Little Clues Reveal a Lot

The Tell: The Little Clues That Reveal Big Truths about Who We Are by Matthew Hertenstein

Little clues can reveal a lot. Here are some of the things I learned while reading this book.

Hertenstein wrote about a study that observed the way couple talked to each other during an argument. By analyzing couples arguments, it is possible to predict which marriages will prosper and which ones will end in divorce.

The 5 to 1 Rule

With couples who stayed together, “Their positivity was clear, in the way they peppered the conversation with smiles, quick jokes, and a lot of empathic touching. John Gottman has found that couples who stay together make about five positive statements for every negative one in the course of a conversation. Couple who do not stay married, make more negative statements than positive about each other. So the golden ratio for martial bliss seems to be 5:1. 5 positive statements to every negative one. Whereas, the toxic ratio for marriage dissolution is about 1:1”

Attitude & Energy Mean Everything

There was another study done that looked specifically at student engagement with a course and instructor.  In it, a professor taught the same semester’s worth of material after taking a course about being more energetic. The results were surprising. He got much higher ratings when he was more energetic, even though nothing else changed. It was the same lectures, same book, same slides, same syllabus. All that changed was his delivery.

“If you ask students, they will never tell you that hand gestures, voice inflection, and the like, largely drive their opinions of teachers. But the studies described early suggest exactly that. We think we know what makes a good teacher; expertise in the field, clear goals, fair grading, quality course materials, organization, and accessibility, but we really don’t, at least not when we are asked about it in evaluations.

The evidence suggests that how a teacher conducts herself is at least as important, if not more so, than the course content when it comes to the experience of learning.

The larger point is that so much more than we understand or acknowledge molds our perceptions of those around us. How much you based a favourable impression of your pastor, rabbi, new romantic partner, mayor, kid’s teacher, or physician on true talent and quality versus superficial characteristics is hard to ascertain. Quality and superficial characteristics are often intertwined and we are seldom conscious of how much one impacts our overall assessment.”


Here’s a great quote that Hertenstein shared . . .

“If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; but if you really make them think,they’ll hate you.” – Don Marquis

Food for thought, that is for sure.

My List of 2018 Reads – almost caught up now. 2019 list coming soon!