Let’s get together

A surprising ending, learning through conversation, and 5 links worth your time

Anyone who has ever worked with me knows how much I hate meetings. It was, therefore, something of a shock to me when I realized late last week that I had an entire day of back-to-back meetings scheduled. 

Equally shocking, however, was the fact that by the end of my meetings-marathon, I wasn’t miserable. I actually felt better than I had all week. How did that happen? 

Talking to strangers

As I was reflecting on this (for me!) bizarre turn of events, I realized all my meetings had something in common: in each case, I met with people I didn’t know very well. I’d been introduced to everyone previously, but I didn’t really know any of them. 

Each conversation happened by phone or Zoom. Not being in the same room with someone you don’t know is awkward, and each meeting started with the 2020 version of an icebreaker: “How are you doing with this whole pandemic thing?” In answering that question, the people I was meeting told me something really important about themselves and the challenges they were facing. 

Some of the meetings ended with the professional outcome I was trying to achieve. Several did not. But every meeting left me feeling closer to the person with whom I was talking, and, at the end of the day, that’s why I felt energized instead of miserable. 

Better together

I don’t know about you, but 2020 has left me completely worn out. I’m exhausted from the stress over the pandemic, the economy, how it all affects my family and friends, the upcoming election, and the possibility that 2021 might not be any better.

2020 certainly isn’t the first time in my adult life where external events have made me anxious. I was an adult on 9/11 and during the Great Recession, and I do remember being worried during those times. But I also remember something else just as significantly as my fear: I remember talking with other people and being in conversation together about our anxieties. 

“Conversations for the Curious”

A few weeks ago, after the debacle that was the first presidential debate, my colleagues and I resolved to do two things before the year was out: gather people together for a live event again (we haven’t had one since this summer, when Zoom fatigue really set in for many of you) and focus on something hopeful.  

And so, on October 29th, we’re inviting you to join us for Civil Squared Live. Russ Roberts, the host of the very popular podcast, EconTalk, will be our guest and will talk with us about the “Conversations for the Curious” he offers in every episode of EconTalk. We’ll get together (albeit virtually) for some hopeful discussion about all that he’s learned by talking to relative strangers over more than 700 episodes of his podcast. 

You’ll find more detail about the event and Russ in our 5 links below, and you’ll also find a few pieces about the importance of talking with people who might be (or just seem like) strangers. We hope to see you on the 29th! 

5 links worth your time

  1. Civil Squared Live: A Curious Conversation with Russ Roberts – On Thursday, October 29th at 12:30 EDT, Civil Squared Live is back with a real-time, virtual conversation with Stanford University’s Russ Roberts, host of the popular EconTalk podcast. We’ll ask Russ to share the best things he’s learned from his interviews about what curious individuals can do to improve our lives and communities. Bring your questions because Dr. Roberts is ready to answer them! This event is held in partnership with our friends at The Library of Economics and Liberty. All are welcome, but advance registration is required.
  2. It’s a Wonderful Loaf – This short film and poem by Russ Roberts demonstrates “emergent order,” a “pattern that emerges without coordination.” Using an example that we can all understand and relate to (bread!), this beautiful film and website shows us the amazing products of individual actions and how decentralized activity meets our needs better than any top-down, planned economy ever could. 
  3. The Stormtrooper Problem: Why Thought Diversity Makes Us Better, Farnam Street – If everyone attempts to solve problems the same way, we’ll be less effective. When we seek to avoid difference because it makes us uncomfortable, we “increase our vulnerability.” This is true in biology and it’s also true when it comes to our ability to create and innovate cognitively. 
  4. Arnold Kling on the Three Languages of Politics, Revisited, EconTalk – Russ Roberts interviews economist Arnold Kling on his book The Three Languages of Politics. Kling likens contemporary political discussions to “tribes speaking different languages.” As a result, our ability to solve problems will be diminished because of our inability to understand one another and hear new perspectives. 
  5. 5 ways talking to strangers can boost your emotional intelligence, Fast Company – An emotional intelligence expert explores the ways that talking to someone we don’t know can help us better understand ourselves and our own thinking.  

Photo by Вадим Пастух on Adobe Stock