Feb 24, 2023
In today's conversation, I am joined by Dr. Nick Epley, Director
of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago
Booth School of Business. I was introduced to Nick by the amazing
Ayelet Fishbach, who has been on The Brainy Business twice
Nick studies social cognition—how thinking people think about
other thinking people—to understand why smart people so routinely
misunderstand each other. He teaches an ethics and well-being
course to MBA students called Designing a Good Life (sounds like a
perfect fit around here, and we do talk about this in the episode).
His research has appeared in more than two dozen empirical
journals, been featured by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal,
CNN, Wired, NPR, and more.
As Nick will share with us today...you may not realize it, but
you were born with an extraordinary ability to understand what
others think, feel, believe, want, and know. You are a mind reader!
It’s a sixth sense you use every day, in every personal and
professional relationship you have. Today, Nick will share a bit of
what scientists have learned about our ability to understand others
and the surprising mistakes we so routinely make.
- [00:45] In today's conversation, I am joined by Dr. Nick Epley,
director of The Center of Decision Research at the University of
Chicago, Booth School of Business. Nick studies social
- [02:52] You may not realize it, but you were born with an
extraordinary ability to understand what others think, feel,
believe, want, and know. You are a mind reader.
- [05:02] Nick shares about himself and his background. He is a
professor of behavioral science at the University of
- [07:32] There are systematic gaps between our beliefs about
someone else and reality. If we can understand what those gaps are
we can understand why they exist.
- [09:38] The quality of our social relationships is a critical
determinant of our happiness, probably the most important. Other
people are the single biggest source of our happiness as well as
- [11:55] One of the big barriers to people being more social in
their daily lives is that they underestimate how social others
- [13:35] We get that risk-reward trade-off with other people
wrong. We think it is riskier to reach out and engage than it
- [15:05] Failing to realize that other people are social is a
barrier to us.
- [17:43] One of the common things we find is that people are
often surprised at how much they learned, how enjoyable the
conversation was, and how much they have in common with the other
- [20:22] Conversations have a magnetic quality to them. It draws
people together and surprises people.
- [22:02] If you don’t like small talk…stop having it. When you
take an interest in other people they reveal interesting stuff and
take an interest in you.
- [24:18] Take an interest in another person - that is how you
have good conversations.
- [26:26] If you care about somebody then you ask them questions
that matter to them. Treat other people like they are good
- [28:09] When people imagine having a meaningful conversation
with a stranger, they think the other person is not going to want
to hear about it or care about it. When they get into it and open
up to each other it generally goes way better than people
- [29:56] Having a culture where people are open, honest, and
willing to engage and connect with one another, they feel connected
to the place because they are connected to each other is the kind
of culture that every organization wants to have and helps get the
- [31:56] People’s reluctance to reach out and engage with others
is exactly the kind of barrier that organizations would want to get
- [33:38] The things that basic psychology has to teach people in
business is the same thing we have to teach people in their
- [36:02] If you are bringing people into your organization,
think about interviewing with your culture in mind.
- [38:46] When you make connection activities routine, common,
easy, and part of the habits so people aren’t thinking about it,
you design it with the context so it just happens this way that is
how they spread through organizations and you sustain
- [41:30] Often organizations don’t choose to make these types of
opportunities a priority.
- [43:52] Typing and texting lack the emotion and the thinking
behind those words that you get from a person’s voice.
- [45:32] Share kind thoughts with other people.
- [46:35] Think about somebody you feel grateful to and write
them a note. Try to connect with a stranger.
- [49:17] Melina’s closing thoughts
- [50:36] Take the time for real human connections, even small
ones each day and see what happens.
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