Friday, March 29, 2024

Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg

Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg is an excellent book subtitled How to Unlock the Secret Language of Communication. Duhigg notes that the goal for conversations should be to have learning conversations, ones where we learn how the people around us see the world and they understand our perspectives. 

The prologue covers the idea of reciprocating in conversation, connecting by showing people that you're hearing what they're saying and sharing your own stories while you're asking people to share theirs. This matching principle in conversation means that you're doing equivalent things to what the person you're talking to is doing, becoming neurally aligned. If they're sharing, you're sharing. If they're either excited or restrained, you're the same. Also, looping for understanding is the technique of asking questions, summarizing what you heard, and asking if you got it right. There should be lots of questions asked, but more importantly, follow-up questions. Ones that don't have a straightforward answer, but rather ask how someone feels about something, or asks about something impactful to someone. 

Rules for learning conversations: 

1. Pay attention to what kind of conversation is occurring (what someone hopes to get from a conversation). 

2. Share your goals and ask what others are seeking. 

3. Ask about others' feelings, and share your own. 

4. Explore if identities are important to this discussion (keep in mind how important peoples' identities are to their world view). It's helpful to prepare for a conversation, think about or even write down what you want to discuss, what you hope to say, what you plan to ask.

Duhigg writes about connecting with others as having empathy and emotional intelligence. He details astronaut selection and how if someone isn't doing the things to connect, they likely could have a difficult time being successful on a long space mission in close quarters with others. The story is also told of The Big Bang Theory, and how the pilot reveals people trying to connect (by saying "hi"), but who don't know how. 

Three types of conversations: 

1. What's this really about (practical, are different things being discussed)? 

2. How do we feel (emotional, does someone feel controlled or do they feel understood)? 

3. Who are we (social, what's the world view of the person and how can that not be compromised)?

There's also interesting content about online communication and how it important to overemphasize politeness, underemphasize sarcasm, express more gratitude and hedges, and avoid criticism in public forums.

Duhigg closes with the need to invest in relationships, connect with more people, and avoid social isolation as it's an unhealthy thing. He notes that if he gets an email at, he'll respond and that "what's important is wanting to connect, wanting to understand someone, wanting to have a deep conversation, even if it is hard and scary, or when it would be so much easier to walk away." 

The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey

The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey was written in 2005 and subtitled The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. Coffey intersperses a recounting of what happened in the game with backstory on head coach Herb Brooks, who died in 2003 at the age of 66, and many of the players.

It's fascinating how Brooks bonded players together against him, and Coffey notes that Brooks called his year coaching the team his loneliest in hockey. Even years later, it was hard for Brooks to connect with the players, twelve of whom played in the NHL. 

There were twenty players on the team and profiled in order in the book (along with Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov, U.S. goalie coach Warren Strelow, and 42-year-old Brooks) were Billy Baker, Buzz Schneider, Jack O'Callahan, Mark Johnson, Ken Morrow, John Harrington, Neal Broten, Eric Stobel, Steve Janaszak, Mark Pavelich, Steve Christoff, Jim Craig, Dave Christian, Mark Wells, Dave Silk, and Mike Eruzione. The end of the book covers that prior to the Olympics, none of the 1,780 players selected in the 17 years of the NHL draft had been an American high schooler, two years later, 47 of 252 players were.

Coffey notes how Brooks scheduled a pre-tournament game against the Soviets, who won 10-3, so that they would be over confident. In the Olympic matchup between the teams, Vladislav Tretiak, the star Soviet goalie, was pulled after giving up the tying goal at the very end of the first period. Shots on goal in the game were 39 to 16 in favor of the Soviets, with Jim Craig playing an outstanding game in goal and Mark Johnson and Mike Eruzione scoring a minute and a half apart midway through the third period of the 4-3 U.S. win. It was a solid read and interesting how the movie Miracle closely followed real-life as chronicled in the book.