't have an attention span for reading the way we used to. and if you look at the amount, like how much of an article the average person actually reads before they click away to another link or how long a book is from an unestablished author that people will actually read to the end, we do not read as much as we used to. but we have also found that the number one way to teach people critical thinking and reading and have them speak well is to
read to them. the benefits that we get from reading have not changed. and it is still true that you can learn empathy by reading novels about people whose experiences are different from your own. the number one most effective way to learn, to increase your empathy -- and this is important because empathy can be increased or decreased. and empathy has been on the decline for 30 years, in fact, it's dropped 40% invest past 30 years. most of that since the year 2000. but it can be increased. and the number one most efficient way to do that is by having a conversation with someone else in which you learn about their experiences and their perspectives. it is no small thing even when you disagree with them. it's helping you. and i tell people all the time stop thinking about the benefit you're conferring on someone else by listening to them. it's good for you. small talk makes you live longer, makes you less likely to
have a fatal cardiac event, it makes you less prone to depression knowing, being friendly with your neighbors makes you less prone to diabetes, it makes you less prone to all kinds of diseases. and yet i have a friend of p mine who drove around the block twice because his neighbor was out front, and he didn't want to pull in while he was there and get in a conversation with him. [laughter] those little chats with your uber drivers and your grocery store clerks about nothing are literally making you healthier. so by staring down at your phone so that they don't make eye contact and they don't start talking to you, you are hurting yourself. other questions. >> no. when the comment was made that younger folks might feel that they're communicating just as effectively when they're communicating on their cell phone -- >> yep. >> -- the first thing you said is was that's not true. science has shown, blah, blah, blah.
>> yes. >> however, feelings, i feel this way, is legitimate in terms of how i'm approaching that conversation. you seem to stop the conversation at that point and said, well, that's not true. this is the facts. facts don't seem to be as important anymore as feelings. >> oh, not to me. [laughter] >> but -- >> i have nothing but respect for people's feelings, but it doesn't change facts. i mean, i can feel all i want, that i have written an e-mail and it's really good communication. from my end, that may be true. i may have expressed myself in a way that i'm perfectly happy with and i think it is rewarding to me. the question is, in a good exchange of information, did the other person get an accurate reading of what it was that i was trying to say, in other words, was the information communicated clearly, and did i express myself in a way that was effective? that they don't need further explanation in order to
understand what he was trying to say. and the fact is texting -- that doesn't mean every single text is not a good exchange. and, in fact, it's a perfectly great platform for a simple exchange of information. what do you want for dinner, chinese food, okay. fine. but i can't make it to your birthday party, so sorry. nope. >> but then how do you use, how do you effectively use the facts that you're aware of from scientific literature to confront that confirmational bias of the other individual? >> i don't confront people's confirmation bias. >> you just did. i mean, somebody said i communicated equally well if not better on my cell phone -- >> no, he was saying other people think that, right? you were saying other young people believe that, not that you believe that? yeah. >> but what if i came to you and said i believe that? >> i would say you probably do feel that, but it's not correct.
[laughter] we've got four minutes. another question? >> i enjoyed your talk very much. >> thank you. >> is there any mystery to why it seems like these, you know, alexa and things like that are in the female voice? or it seems very -- [laughter] predominant. >> this is actually quite interesting. people get irritated when it's a male telling them. [laughter] for whatever reason, and they believe -- amazon believes it's because of the that terrible nature of much of the instruction that most people get when they're growing up, that they tend to be more accepting of someone telling them your timer's up or it's time to go to bed or whatever it is when it's a woman telling them. whereas if it's a guy telling them, it's like -- i will say here's an interesting thing that's not part of your
question. amazon has now made it if you re in a misogynyst way to alexa, she shuts off. [applause] she turns herself off if you call her the c-word or anything like it. [laughter] she will not engage. [laughter] >> is there any scientific information on what you comprehend reading off of a computer versus what you comprehend when you're reading a book or a newspaper? i've been saying it's a generational thing because i do not comprehend as well all of the computer as i do something -- >> yeah, that's just habit. there's no, i mean, they haven't really found -- some of the best research is going on at uc-berkeley. they have a greater good center which is one of the places we're doing incredible work not only on this topic, but also on empathy. and that's more of a it depends
on what you like, right? i like an actual physical book, and i like library books because they smell like library books. but my kid is just fine reading off the computer. he gets the same information. writing, though, you need the actual physical act of writing in order for it to ever make it to your memory banks. if you type notes in a class, it doesn't actually get to your memory banks. >> that's exactly where i was going with my question, is letter writing different from e-mail? >> so this is interesting. there are a few things that e-mail does better than regular communication, and is we only have one minute, so i'm going to make this really quick. one of them is sending an attachment, for obvious reasons, another is sending a list or an agenda or a summation of a meeting. we had a phone call, here's what i heard, and the other thing we found is an e-mail is a perfect good replacement for what would have been a long letter that you wrote. now, you don't get the benefits of physically writing except in
microsoft one note where i can write on my tablet with my pen, and then i do get the benefit. other than that, there's no diminution of receiving a letter or reading it on e-mail. same thing. yeah. thank you all very much. [applause] >> thank you all. don't forget the little yellow buckets on the way out if you have any spare jewelry, car keys, excess money, what have you. thank you. [inaudible conversations]