Quite Possibly the Most Flattering E-Mail Ever

Many people have written many nice things to us over the years. (Of course some people have written some not-so-nice things too.) But the following is my favorite, or at least my new favorite:

Good afternoon Stephen,

I am a psychologist by education and spend my professional life as a consultant in the field of higher education and an executive coach.  I spend my personal life as a mother, wife, sister, daughter, and friend.  In all these roles I: (1) have many opportunities to improve and (2) try to express my gratitude to those who help me.  It is for these two reasons that I send this email.

I started listening to your podcasts because I liked your book, Freakonomics, and appreciate the opportunity to learn about things that I don’t have the time to study myself.  For the work that you and your collaborators do researching and telling interesting and informative stories, I am grateful, as I had expected to be.  This email, though, is about something else.

Because many people are quick to stop listening to anybody who holds a differing perspective, I have been taken by the curious and open-minded way in which you discuss topics with others.  Sometimes I am good at this, while other times my mannerisms and my tone give me away — exposing the fact that I’m not doing a great job of learning about an opposing view.  This is a skill that I would like to improve and one that I hope my children (11 and 9-years-old) develop.  So, using your podcasts as a model, our family is working on asking questions and constructing responses in a curious and open-minded way.  And, we have turned your last name into a verb…

dubner (verb): to engage in a curious and open-minded conversation​.

It is for this reason that I write to express my unexpected gratitude.​

With kind regards and sincere appreciation,

Kara E. Penfield, Ph.D.
President, Penfield Consulting Group

Thanks, Kara. I am truly flattered! The only problem is that I don’t feel I really live up to the definition as well as I’d like — i.e., while I of course try to be as curious and open-minded as possible, I often find, on listening back to interviews, that my priors and biases are stronger than I realized in the moment. So I am constantly looking for ways to dislodge them. Maybe having my name attached to this pursuit will be just the incentive I need!

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