Isolating the variables of genuine connection

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(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 course, the article’s title was a bit misleading — these kinds of questions create connection, not romantic love, per se… But, the science behind it is rock-solid: “Reciprocal, personal self-disclosure” is a surefire way to develop intimacy. …

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“I think of myself as a play detective… Play, especially for children, is a kind of language. And the more we allow it, the more we can heal.”

Any parent knows how hard it can be to get kids to open up about what’s going on at school, at daycare, or just in their heads. Carley Aroldi does it for a living. After trying the conventional route, she found that the most effective tool to get through to her 7-year-old clients was play.

We talked to her about how she uses play in her practice, how it’s helped her make progress in her own life as a parent and a professional, and why she’s spent entire therapy sessions in toy handcuffs.

[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

How an anti-establishment improv upstart broke the rules and made a name for itself overseas.

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Boom members left to right: Liz Cackowski, Andrew Moskos, Rob AndristPlourde, Seth Meyers, Ike Barinholtz, Ken Schaefle, and Jamie Wright (Via Vulture).

Last week, a Vulture article about Boom Chicago, “the greatest American comedy factory you’ve never heard of,” quickly circulated around our virtual office. Boom, an American improv show inexplicably launched in Amsterdam in 1993, holds a special place in our hearts — and not just because it helped launch the careers of Jordan Peele, Seth Meyers, Amber Ruffin and our very own Creative Director/gentle giant, Jamie Wright (pictured above).

No, we love Boom because, as Vulture notes, when other comedy theaters felt like “calcified, hierarchical institutions,” Boom risked it all to create a space where performers could get paid to perform and experiment outside of the “prying, judgmental eyes of the comedy Establishment.” …

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You’re crossing the street as a car approaches at full speed, skidding to a stop just before the crosswalk. The driver yells out the window, “take your sweet time, buddy!” You know you’re in the right here. You should say something back. You rack your brain for the perfect comeback, but nothing comes…

We’ve all been there, shaking our metaphorical fists at our minds, pleading, “don’t just sit there, you idiot!” When we think of wit, we often think of contrived punchlines or verbal gymnastics (think: one-liners or puns). …

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“Knock, knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Interrupting brain.’

When we’re in “emergency mode,” we tend to neglect the little things. Things like scheduling a dentist appointment, responding to a networking email, taking out the trash… Unfortunately, even if we place these non-urgent to-dos out of sight, it doesn’t mean they’re out of mind.

It’s called the Zeigarnik effect

Discovered by Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, it’s a phenomenon that causes our brain to “focus on incompleted or interrupted tasks” — to the detriment of our current flow state.

Essentially, it’s like having too many tabs open in our brains’ browser: it drains our processing power. …

On a scale of 1 to Christmas, we’re collectively at the south pole.

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Pictured above: a visual representation of the world’s mental state…
and clue #2 to what we’re working on.
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In 2007, Peter Dodds, a data scientist and professor at the University of Vermont had a question: Could you measure the world’s collective happiness? Luckily for him, around that time a new platform debuted, dedicated to letting users share their feelings with the world: Twitter.

So, Dodds started working on the Hedonometer

The Hedonometer measures happiness based on the tone of the world’s tweets. Podcast “Reply All,” reports that in 2008, Dodds and his team of researchers struck an agreement with the young tech company to analyze 10% of all of their users’ tweet (on an aggregate level so as not to infringe on personal privacy).

They asked people to rank over 10,000 keywords on a scale of 1–9–1 being the saddest, 9 the happiest. Words like die, death, and terrorism made the bottom of the sad list, while celebrate, rich, and weekend scored on the happy side (fun fact: around 2018 they had to remove “thirsty” from their lexicon. It’s meaning had changed too dramatically…). …

Most adults don’t consider themselves creative. We’re here to tell you that’s BS.

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If you ask most adults in an office job if they consider themselves creative, they’ll probably say no or, more likely, “not as creative as I should be.” Creative imposter syndrome is rampant these days, in part because of companies’ increasing emphasis on “innovation” to drive revenue, and in part because we’re all feeling unproductive these days. But here’s the thing: creative has nothing to do with productivity.

Say it with us. Creativity has. Nothing. To do. With. Productivity.

In fact, as researchers learn more about the creative brain, they’ve expanded their thinking about what it means to be creative. Today, creativity not only includes creating something new and original, but also appreciating the “new and original” and incorporating it into our own experience. …

“I’m OK right now,” and other mantras for an anxious brain.

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Let’s address the “elephant in the brain” right now. It feels like everything is on fire. But, there’s an improv thinking exercise we on the Speechless team have been leaning heavily on lately to remind ourselves that we, at this very moment, are not. It’s called “I don’t have a toothache.” The premise is simple: list out everything that’s not going wrong right now, starting with the fact that you don’t have a toothache.

It sounds silly, but a not-aching tooth or a not-on-fire house are easy things to forget. …

Virtual meetings can be infuriating. But they can also make us better listeners.

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On the evening of Friday, September 17th, Supreme Court Justice, champion of gender equality, and unlikely cultural icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at 87. Over the past week, mourners have paid homage in their own ways, from flowers at the US Supreme Court steps, to one-legged planks.

But, amidst her illustrious legacy, there is one small thing RBG was known for that feels especially relevant as students of improv thinking

Her incredible tolerance for uncomfortable silence

In fact, the justice was so notorious for pregnant pauses that her former law clerks adhered to the “RBG three” — waiting a count of three before responding to ensure the justice had finished speaking. …

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“We need joy. We need wonder. We need wit. And we need it now more than ever.”

Susan O’Malley thrives in situations that would give most of us the cold sweats. As a former champion debater and current design expert at IDEO, she’s spoken all over the world at conferences, on panels, and in college lecture halls. In short, she’s no rookie.

But, in preparation for a podcast interview about Designing Our Work, Susan took a radical new approach: she focused on being present. The results? An interview that went in some wild and wonderful directions, and garnered tens of thousands of listens from people all over the world.

We talked to her about the major “unlock” she experienced with improv thinking, and how it’s made her speaking engagements more enjoyable, engaging, and authentic. Spoiler alert: It gave us the good kind of goosebumps. …


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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