Isolating the variables of genuine connection

(via Paul Spella for The Atlantic)

In 2015, one New York Times article took the dating world by storm. “The 36 Questions That Lead To Love” detailed 36, progressively intimate character and experience-based questions like “Would you like to be famous?” “When was the last time you cried?

The questions were based on a study called “The Experimental Generation of Personal Closeness,” which found that mutual vulnerability can foster intimacy — and maybe, just maybe, love. *Cue romantic accordion*

And so the gauntlet was thrown. Couples new and old took up the 36 Questions’ banner, attempting to spark love in wine bars the world over. Of…

You’re getting back out there… now what do you talk about??

Vaccination numbers are rising, covid cases are falling, and social gatherings are starting to open up again. You may have been to a memorial BBQ or a park hang in the past few weeks, you may have noticed a phenomenon: We’re all having the same stale, dead-end, and lightly re-traumatizing conversations about work, “self-care,” or the latest NYT headline.

Here are 4 creative alternatives, inspired by the conversational card game We’re Not Really Strangers, to replace common quarantine small talk:

Don’t ask: “How did you spend your quarantine?”
Ask: “What was the most fun moment you had in quarantine?”

Most of us have spent our rare social time with a few close friends or loved ones at most (in-person…

New advice on persuasion through compassion illustrates improv thinking at work.

What do you say to a friend who won’t get vaccinated? Today, The New York Times published a fantastic interactive chatbot that walks you through that very conversation using persuasive techniques that may seem counterintuitive — but are super effective.

The word “no” isn’t uttered once

Instead, the technique is based around some of the core principles of improv thinking: ‘yes-and’-ing the other person’s feelings, leading with curiosity, and sharing info collaboratively in a narrative format.

Developed by doctors Arnaud Gangneur and Karin Tamerius, this school of thought deliberately avoids persuasive tactics you may recognize from your last contentious family gathering — “commanding, advising, lecturing, and…

And why making friends is about to get a whole lot easier.

Picture this: You’re sitting at an airport bar, waiting for a flight to visit friends. You’ve got a drink and just enough time to kill, when a stranger with a kind face plops down on the stool next to you. “You headed to _________, too?” They ask?

It’s not a dream. It’s a soon-to-be reality.

For a year-plus we have had nowhere to go, and that also means we’ve had no one to meet — either intentionally or unintentionally. We haven’t been “bumping into old friends,” and we sure as heck haven’t been bumping into new ones. …

And it’s on the strange spectrum between surviving and thriving.

For the past 14 months (???), it seems we’ve all transformed into Victorian gentry — learning Romance languages, taking long walks, writing letters, staring wistfully out the window, growing out our armpit hair…

But, even if you haven’t started referring to the kitchen as the “Solarium,” The New York Times suggests you may be experiencing another Austen-esque phenomenon:

It’s called “languish”

No, it’s not an 18th-century blood disease it’s — as organizational psychologist Adam Grant puts it — “the neglected middle child of mental health.”

And studying them tells us a ton about why we do, too.

We’ll give you a minute to process this information. Yes, it’s true, rats do actually laugh. And studying them tells us a ton about why we do, too. But before we get to that, some quick Rat Facts™:

  • Rat laughs are normally too high-pitched for us to hear. To study them, scientists had to modulate the recordings way down.
  • Scientists found that rats laugh during rough-and-tumble play (AKA “playfighting”) and when tickled (AKA CUTE)
  • They also found that rats laugh when they’re excited, or anticipating something joyful happening, like being fed (same, honestly).

Why were scientists studying rodent laughter in the first place?

Well, they noticed laughing is one of…

Most of us are treasure hunting without a map. Here’s how to bring a sense of play to your progress.

If you’ve received one piece of financial advice in your life, it’s likely this: small, consistent investments add up big over time. You’ve probably also heard that more people play the lottery than save for retirement.

The same is true of long-term goals; our incremental gains accrue like interest. But, like saving for retirement, the very thing that makes compound interest so effective is what makes it hard to appreciate: it’s difficult to conceptualize our day-to-day progress, and it doesn’t trigger the immediate serotonin boost of say, hitting the “jackpot.”

The result? While the effectiveness of 1% gains is proven…

Brainefits?? Ugh, never mind…

Last week, Psychology Today reported on a new study that points to improv as a potential therapeutic treatment for trauma survivors, along with numerous cognitive benefits, and we’ve been blasting “Vindicated” by Dashboard Confessional at our desks ever since.

Building on the groundbreaking fMRI research of none other than Speechless advisor, UCSF neuroscientist Dr. Charles Limb, the study provides even more evidence that improv isn’t just “silly team building,” but that it “changes the brain in significant, measurable ways.”

What they did

Over 8 months, researchers mapped the brains of 32 teens aged 15–18, suffering from Complex Developmental Trauma before, during, and after…

(And why it’s bullsh*t)

March 24, 2021, marked Equal Pay Day — the day that symbolizes the additional time a woman has to work to earn the same salary as a man (AKA, 1 year + 2 months and 24 days). Now, this statistic is misleading for a number of reasons — you have to be employed to be counted (women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic), and Equal Pay Day for women of color (who take home just 60% of their white male counterparts) won’t happen for several months yet.

And this got us thinking about the stories we tell ourselves about…

Plus, one that works even better…

Zoom Escaper, by Sam Lavigne.

Artist and certifiable genius Sam Lavigne has created the best since the vaccine: Zoom Escaper. The free web app that lets you add fake audio effects to your Zoom call — giving you the perfect excuse to escape.

Barking dog? You got it. Construction? No problem. Crying baby or — even better — crying man? Dealer’s choice. And, for all of you living alone in an low-traffic area? The piéce de resistánce: choppy audio and echoes.

We don’t deserve him.

And listen, we don’t steal Sam’s thunder or anything, but we too, have a free tool that will get you…

Speechless Inc.

Speechless is an organization that uses Improv Thinking to help people be themselves and be heard. Visit for more info.

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