chapter 4. Self

The Benefit of Analogies

One of the most striking capacities of the human mind is our ability to get clearer about ideas that might otherwise have been vague or hard to grasp via the process…

chapter 5. Culture

The Value of Reading Things We Disagree with

Reading has always had a central and prestigious place in our understanding of how we can develop our minds. The more we read, we’re told, the cleverer we stand to be.…

chapter 4. Self

Why We Need Moments of Mad Thinking

We banish a great many thoughts from our minds on the grounds that they are, as we put it, ‘mad’. Some of them evidently are: too mean, flawed, absurd or petty…

chapter 4. Self

The Task of Turning Vague Thoughts into More Precise Ones

One central problem of our minds is that they tend to throw out thoughts that are, above anything else, vague. They aren’t wrong, so much as extremely imprecise – which counts…

chapter 4. Self

The Truth May Already Be Inside Us

From a young age, we’re taught to expect that the truly important ideas must lie outside of us, usually very far outside of us in time and place. Someone else –…

chapter 4. Self

How to Catch Your Own Thoughts

One of the truly frustrating features of our minds is that the more interesting or pertinent our thoughts happen to be, the more they have a tendency to escape our grasp.…

chapter 4. Self

How We Prefer to Act Rather Than Think

There’s a fundamental distinction to be made between two kinds of thinking: figuring out what we would like to achieve and working out how to achieve it. Or, put another way,…

chapter 4. Self

How to Be a Good Guest

It’s normal to want to be a good guest; an intense wish to please tends to guide us when we accept a dinner invitation or spend a weekend with friends. And…

chapter 4. Self

How To Make People Feel Good about Themselves

We tend to operate with the view that the best way to please people is not to bother them too much. We keep many of our dilemmas and confusions away from…

chapter 4. Self

What to Do at Parties If You Hate Small Talk

A lot of discomfort about going to social engagements is rooted in what can sound like a rather high-minded concern: a hatred of small talk. We can develop a dread of…

chapter 4. Self

How to Spill A Drink Down One’s Front - and Survive

It is, in many way, the quintessential minor social mishap. We’re at a party surrounded by interesting people upon whom we’d like to make a good impression. We’ve been talking about…

chapter 4. Self

How to Become Someone People Will Confide in

It is a mark of character to be thought of as someone that others can safely confide in; there is a high degree of empathy, generosity and open-mindedness implied in being…

chapter 4. Self

How to Approach Strangers at A Party

A party at the house of a friend, eleven o’clock, on a still-warm evening. A metre away from you, a group of people are chatting animatedly. Someone is telling an anecdote,…

chapter 4. Self

How to Be Comfortable on Your Own in Public

We’re spending a few days on business in a town where we know no one. It’s dinner time and, feeling claustrophobic in our hotel room, we wander the main streets looking…

chapter 4. Self

How To Stop Worrying Whether or Not They Like You

One of the most acute questions we ask ourselves in relation to new friends and acquaintances is whether or not they like us. The question feels so significant because, depending on…

chapter 4. Self

Why We're All Messed Up By Our Childhoods

No one intends for this to happen, of course, but somewhere in our childhood, our trajectory towards emotional maturity will almost certainly be impeded. Even if we are sensitively cared for…

chapter 4. Self

How To Write An Effective Thank You Letter

Life continually requires that we write down a few words of thanks: for holidays, meals, presents or people’s place in our hearts. However, too often, our messages end up flat or…

chapter 4. Self

How To Tell When You Are Being A Bore

Some of the reason why we end up being inadvertently rude to people is that they are so polite with us, a politeness which gives us precious little indication of the…