Never lose an argument again, using intellectual humility + debate skills

Hey there—Shane here with my monthly Snow Report!

It seems like every social network and the entirety of cable news is now one big angry debate these days. I don’t see that stopping anytime soon, unless Mr. Rogers comes back from the dead and wins the 2020 election after all the other politicians hug it out and retire.

In the event that that doesn’t happen, the skills of a) detecting b.s., and b) debating productively, are going to pay off more and more for us.

That’s why I’m excited about the latest episode of on Jordan Harbinger’s video show and podcast that I just went on. We discuss the tactics for spotting bad debate and how to debate better at work and in civil discourse—and Jordan made a whole worksheet you can use to master these skills!

The secret to never losing an argument again is simple, though not easy: set up every argument so “winning” means learning something from it. Depersonalize the argument, so it’s not about who’s right, but rather about digging through to truth, logic, and new ideas. Again, easier said than done, but it’s possible and powerful:

Check out the episode and worksheet about how to do that here: https://jordanharbinger.com/202

And speaking of getting better at debate and discourse—I’m rolling out my brand new Dream Teams training course at the Snow Academy this summer!

If you and/or your organization want to master the skills of teamwork, leadership, cognitive friction, and intellectual humility, you can check out what the course covers here, and you can go here to let me know that you’re interested in getting access to the course.

In the next Snow Report, we’re going to be discussing a related topic I’ve been obsessing over lately: power dynamics. I’m super excited to share with you what I’ve discovered on this increasingly timely subject!

Much love,

Shane

The psychological power of stories we tell ourselves

Welcome back to The Snow Report, where we explore how to think and see the world differently. Feel free to forward this along to anyone who you think would like it. And thanks for joining this journey! <3 Shane

Not long ago, I had to babysit a terrible two-year-old. By myself.

She was adorable, and infuriating.

I was stuck with her on the front porch while my girlfriend (now fiancé—yay!) and the two-year-old’s mom were doing something in the house. Every 30 seconds, the kid started winding up a tantrum so she could get her mom’s attention—and my job was to prevent this from happening.

After a few failed attempts to distract her, I inadvertently found a way to extend those 30 second intervals into a full 30 minutes.

I told the little girl that I was a dinosaur hunter, and I needed her help to find where all the dinosaurs were hiding. She immediately got on board.

We searched the corners of the yard, pretending that the flies and beetles and sparrows were dinosaurs. Finally, her mom came out, saw what was happening, and decided that her friend needed to marry me immediately. (Great success!)

What happened here was a version of what we’ve all seen at some point with kids. When you turn the spoon full of food they don’t want to eat into an airplane, suddenly a toddler wants to eat ALL the food.

In psychology terms, this is called “cognitive reappraisal.” In normal human terms, it’s “telling yourself a different story than what is actually happening.”

Cognitive reappraisal, in a nutshell, makes it easier for us to get through hard things.

And it doesn’t just work on kids. As Eric Barker explains in his wonderful book Barking Up The Wrong Tree, cognitive reappraisal is a powerful tool for adults as well!

  • Research shows that people who call themselves “optimists” often have a too-rosy view of the world vs “pessimists”… but they also manage to overcome work obstacles with more success than “realists.” That’s because the stories they tell themselves (about how things will work out) help them to work harder when the going gets tough.

  • When University of Virginia professors experimented with telling students with academic challenges to change the narrative in their head from “I can’t do this” to “I just need to learn the ropes,” they found that this alone dramatically decreased dropout rates.

  • And in a surprising look at Navy SEAL training: The difference between the small percentage of candidates who make it through the brutal training required to become a Navy SEAL and those who don’t make it isn’t the size of their muscles or their overall physical fitness. By the time you make it to SEAL training, you’re in pretty good shape. The difference between those who make it through training and those who don’t is almost entirely explained by the “self talk” the candidates give themselves when going through the training. The soldiers who turn the extreme underwater breath-holding or carrying the giant log for miles into games in their heads—rather than thinking about it as the horrible physical challenges they are—push through and win the day.

Another fascinating book that gets into this idea is the wonderfully original The Hypomanic Edge, by Dr. John Gartner. In it, Dr. Gartner psychoanalyzes various groundbreaking explorers and innovators in history—from Christopher Columbus to Alexander Hamilton—and shows a fascinating pattern:

  • People who are crazy enough to believe that they can beat the odds often do things other people would never do—and this helps them beat the odds.

  • Many times this kind of craziness coincides with other bad traits (Columbus was no saint, and was more than slightly crazy), but like The Little Engine That Could, the people who are willing to tell themselves a story that they are special and “can do it” are much more able to push their own envelope than people who don’t.

If you’ve been getting The Snow Report since last summer, you’ll remember that I wrote about A Book About Love, wherein neuroscience writer Jonah Lehrer outlines how both talk therapy and journaling help us to move on after big mistakes or horrible circumstances that have happened to us.

Both of these activities do the same thing: they ask us to turn what we’ve done or been through into a story. And once we’ve turned our pasts into a narrative, it’s much easier for us to lives with ourselves.

So the next time you face a challenge, tell yourself a story about how you can do it.

When you need to push through that final dumbbell set or that last excruciating triangle pose, tell yourself that you’re the kind of person who can endure this.

When you find yourself furious at that person who you “can’t deal with anymore,” tell yourself a story that helps you reframe the situation (“This is so great; I can’t wait to text my friends about this later!”) or a game (one of my favorites: keep count of how many times the annoying person does the annoying thing). Or just tell yourself the story of how you are the kind of person who can deal with it.

Because you can deal with it!

Perhaps most important: Use some cognitive reappraisal on yourself when it comes to the things that haunt you. You can put the painful past into a story—and no matter how good or bad the story, you can live with a “story” better than you can live with “general pain.”

And telling the story of where you’ve been and how it’s changed you for the better—rather than the story of how your past has screwed you up—will help you make it up the next mountain.

The best thing about this is it’s backed by real brain science. Positive self talk isn’t just hippy mumbo jumbo.

I can attest to this myself as I’ve put self-storytelling into practice. And not just with two-year-olds, but my own inner child that wants to throw a tantrum every time life gets hard.

Here’s to turning that pill we need to swallow into an awesome airplane!

Until next time—much love,

Shane

A different dimension of diversity... (P.S. Do you want to unsubscribe?)

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the most powerful, yet under-appreciated types of diversity: Personality Diversity.

Take my co-author Joe and I, for example. I’m highly driven by achievement and impact, and my ego comes out strong when I start to feel ashamed. Joe on the other hand is impervious to shame. (He’ll eat moldy pickles and insist that pickles can’t mold.) He’s driven in large part by passion and fostering community—and he really likes knowing the details about things he’s passionate about.

You’d better believe these personality differences make a difference in our work together. I don’t want to compare us to the Beatles, but um… John and Paul brought out the genius in each other. THAT’S ALL I’M SAYING, GUYS. (Also: John and Paul needed lots of other people in their worlds to really do what they did best!)

Our culture talks a lot about the obvious kinds of differences between people—our appearances, skin colors, ages, genders, cultures, etc.—but one of the most interesting things about these differences is the fact that they translate to different ways of thinking beneath the surface. In Dream Teams, I refer to this as “how you roll.” Your different life—which is very much a function of who you are, how you look, how you’ve been treated, and so on—has led you to have different perspectives and other internal attributes than other people.

And when we combine those different things in our heads, we all get better.

I bet you’ve probably taken a personality test for a job at some point. Most of these tests (Meyers-Briggs, The Big 5, etc.) are used to try to screen for people with similar personalities, so groups and companies can be full of like-minded teammates.

But if it’s true that we need people to roll differently in order to get better together, that’s EXACTLY WHAT WE DON’T WANT!

Let that sink in.

In the next couple of Snow Report newsletters, I’m going to dig deep into personality diversity and how better understanding its dimensions has helped me navigate relationships in and out of work much better over the last six months.

Please reply to this email with your thoughts and questions on what you’d like to see me explore on this front!

And in the meantime, speaking of different personalities, I have news:

We’ve decided to split The Snow Report in two!

If you’ve been getting The Snow Report over the last couple years, you know that this email comes about 2 times a month..ish. (If you’re new, hello!)

You’re getting this because you either a) signed up directly for updates from Joe Lazauskas and me; b) you took our course on Storytelling for Business; or c) you signed up because of my writings about Dream Teams and Intellectual Humility. Joe and I have taken turns writing the newsletter (early on it was a lot more Joe, and lately a lot more me), and you may have noticed that we tend to approach things from our distinct perspectives and personalities.

Well, at this point, things have gotten big enough that we’ve decided to lean into that and make our 2x a month email into two 1x a month emails. So…

  1. At the first of every month, I’ll send out the new Snow Report, which is going to focus on innovation and personal improvement—and their applications in work and life.

  2. Then around the 15th of every month, Joe will send out the new Lazer Show, which is going to focus on storytelling, culture, and advertising, and their applications in work and life.

  3. You can manage your subscription to the two parts of this newsletter separately at https://www.shanesnow.com/manage-subscriptions

  4. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO GET ANY EMAILS, PLEASE UNSUBSCRIBE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS EMAIL OR THE LINK ABOVE! (Every time I say things like this my friends yell at me to stop encouraging people to unsubscribe, but I just want everyone here to want to be here. Thanks and I love you!)

For those who have chosen to be paid supporters of The Snow Report, you’ll still get occasional exclusive email updates from me, and you’ll get free access to the current ebooks and paid courses. And you’ll be grandfathered into future premium subscriptions for free when they come up in the future. THANK YOU SO MUCH for supporting our independent work!

Much love,

Shane and Joe

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