Online Conversation | How to Know a Person with David Brooks

In a society where so many feel unseen and unknown, how do we become the kind of people who deeply see and know those around us? The conflict and division in our society demonstrate the need for people committed to pursuing human connection, even across lines of difference. What can we do – as individuals and in community – that will help us really understand the people in our lives?

David Brooks, New York Times columnist and author of How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen, joined us for an Online Conversation on Friday, October 27 to explore what it means to know others and to be known by them.

Thank you to our sponsors for this event: Praxis Circle; Bill and Dana Wichterman; David Campaigne with Ronald Blue Trust; a Trinity Forum Senior Fellow who wishes to remain anonymous; and five donors who contributed to a matching grant.

Online Conversation | David Brooks | October 27, 2023

Cherie Harder: Thanks so much, Campbell, and I’ll just add my own welcome to all of you joining us for today’s Online Conversation with David Brooks on “How to Know a Person.” I’ll also add my own thanks to our sponsors today. We really appreciate Praxis Circle, Bill and Dana Wichterman, David Campaigne with the Ronald Blue Trust, as well as our anonymous senior fellow and five other guests who asked to remain anonymous in sponsoring this program. Your generosity means a lot to us, and we really appreciate you.


And we’re delighted that so many of you are joining today. We have well over 3,000 people who have registered today, and just appreciate the honor of your time and attention. I’d like to give a special shout-out and welcome to our first-time guests today—we have well over 400 first-time registrants—as well as our nearly 300 international guests joining us from at least 38 countries that we know of, ranging from Afghanistan and Austria to Singapore and the Sudan. So welcome from across the miles and the time zones. If you haven’t already done so, let us know where you’re joining us from in the chat feature. It’s always fun to see the community around the world.


So, if you are one of those first-time guests or otherwise new to the work of the Trinity Forum, we seek to provide a space to engage the big questions of life in the context of faith, and to offer programs like this Online Conversation to do so, and to come to better know the Author of the answers. We hope this will be a small taste of that for you today.


In a new book just out this week, our guest today makes the case that one of the greatest human needs is to be paid loving attention, to be known and understood, and that learning to see others calls forth and develops the best in both the subject and the beholder. The problem is, we’re terrible at it. On the whole, whether due to distraction or ego or overwhelm or ignorance, we either do not look, do not listen, do not care, or do not understand. And the cost is tremendous in terms of sad and lonely adults, socially and morally confused young people, and an increasingly mean and fractured society. So how might we become more attuned to others, more interested and skilled at seeing and understanding them? If, to paraphrase the poet Mary Oliver, attention is the beginning of love, how might we learn to better love our neighbors?


It’s one of life’s both enduring and urgent questions. And so I’m so delighted to get to introduce our guest today who has wrestled with it with remarkable wisdom, humility, clarity, and charity, David Brooks. David is one of the nation’s leading writers and commentators, who is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, a writer for The Atlantic, and appears regularly on PBS NewsHour. He’s also the author of a number of bestselling books, including several number one bestsellers on the New York Times list, including Bobos in Paradise, On Paradise Drive, The Social Animal, The Road to Character, The Second Mountain, and his wonderful new release just out earlier this week, How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen, which we’ve invited him here today to discuss.


David, welcome.


David Brooks: Good to be with you, Cherie. I’m very intrigued by the anonymous senior fellow who donated some money to help this. I just hope it isn’t my wife. Can’t afford it.


Cherie Harder: [Laughs.] Well, we’d never turned that down from Anne. But it’s actually not your wife. I can tell you later who it was. So, starting out, I want to just ask you, what led you to write this book? It’s sort of unusual that a columnist who is generally used to scanning the landscape for cultural trends turns his attention from the broad landscape into the eyes of another person. So what made you decide to shift your gaze from the populist to the personal?


David Brooks: Well, first I’m surrounded by, like we all are, by sort of a rising tide of barbarism and a rising tide of dehumanization. And so we all know the statistics: the rising depression, rising suicide, rising loneliness, rising bitterness, rising meanness. And it occurred to me, first, I’m not exactly helping the situation. You’ve known me for a lot of years, and I’m not naturally the most socially adept human being on the face of the earth. And so I just wanted to get better. Frederick Buechner, a hero of mine and many of ours, he was shut down emotionally for the first part of his life. And he said, “In the middle of life, I learned that if I seal myself off from the pain of living and from the emotions of living, I’m sealing myself off from the holy sources of life itself.” And I didn’t want that to be me.


And so I realized along the way that to see others well, you have to be open-hearted. You have to open up your heart to other people. But that’s not enough. You need skills. And so you need the skill of really listening well, being a great conversationalist, disagreeing well, sensing anxiety in somebody’s voice and asking them about it, hosting so that everybody feels included. And so over the course of the four years I wrote the book, I wanted to be more open-hearted and just a more emotionally available person. I wanted to know more about human nature so I would know what I’m looking at. But really, I just wanted to learn the skills, how to be concretely considerate in daily circumstances of life.


Cherie Harder: You describe just paying attention, which seems like such a simple act, is actually a really profound moral and creative act. And, you know, even just our last Online Conversation—we hosted Curt Thompson—and one of the things Curt has said—I know you know Curt—is that really paying attention to what we pay attention to is usually the start of the spiritual disciplines, too. That there’s something that really affects us in terms of the decisions about where we pay attention. So what, given all your research, do you find— why is it that that simple act of paying attention to others is so powerful? What is it about that that kind of brings forth change in us as well as others?


David Brooks: Well, I’ll tell you a story to illustrate how powerful attention is. So I’m in Waco, Texas, and I’m having breakfast with a woman, a 93-year-old woman named LaRue Dorsey. And she presents herself to me as this tough, intimidating woman who was a teacher most of her career. And she said, “I love my students enough to discipline them.” And I was a little intimidated by her. And into the diner walks up a mutual friend of ours named Jimmy Darrell, and Jimmy is a pastor. He pastors a church under the bridge, which is for homeless people. And he comes up to our table and he grabs Mrs. Dorsey by the shoulders and shakes her way harder than you should shake a 93-year-old. And he says to her, “Mrs. Dorsey, Mrs. Dorsey, you’re the best, you’re the best. I love you, I love you.” And that tough, intimidating drill sergeant suddenly turned into a bright-eye-shining nine-year-old girl. And so the attention you cast on a person changes who they will be and who they will become.


And so why that’s important to me is not only that Jimmy’s a warmer personality than I am, but Jimmy is a pastor, and so he sees anybody—anybody—he’s seeing someone made in the image of God. He’s looking into the face of God. He’s looking at a person who has a soul of infinite value and dignity, a soul so important that Jesus was willing to die for that person. And so I tell people, you can be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, but approaching people with that level of reverence and respect is an absolute precondition for knowing them well. And you’ve got to know the person in front of you is not a problem to be solved, but a wonder that will never be gotten to the bottom of. And in that first act of meeting someone— everyone, when we meet someone, we’re unconsciously asking ourselves a question: Am I a person to that person? Am I a priority to that person? And the answers to those questions will be expressed in people’s gaze before they’re expressed in words. So that first act of attention— as Iris Murdoch says, “We want to cast a just and loving attention on others.” And I can’t do a whole Trinity Forum event without citing The Chosen, but if you look at that show, the way Jesus looks at everybody else in that show is actually masterfully done, because we want to look at other people with those eyes.


Cherie Harder: I think both of us, probably all of us, have had some kind of story where someone saw something in us and through that attention, but also by naming it, helped call it forth. But you have said that the act of actually seeing each other with love and a just and loving attention affects not only those who we behold, but also affects the beholder. I’d love for you to say a little bit more about what that means. How is it that there’s truth, goodness, and beauty in the eye of the beholder?


David Brooks: Yeah. So when I ask people, “Tell me about a time you’ve been seen,” they tell me, with bright eyes and joy in their face, they tell me about a time somebody totally got them. Because seeing someone— if I see potential in you, you’ll see potential in yourself. If I beam my attention on you, you’ll blossom. And so it’s just super powerful to feel seen. But it’s also powerful and fantastic to feel like you’re the seer, like you look at another person.


And so I’m sitting here in my living room, and about two years ago, or I guess about two years ago, I was sitting across the table from where the laptop is, and I was reading a boring book, which is what I get paid to do. And my wife, Anne Schneider, a senior fellow at the Trinity Forum and editor of Comment magazine, walks in the door, which is that right over there. And the door is open and she opens the door, and she’s standing there in the doorway. And it’s summertime, and the sun is coming in behind her. And I look up from my book, and she doesn’t even notice that I’m there—because that’s the kind of charisma I have—and she’s looking at an orchid that we keep on a table by the door. And I look at her and I have this sensation come across my mind, which was, “I know her. I know her through and through.” And if you had asked me what I knew about her at that moment, it’s not like her personality traits or any adjectives I would use to describe her to a person. It was like the harmonies of her music, the ebb and flow of her being, sort of the incandescence of her personality, the occasional fierceness, the occasional insecurities. It was as if I was almost not seeing her, but I was seeing out from her. And if you really want to understand another people, you have to see the world a little from their point of view. And it was just a moment of human contact and it just felt delicious. Like, “I know her, I know her.” And if you had asked me what word I would use to describe how I was seeing her at that moment, the word I would use is “behold.” I wasn’t inspecting her. I wasn’t observing her from a detached perspective. I was just beholding her. And it was like just a wonder at this other human being.


And I mentioned this story about a year later to an older couple, and they said, “That’s what we do with our grandkids. We just behold them.” And it’s just an appreciative way of welcoming somebody’s whole presence into your life and into your mind. And it was so much fun. I remember it vividly to this day.


Cherie Harder: Incandescent is a good adjective for Anne. But, you know, in some ways—it’s a wonderful story—and as joyful and delightful as it is to behold people, it seems, or at least you tell us, we’re awfully bad at doing it. And really, it was kind of remarkable. You mentioned different studies; I’m going to cite some of these: that strangers accurately read each other only around 20% of the time. Close friends and family, only around 30 to 35% of the time. And moreover, the people who are just absolutely awful at it think that they are as good as the people who are actually more skilled. Why are we so bad at beholding when it is so generative and joy-giving?


David Brooks: Yeah, well, first we’re egotistical, so we’re busy thinking about ourselves so we don’t think about other people. Second, some of us have so much anxiety in our heads; there’s so much noise up there, they don’t have time for other people. Some people just can’t appreciate that other people have different viewpoints. They think everybody sees the world the way they do, and if the other people don’t, there’s something wrong with them. There’s a little story I tell about a guy who was on one side of the river, and there was a woman on the other side of the river, and she shouts at him, “How do I get to the other side of the river?” And he shouts back at her, “You are on the other side of the river!” And so he couldn’t put himself in her viewpoint and see. And so that’s part of it.


Partly we’re shy, and we don’t ask. I’ve a friend of mine named Niobe Way who teaches seventh-grade boys how to do interviewing so they can become journalists, student journalists. And the first time she ever did this, she sat in the front of the room and she said, “Okay, you guys shoot some questions at me. I’ll answer truthfully whatever you ask.” And so the first question from one boy was, “Are you married?” And she said, “No.” Second question from another boy: “Are you divorced?” “Yes.” Third question: “Do you still love him?” And her eyes opened wide and then she says, “Yes.” And they say, “Does he know?” By now she’s crying. “Do your kids know?” Like, kids will ask the direct question. They will go right there. But then as we get older, we get a little shy, sometimes appropriately shy. But in my view, we’re too shy. And so I’ve learned that one of the qualities of your conversations will be the quality of your questions.


And so when you’re getting to know someone, I ask people where they’re from. I love to get them talking about their childhood. People love to talk about their childhood, and you learn so much about them just from, you know, what town was it in, what was your family like? And sometimes I’ll ask, like—we have a mutual friend who I won’t out him here—but I once asked him, what’s your favorite unimportant thing about you? What’s your favorite unimportant thing about you? And he’s a prestigious academic. And the amount of reality trashy TV show that guy watches was crazy. So I learned that by asking that.


And then as you get to know people better, you can ask some questions that take them out of their daily existence and get them to think anew about themselves. “So if this five years is a chapter in your life, what’s this chapter about?” It gets people talking about what are the themes, what are their main life tasks. Or, “What transition are you in the middle of? What crossroads are you at?” We’re usually thinking about some transition.


And so you ask a big question like that, you get big conversation, and it makes it a meaningful conversation, whether it’s just friends or colleagues. We have a mutual friend—I won’t out them either, but I don’t think they’d mind—but she says our friends— we like friends who are linger-able. People you just want to linger with. And that’s good company. And a lot of it comes from just a conversation that’s going sensationally, where you really are learning things about each other. One other topic that I used recently—and thought it was a little pretentious, which it was, but I asked anyway and it turned into a good conversation—which was, how do your ancestors show up in your life? And so there was a Dutch family there. They talked about their Dutch heritage. There was a Black couple there. They talked about African-American heritage. I talked about my Jewish ancestry. And our lives are affected by things stretching back generations, in the way we look at the world, our culture, our heritage. And so it was just fun to explore that topic. And so when you have a big conversation like that, you leave it feeling a little more seen.


Cherie Harder: Yeah, I can imagine. I almost feel now like I need to ask you what big transition you are in the middle of your life. You don’t have to answer.


David Brooks: [Laughs] Becoming a Baha’i. No, no.


Cherie Harder: You know, it was interesting that you again give a stat—you give a lot of stats—but really that you estimate only around 30% of people are natural question-askers. And we don’t really get a lot of training in sort of how to do that. And you also called asking good questions a moral practice. So how would you, if someone came to you and said, like, “David, you do this for a living. You ask lots of interesting questions. I have no idea where to start.” What would you tell them? How do you ask a morally formative question?


David Brooks: Yeah, I mean, I do ask questions for a living, but we all have conversations for a living. And the sad thing is, there’s no place to go get taught this stuff. And you don’t have to ask—. You know, one thing that makes us shy is we’re under the illusion that people don’t want to be asked. And there’s, in the book, I cite a guy named Dan McAdams who studies how people tell their life stories, and he has people come into his research lab and he asks them, “Tell me about the high points of your life. Tell me about the low points of your life. Tell me about the turning points.” And after a few hours, he hands them a little check to compensate them for their time, and they push the check back, some of them, and say, “I’m not taking money for this. This has been one of the best afternoons of my life.” And so I have found again and again, if you respectfully ask somebody to tell you their story, no one has ever asked them, and they get such immense pleasure out of it. And they love to talk and it just makes you curious. And so it’s not hard to get people going.


Monica Guzman is a journalist and she has a question: “Why you?” Like, why was it you who felt compelled to run for school board? Why was it you who decided to start that company? And that gets people talking about their desires, their motivations, the things they dream about. And that’s not a hard question to ask. And so these are, you know, relatively easy questions to get people going. I have a friend who hires people for a living. And one of his questions is, “Who were you in high school and how has that changed?” Because his theory is that whoever you were in high school, you’re carrying a little of that, those insecurities, around with you right now. Your sense of your social location and stuff like that. And so he’s fantastic at hiring, and he hires for what he calls “spirit of generosity.” And he says, you can tell someone’s spirit of generosity as they talk about their childhood: who loved them, who did they love. And that’s— part of a job-hiring process is learning about skills. And when we have to let someone go from any employment, it’s rarely—11% of the time—it’s because they lack technical skills. 89% of the time it’s they weren’t a team player. They weren’t calm in a crisis. They weren’t generous to colleagues. And if we’re going to hire someone, marry someone, befriend someone, raise a kid, you just got to be a lot better at seeing them accurately.


Cherie Harder: Your friend is probably someone that you would refer to, in your book at least, as an illuminator. And you have sort of divided different approaches to beholding people or paying attention as between diminishers and illuminators. What are the different practices of diminishers and illuminators? And how can we tell if we’re being a diminisher when we should aspire to be an illuminator?


David Brooks: Yeah, well, diminishers, first, they don’t ask. So if you’re not a question-asker, you’re probably a diminisher. Secondly, they stereotype, and so they have labels. And thirdly, they do a thing called stacking. And stacking is when, if you learn one fact about a person, you make a whole series of assumptions that you think must also be true of that person. And so you learn somebody is a Trump supporter, then suddenly you’ve made all these stereotypical assumptions about that person. But those are almost never true. I heard about a Trump supporter who was a lesbian biker who converted to Sufi Islam after surviving a plane crash. Like, what stereotype does she fit into? And I find most people like that. They’re just way more complicated than their stereotypes.


And then illuminators make you feel lit up. I quote E. M. Foster [who] was an English novelist, lived about 100 years ago, and his biographer said he had a kind of inverse charisma. He listened to you with such intensity that you had to be your best, sharpest, and most practiced self. So that’s just intense listening. I tell in the book—the story may be apocryphal—of Jennie Jerome. And Jennie Jerome went to— she later became Winston Churchill’s mom. But when she was a young woman in Victorian England, she was once seated next to William Gladstone, the prime minister, at a dinner, and she left that dinner thinking that Gladstone was the cleverest person in England. And then a couple of weeks later, she happens to be seated next to Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli is Gladstone’s great political rival. And she left that dinner with Disraeli thinking that she was the cleverest person in England. So if you can make somebody else feel like they’re the cleverest person in the country, you’ve done your job.


Another example of an illuminator is— it occurred in Bell Labs, the legendary research facility. And so some researchers were way more creative than others. And they wanted to know why. And they said, was it IQ? No. Was it educational attainment? No. They found out their most creative researchers were in the habit of having breakfast or lunch with an electrical engineer named Harry Nyquist. And Harry would ask them about their problems, get inside their head, sort of think along with them, and together they thought through their problems and came to creative solutions. So Harry Nyquist was an illuminator. He got inside his colleagues’ heads and just helped them think through their own problems and making everybody better.


Cherie Harder: So, one of the things that you have mentioned in your book is that there’s a problem not only with our personal sense of lacking illuminators, but on a population level we’re lacking illuminators as well. There’s study after study showing that Americans are lonelier, sadder; murder rates, gun sales, hate crimes are surging. Social trust, charitable giving is declining. And you conclude that people are no longer trained in how to treat others with kindness. But in reading all of that, one of the things that occurred to me is how much of it is that we don’t know how to treat others with kindness, as opposed to we don’t want to. You know, we have found benefits to trying to one up or dominate or even humiliate others. And it’s been working for us on an individual level, even if not on a societal one.


David Brooks: Yeah, well, I don’t think it has been working. I think the reason 36% of Americans feel persistently lonely is because they haven’t been trained. And if you don’t know how to start a conversation, you’re not going to want to do it. You’ll not want to do something you think you’re going to fail at. And so I don’t know whether it’s the churches or the schools or wherever, just these basic skills: how to host a party effectively, how to ask for forgiveness and offer forgiveness. These are just basic skills that somehow we’re not teaching. And I do think it leads to the immiseration of lots and lots of people. Like, one of the weird statistics is the number of people who say they have no close friends has gone up by four times in the last 20 years. Like, what is going on with our country. And so one of the reasons I think it’s skill-based is because people just don’t know how to interact.


I just saw a study a couple of weeks ago. They looked at the number of men who have never asked a woman out on a date. And the number is super high. And they wanted to know why they hadn’t asked the women out on a date, and it was low flirting skills. And so we don’t think of flirting as a skill you have to learn, but if you can’t flirt, it’s going to be hard to, like, approach a romantic love interest, and flirting is a thing. And so that’s why I think teaching the skills is so important.


And then more broadly—and I’ll just speak personally—you know, as this wall of depression, suicide, loneliness, anger, meanness has been rising, it can seem naive to be like me, to think, “Oh, we should all know each other. We should all understand each other.” But in my view, I’ve decided to adopt this defiant humanism. Like, in a world of loneliness and people are attacking, I’m going to be the one who’s going to lead with respect. I’m going to lead with curiosity. And I’m going to argue that it’s the most practical thing you can do, is to try to open up your eyes and try to understand another human being and make them feel seen, heard, and understood. That is, to me, the only way you’re going to break down the cycle of misapprehension and hostility.


And since we’re on the Trinity Forum, if I could be a little explicitly religious here: Jesus lived in a time of bitter hostility and revolution. And the model he sets for us is of someone who looks at all this rising tide of hatred with the gentle eyes of love, and looks at each person with the gentle eyes of love. And so we’re sort of called to try to do this, and we’re not going to do it as well as Jesus did, but we can do it a little. And when you go look in the Bible, especially after writing the book I’ve been writing, you realize how many dramas of recognition there are. How many times somebody was not recognized. And obviously, the disciples don’t recognize the risen Christ. Esau and Isaac and the birthright. And even in the Good Samaritan, a lot of people see the injured guy on the side of the road, but only the Samaritan really sees him. And the Bible is always giving us these dramas where somebody didn’t see well. And those failures, when people misunderstand someone, those are failures of the heart, not failures of the head. And so we’re really given a lot of instruction in the Bible on how to see and the errors of mis-seeing.


Cherie Harder: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. You know, it’s interesting in that loneliness obviously is very much on the rise. And you’ve pointed out that lonely people also often, not always, but often tend to be more aggressive and fearful. And the loneliness drives a lot of that, such that the people that most need that kind of loving attention are probably the least likely to get it. But I think there’s also a tension, which is, on one hand, Christians are called to love our enemies, not just merely our antagonist. But at the same time, there’s also, presumably, a need for certain boundaries around enemies and antagonists. And even as a columnist, you, I’m sure, have far more people who want or even demand your attention than you can provide. How do you think about just the inevitable tension between the call to love our neighbor and our enemy, and the reality of very finite attention, as well as potential harm from some others?


David Brooks: Yeah, well, first on the— sometimes you’re just overwhelmed. Like, I’m thinking about, I’m about to go on a book tour, so I’m going to travel around the country talking about my book for the next three months or so. And I’m thinking of all the plane rides and train rides I’m going to take. And do I have to talk to the person next to me every single time? I don’t know, that seems like a lot. Like, when you’re on book tour, all you just want to do is shut down and relax in between talking. So we all face these normal barriers. But I do think we can get better at sort of tamping down the efficiency mindset that some of us use to carry through every day of our life. And so, for example, if I’m pulling into the gas station, I think to myself, “Oh, I’ve got 90 seconds while I’m pumping gas, I can get two emails done.” That’s just a horrible way to think. Like, I’ve got this productivity clock in my head. And if I think that way, then when I’m picking up my kids at school or, you know, hanging out with somebody, I’m going to still have that clock in my head. Of course I’m not going to be lingerable. Of course I’m going to want our relationship to be efficient. And so I’ve got to tamp down that efficiency and say, “No, I’m going to stay with this person.” And I’ve learned, you know, treat attention as an on/off switch, not a dimmer. And so it should be 100% or 0%. I’m not going to multitask you, another human being. And I’ve learned from our friend and Trinity Forum’s friend Andy Crouch to be a loud listener. And I’ve mentioned Andy in the book because when you talk to Andy—if people know him from the events he’s been on here—he’s like a Pentecostal church. He’s like, “Uhuh. Yep, yep. Preach. Yes. Amen, Amen. I agree, I agree. I’m in, I’m in.” And I, like, love talking that guy. So I want to be a little more of that.


But, as you say, there are some people who are beyond the boundaries. So if you’re an illuminator, or want to be, and somebody is persistently a diminisher and is just going to stereotype, ignore, and attack, well, there’s not much you can do about that. And you can try to release a little vulnerability to see if they’ll respond in kind. But, you know, I’m not naive enough to think that if I was in the room with members of Hamas, which I’ve been in those rooms, that somehow I should try to understand them and everything will be peaceful between us. Some people are just genocidal monsters, and you got to protect yourself. But I do think most people— and I’ve been in Palestinian homes were we may disagree profoundly about a bunch of stuff, but there’s genuine graciousness and warmth in the home. Or Trump supporters. I’m not a big Donald Trump supporter, but I’ve had a zillion conversations with Trump supporters, some in my own family, that have been deep, meaningful, real, great friendships. And sometimes there are certain subjects we won’t talk about just to keep the friendship alive. But that’s super easy to do. And if I meet a Trump supporter and say, you know, “What was your best job ever? Like, what was the best job you ever had?” Suddenly they’ll tell me a story. And if they tell me how they lost that job because it got shipped overseas or immigration or whatever, then suddenly I understand where their head is at vis-á-vis Donald Trump. I may not agree with their voting choices, but it’s a legitimate standpoint. Yeah.


Cherie Harder: Now, you also—and it was really one of the most, I think, gripping and poignant parts of your work—describe the experience of trying to see deeply, to connect with, your best friend from childhood, Pete, who was caught in depression, and the world that he inhabited seemed very difficult to behold or understand. So many of us who are watching do have close friends or loved ones who, at some point in their lives, seem to be occupying an alternative reality that’s very hard to understand. How do you learn to behold and see deeply someone who seems to be caught in that kind of despairing alternate reality?


David Brooks: Well, this is yet another skill that we’re not taught. And I’m a reasonably well-educated person; you’d think somewhere along the way somebody would have taught me how do you sit with someone who’s suffering from depression? But I didn’t know. And so for the first 57 years of his life, Pete had this wonderful life. He was an eye surgeon. He had a wonderful wife, two great kids, lived up in Connecticut. We met when we were 11 and basically played basketball for 40 years of our lives together. And then Pete got hit with depression, and I didn’t really understand back then what depression was. And this was 2019, and I’ve since learned from one of our friends, Michael Gerson—Mike said that depression is a malfunction in the instrument you use to perceive reality. So Pete was not seeing reality accurately. And he, like Mike, had these obsessive voices in his head: No one would miss you if you’re gone. You’re worthless. You’re dragging everybody down. And so that’s the reality Pete was living with for three years.


And in the beginning, I didn’t know how to talk to him, and I wanted to say something that would help. And so the first mistake I made was I tried to give him ideas for how to snap out of depression. So I said, “You know, you used to go on service trips to Vietnam. Why don’t you do that again? You found them so rewarding.” And I learned later that giving somebody ideas about how to get out of depression is just a sign that you don’t understand what depression is because it’s not ideas they’re lacking. It’s energy.


Then I made another mistake, which was positive reframing. I tried to remind him of all the wonderful things about his life. And that is negative too, that has a bad effect too, because it shows that he’s not enjoying the things that are palpably enjoyable, so there must be something wrong with him. Gradually, over Covid, our phone calls, I learned just to be present, just to recognize the awfulness of the situation, be present, show I’m not going anywhere. And then I think if I had to do it again, I would first have sent more touches, like just a little text here and there. Just say, “I’m thinking of you. No response necessary. I’m just thinking of you.” Then I may have said, “I admire your courage because you’re still here. You’re in a lot of pain. You’ve been in a lot of pain for three years and you’re still here. I admire your courage.”


And then I’ve learned from Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” when he was counseling people who were contemplating suicide, he said, “Life has not stopped expecting things of you.” Life has not stopped expecting things of you. And that seems a little harsh to tell someone who’s contemplating—. But Frankl says no. They have to know they’re here for a reason. And they have a lot of good they can do in the world. And later I read a quote—I was given a quote by a friend of mine, a pastor, named Chris Davis—a quote from Thornton Wilder, the playwright. And he said, “Without your wound, where would your power be? Your low voice trembles into the hearts of men because of the wounds you carry. In love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.”


So it was Pete—and for somebody who’s suffering, it is their very suffering that gives them credibility to reach into the hearts of other sufferers and to sit with them and be a comfort to them. And so that’s a power that comes from that strength. And I wish I’d reminded Pete of all these things. Having said that, I don’t think there’s anything ultimately I could have said that would have made a difference. He ended up succumbing to suicide about a year and a bit ago, because the monster was just too big for him, and it was going to be too big for us. It was just, it’s a monster, this thing. And so there’s nothing I could have said that would have changed things, but [there are] things I wish I’d said just to be a better presence along the way.


Cherie Harder: We’re going to turn to questions from our viewers in a second. But before we do, obviously the process of immersing yourself in all of this material, not just the research, but also the theologians, the philosophers, and the like, whose works you summarize and synthesize, in essentially helping others to better love and see our neighbors—how did it change you? I’d be interested if there’s any practices or disciplines you’ve adopted, or even just changes you see in your own practice of seeing others.


David Brooks: Well, I think I am a) more open to people in stranger situations, but I hope I have conversations that are deeper and better and more memorable for all involved. And I hope I cast what Iris Murdoch called a just and loving attention on people. That I do come to revere each person as this soul of infinite value and dignity. And I hope I’m more emotionally open. I think I am.


I’ll tell you two stories, one of which is in the book, one of which isn’t. But the one in the book involves me name-dropping. I’ve been interviewed by Oprah twice in my life, in 2014 and 2019. And after the 2019 interview, she comes up to me and says, you know, “I’ve rarely seen someone change so much in middle age. You were so emotionally blocked before.” And so that was a good moment for me that I— you know, she should know, she’s Oprah. So I’m making some progress as a human being. The other story is I was at a conference recently and we were at a church, and everyone was handed out a song sheet with lyrics of some love song, and we had to pick a stranger and sing the song into their eyes while gazing into their eyes of a stranger. This sappy love song. And if you were to ask me to do that ten years ago, my head would have exploded. But I did it. I was out there for the emotional openness, so I did it. And it took me like six months to recover, but still. But I think, hopefully, especially for us guys, you soften in middle age, and you get a little more emotionally open. So I hope I’m— I think I’m that way.


Cherie Harder: Well, there’s lots of questions that are piling up, so we’ll just dive right in. Tricia Hickey asks, “How does one start the cycle of knowing and being known when they’ve spent years building up walls due to hurts and life?”


David Brooks: Yeah, well, this is what Frederick Buechner teaches us because he was hurt by life and he built up a lot of walls. And so, you know, one of it is just— I find that it helps me to have a spiritual and emotional book going, just before you do the more complicated interacting with another person. A big book for me was Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy, and I read that book on a plane. It’s a very sad book, and I cried. And the flight attendants were worried about me. And so just even that for me, because I’m pretty inward and pretty much a bookish reader, to sort of loosen myself up with literature was just tremendously valuable. And I have a friend, when he’s in a cranky mood, his wife asks him, “Do you have a novel going? Because I think you need to be reading a novel because you get cranky when you have no novel going.” So that’s one thing.


But then I think, you know, just the normal occasions of life just to ask that extra question. And so I’ve learned that we all— some of us ask questions, but then when somebody is bringing a problem to us, it’s useful to ask three or four questions about the problem and then ask another three or four. More questions than you think. “Tell me more about that. What am I missing?” And I’ve found it’s amazing how often, when you ask somebody three times or five times, how each time the answers get bigger and different and better. And so a good conversation is not people making statements at each other. A good conversation is a group exploration. And it doesn’t have to be personal. But it’s like, “There’s something intriguing. And you said something that’s interesting. Let me expand on that. And maybe you could expand on what I said.” And then it just becomes fun. Then you’re just learning together. And you don’t have to get super personal to do that, to have that kind of explorative conversation.


Cherie Harder: Stone soup almost of exploration.


David Brooks: Yeah.


Cherie Harder: I want to combine two somewhat related questions. Allen Salinger asked, “Can you comment on how knowing others and being known can help reduce animosity towards those with whom we disagree?” And Kevin Offner asks, “Can you give us some insight on how to engage someone face to face with whom you have STRONG disagreements, someone that you know you strongly disagree with on something that you think is vitally important? How can you express respect and appreciation in a way that’s genuine?”


David Brooks: Yeah, well, I have a chapter in the book on hard conversations, and those are conversations across class difference, religious difference, ideological difference, any kind of difference and disagreement. And often when you’re in those hard conversations, people are coming at you with critique and blame in their voice. And your first instinct is to say, “Well, it’s not me. I’m not the problem here. I’m one of the good guys.” Or, “Here’s what I’m doing, here’s how I see things.” And I’ve learned your first job is to resist that temptation to get defensive. And my first job when I’m being attacked by someone who really disagrees and with whom I disagree, my first job is to stand in their standpoint. So that’s to say, “I really need to understand your point of view. So tell me again.” This goes back to the three things. “Tell me again. Tell me again. What am I missing here?” The Scottish have a word, “ken,” that we have the phrase “that’s beyond my ken.” So the ken is, in naval navigation, it’s the part of the ocean you can see wherever you are. It’s your little area. So my job is to stand in their ken. So I really understand that point of view. And I may never agree, but the very fact that I’ve asked three or four questions about it communicates respect. And there’s a great book called Crucial Conversations that says, in any conversation, respect is like air. When it’s present, no one notices. When it’s absent, it’s all anybody can think about. So at least I’ve shown respect.


The second thing I’ve learned is that every conversation takes place on two levels. There’s the official conversation that we’re nominally talking about, and then there’s the under-conversation, which is the flow of emotion between us as we’re speaking. And so every comment I make, then I’m making you feel either more safe or more threatened. And same, you’re doing that to me. So if my comments can make you feel more safe, then everything else we say will be at least a little more humane.


And then two final things. One is, keep the gem statement in the center. If you and I disagree about something, there might be something deep down that we actually do agree upon. If my brother and I are fighting over health care, our dad’s health care, we might disagree about that, but we really both want what’s best for our dad. So if we can take that thing we both agree on, that gem statement, and keep returning to it, then we save the relationship as we’re in the middle of a fight.


And then the final one I’ll give is find the disagreement under the disagreement. So if you and I disagree about tax policy or something, or even a marketing plan at a company, there’s probably a philosophical reason or a personal reason we’re disagreeing. So instead of just repeating the things at each other, let’s have an exploration to find out what really is the philosophical difference that’s caused us to come out on different sides of this issue. And again, we’re at a joint exploration. And so these are all occasions when you can take bitter disagreement and at least open up channels of communication. Will it always work? And believe me, I’ve been attacked in public by people who hate my point of view on one issue or another, and I do not always rise to the occasion. I sometimes sink to the volley of anger and anger. But I have found 90% of the time, if someone viciously attacks you and you email them back, or you say, “Hey, can I buy you a beer?”, immediately, everything changes from bitterness. As soon as you show a little modicum of respect, suddenly they’re like, “Yeah, let’s talk about that.”


Cherie Harder: So a question from Don Morgan, who asked, “What social structures, platforms, and institutions might facilitate the kinds of deep conversations you’re talking about?”


David Brooks: Yeah. First, somehow, as I’m listening to the question, I’m reminded—if anybody remembers—there’s a book about the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua, and she [writes about] how to raise smart and high-achieving kids. And one of the things she said [was] “I don’t let my daughters go to sleepovers with other teenage girls because I want them to do something cognitively demanding, like practice the violin.” And my reaction on reading that: believe me, there’s nothing more cognitively demanding than going on a sleepover with a bunch of 13-year-old girls. That is the most cognitively demanding thing you can possibly do.


Cherie Harder: [Laughs.] Lots of dynamics.


David Brooks: Social dynamics. And so I do think those kinds of encounters, which kids are not getting because of phones, are one training, one way we train. The second thing I think is extended families. Back in the day when people had three- or four-generation families, there was a lot of, again, a lot of dynamics to negotiate. And so you had to go to aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. And so that was, seems to me, intimate training in this kind of advanced social skills.


And then I do think churches played a bigger role than they do now. And I think schools played a bigger role. Up until 20 or 30 years ago, it was a norm for schools to think, “Our job here is moral formation. That’s our job here. It’s not to get our kids into Harvard or Yale. Our job is to make people better versions of themselves and to be considerate.” And part of being considerate, and in my sense, the first part of being considerate and being a moral person, is paying the right kind of attention to other people. Everything else follows you paying the right kind of attention. And usually, as the philosopher Iris Murdoch said, we pay attention to others in self-centered, degrading ways. And if we can grow by looking, as she writes, then we’ve become morally transformed. And I’ve quoted Jesus already, but I’ll quote a higher authority, which is Ted Lasso. And so Ted was, if anybody saw that program, he’s asked in season one, “What’s your goal as a soccer coach?” And his answer is, “I just want to make my players better versions of themselves on and off the field.” And that’s moral formation. And I think it’s our inability to do moral formation has caused this deterioration in our ability to relate to one another in an intelligent way.


Cherie Harder: You mentioned both Iris Murdoch and churches, and we have questions on both. So Rupert Harris asked, “How has Iris Murdoch influenced you?”


David Brooks: Yeah, a great deal. And I was influenced by her through three women who I wrote about in the current issue of Comment. She, Iris Murdoch, was influenced powerfully by Simone Weil. And so I wrote about Simone Weil, Etty Hillesum, and Edith Stein, and these were three women born in Jewish homes caught in the Holocaust. And so they’re living in the horrors of World War II, one in France, one in Germany, one in Amsterdam. And they’re surrounded by barbarism. And the men are fighting. And Etty Hillesum, who was the one living in Amsterdam, started out the war as a self-centered brat, basically, but she became more compassionate as she watched people getting shipped out to the death camps. And as conditions got worse and the war got more brutal, she got more gentle, more humane, more other-centered. And by the end of the war, she was serving in a death camp. But she was a source of joy for others. And people recounted her as this generous, unbelievably generous person. And her biographer wrote about her that she grew by paying close attention to others. The crick of the neck, the anxiety in their voice, the hunger in their eyes. Pay close attention to others and serve those needs. And you see this woman in her diaries over the course of four years in these horrible circumstances really rising to some sort of saint-like presence almost.


And Edith Stein, the same thing happened to her, and she literally was canonized as a saint. And Simone Weil was the same. Simone Weil said attention is the essential moral act and that prayer is a form of attention. And it’s that kind of attention, I’m reminded of a quote I saw from Mother Teresa [when she] was interviewed by Dan Rather. And he said, “When you pray, what do you tell God?” And she said, “Well, I don’t really tell him anything. I just listen to him.” And he said, “Well, what is God telling you?” And she said, “Well, God is just listening too. We’re just listening to each other.” And she says, “If you can’t understand then I can’t explain it to you.”


And so I do think it is that act of attention that these three women really found central. Which then Simon Weil wrote; which then Iris Murdoch turned into a philosophy—that male philosophers build these vast moral systems—think of Immanuel Kant—but a lot of the men are blind to the systems of care that are right around them. And Iris Murdoch and Edith Stein and Etty Hillesum and Simone Weil, they were attentive to the systems of care in the daily acts of daily life, even amidst the horrors of war, and I found them very inspiring.


Cherie Harder: That’s beautiful. So Nathan Swanson asks, “How can local congregations or other places of worship help foster the deep conversations among members so that they sense that they’re known by others in the congregation?”


David Brooks: Yeah, I do think a lot of it is having conversations like [those] that are going to happen after our session here. And make them storytelling conversations. I never ask people, “What do you believe about this?” I say, “How did you come to believe that?” And suddenly they’re telling me about a person who’s shaped their values, who’s important, or some experience they had. And the best ones— You know, there are all these curricula you can have, and if you read my book, you’ll get a bunch of questions, but a lot of it is just being natural and hanging out with each other, and especially in times of suffering. And in those moments when somebody is grieving, their mental models of the world have collapsed because their mental models were framed around the husband or wife who they just lost, or the kid they just lost. And these moments where your mental models are reshifting are moments of intense pain, because it’s just painful to go through one of these transitions if you had this connection and suddenly that connection is gone. If you lose a husband, the fibers of your brain are reaching out to him. But he’s not there. And it’s just intensely painful. So you’re sitting through somebody as they process that grief.


David Brooks: I put in the book a story—and this was in a chapter of how to sit with those who are suffering—a woman who lost her husband. And she’s walking out of her apartment building, I think in Washington, and a neighbor who knows what’s happened, screams at her from across the street, and she says, “You’ll think you’re sane, but you’re not.” And what she means is you don’t understand how grief is going to destabilize you over the next year. And she said that was so profound because within six months I was at the CVS and I was screaming at the employees because they were playing “He’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the sound system, and I knew my husband would not be home for Christmas, so I started screaming at them. And it was a form of temporary derangement. And so sitting with someone— and this is what churches and synagogues and mosques are great at. When somebody is in suffering, people know to show up. And I worry about all these people who are de-churched. They may have friends, but people don’t know to show up if there’s no institution around them. And I’m afraid we’re going to see a lot of that kind of loneliness because people are under-institutionalized.


Cherie Harder: David Richards asks, “Some people have learned that it isn’t safe for them to be open or vulnerable in sharing about themselves. An illuminator may have the best intentions, asking thoughtful and seeing questions, but the receiver might see those as intrusive or threatening. Do you have thoughts on how to approach conversations with that awareness?”


David Brooks: Yeah, there’s a quote in the book from D.H. Lawrence that you should approach somebody the way you would approach a fawn in the forest: with a complete absence of will, complete patience. And you just need to take your time. And that process, you can’t really have a lot of these deep conversations unless trust has been established. So the way trust is established— there’s a chapter on accompaniment—which is a Pope Francis concept that he talks about a lot—and accompaniment is just an other-centered way of being in the world. And so we think of the way a pianist accompanies a singer. You’re just paying attention to them, trying to make the singer shine. And so the easy form of accompaniment is just small talk. And a lot of people have a negative view of small talk. I do not. I like small talk. Because when we’re doing small talk, we’re just getting used to each other, and we’re never going to feel safe with each other in the mind unless our bodies feel safe around each other. And so if we’re talking about sports or weather or whatever, I’m just getting a little to know you. And you got to go through that process of getting to know before you can feel safe in having a deeper conversation.


Another thing that I just think is super valuable is play. I mentioned my friend Pete and I, we played basketball, we played softball, we did all this stuff. But [in] play we’re natural. We’re not overly self-conscious, but we’re high-fiving, trash talk, passing the ball. And I know people who’ve played basketball in a weekly basketball game. They may have never had a deep conversation in their life, but they’d probably surrender their lives to each other because in play, they’ve really become close friends. I had an episode that reminded me of how powerful play is in my own family. My oldest was at the time like 14 months old. We were living in Brussels, and he got up at 4 a.m. and I didn’t go off to work till 10 a.m., so we had six hours of play every morning while I— or at least he played while I tried to sleep. But I remember once when he was about 14 months old, I looked at him and I thought, I probably know him better than I’ve ever known anybody, and he probably knows me better than anybody’s ever known me, because I’ve been so openly emotional while playing with his trains. And we never said a word to each other because he couldn’t talk. And so it was that act of play prepares you for the stages of when you can really have the deeper conversations. So it is a gradual process and you can’t rush it.


Cherie Harder: So many questions, and apologies to all of you who are asking them. We will not be able to get to all of them, but there’s a question from an anonymous viewer asking, “How much do you think of marital discord is due to the inability to actually see each other?”


David Brooks: Yeah, I think when you have a couple that— One of the things I learned is—you quoted that statistic from a guy named William Ickes that when we meet somebody, we see the other person accurately only 22% of the time. That same researcher found that the longer people are married, the less they see each other. Not always, but typically. And that’s because they have an early model in their head of who that person was. And then over the years, the person changed and they haven’t updated their models. And so even though you can be married to somebody for a long time, you can still be kind of oblivious about their deepest desires or, you know, how the wounds of their childhood show up. And a lot of marriage really is, like, reminding people of who I am right now. And a lot of it is that sort of communication of “here’s who I am right now, here’s my desires right now, and here’s how childhood is affecting how I see this right now.”


And so I do think one of the reasons marriages suffer is people become strangers to each other. And having intentional conversations is a skill. And how many times have you gone off—? I always tell my students, marriage is a 50-year conversation. Marry someone you want to talk to for the rest of your life. You do not want to be that couple in Applebee’s who sit there silently with each other. And so pick someone you want to talk to all the time. Then the other bit of advice I give them is love comes and goes, but admiration stays. Pick someone you admire, and if you admire the person, then you’ll always have a sweet, soft spot for them, even if you fight.


Cherie Harder: We’ll take one more question from Elizabeth Yerksa, who asks if you could talk a little bit more about the idea that people are not problems to be solved, but creatures to be loved.


David Brooks: Yeah, we want to fix people. And everyone comes to us with their flaws and their brokenness, and it just doesn’t work that way. People will only change after they feel understood. And so, you know, I had a friend who had a daughter in second grade and she was struggling. And the teacher said to her, “You know, you’re really good at thinking before you speak.” And that little comment turned the girl’s whole year around because suddenly she thought this weakness, social awkwardness, suddenly, oh, no, that’s a strength: “I am thoughtful.” And so she wasn’t fixing her. She was just seeing some potential in her. And we try to give each other the personalities or the reputations we can then go live into.


And so I’ll close with this: there’s a scene from a movie I hope everybody has seen called Good Will Hunting. And in that movie, the Robin Williams character pulls the Matt Damon character out to a pond, and the Matt Damon character has been this math whiz the whole movie. But the Robin Williams character says, “You know, I ask you about war, you’d probably quote Shakespeare ‘once more unto the breach.’ I ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never been in a war and you’ve never been vulnerable with a woman. So when I look at you, I don’t see a confident man. I see a scared kid. And there’s nothing about you that I can’t learn in some book.” And then he says, “Unless you want to talk about you, who you really are. Then I’m fascinated. But you don’t want to do that because you don’t know what you might say.”


And in that speech, the Robin Williams character is doing something, to me, profound. He’s saying, first, I see the thing that you’re most trying to hide, which is you’re terrified of life. And I see that. I put it on the table and it’s going to be okay. And then he says, and plus, I’m going to critique you with care. I’m going to direct you in a way where you can fix yourself. And all I have to do is point out there are two types of knowledge. There’s the technical knowledge we learn in books, then the personal knowledge we learn from emotional openness, from actual relationships, from actual experiences. And so all the Robin Williams character is doing is saying, “You’re really good at book knowledge. You’re not so good on this other kind.” And in the movie, the Matt Damon character launches off in life to be better at the other kind. It’s a beautiful example of listening well and then critiquing with care, not trying to fix, just trying to say, here’s how I see you from a position of unconditional love.


Cherie Harder: David, that’s great. And in just a moment, I want to give you the last word. But before that, a few things just to share with all of you who are watching. First, immediately after we conclude, we’ll be sending around a feedback form. We really encourage you to fill it out. We always read these. We try to take the advice to heart to make this an ever-more valuable program. And as a small incentive and thank-you for filling out that feedback form, we will give you a code for a free Trinity Forum Reading download of your choice. There are several that we would recommend that are germane to our discussion. One, “The Long Loneliness” to which David and his wife Anne wrote the introduction, but also from authors that we’ve actually discussed today, Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Simone Weil’s work “Wrestling with God” as well as others, Augustine’s “Confessions,” and “On Friendship,” that we’d recommend that pertain to today’s discussion.


In addition, for those of you who signed up for our post-event discussion groups after this webinar is over, you can just exit it as you normally would and then click on the link that was sent to you this morning via email to enter those discussion groups. If you haven’t signed up for them and you want to participate, there should be a link in the chat feature where you can join us for the next 45 minutes to talk through with others some of what we’ve talked about here today with David.


In addition, tomorrow we will be sending out around noon a follow-up email that gives additional readings, resources, and as well as a video to today’s Online Conversation to help one go deeper with some of the things that we’ve discussed, as well as share this discussion with others. So be on the lookout.


And finally, we want to invite all of you who are watching to join the Trinity Forum Society, which is the community of people who help advance Trinity Forum’s mission of cultivating, curating, and disseminating the best of Christian thought for the common good. In addition to being part of the community, there’s a number of advantages to joining the Trinity Forum Society, including a subscription to our quarterly Readings, our daily “What We’re Reading” list of curated reading recommendations, and as a special incentive for any new members of the Trinity Forum Society, or with your gift of $100 or more, we will send you a signed copy of David’s excellent book, How to Know a Person. So we’d love to have you join us.


For those of you who are in D.C., if you are around next week, on Monday, October 30th, we’ll actually be hosting historian and presidential biographer Ron White on the unlikely heroism of Joshua Chamberlain. And stay tuned for far more upcoming Online Conversations, including on December 1st with Tish Harrison Warren on Advent. Finally, if you are not always able to join our Online Conversations, we do make these available via podcast as well, which are released later this coming Tuesday. Our next podcast release will be with Bonnie Christian on “Trust, Truth and the Knowledge Crisis,” and hope you’ll be able to join us for that.


Finally, as promised, David, the last word is yours.


David Brooks: First, I would encourage people to join so they can get your daily “What We’re Reading.” That daily email organizes my reading list every day. So I appreciate what the Trinity Forum does with that. So my book is meant to be practical, so I’ll finish just with two practical tips. And these are how to be a better conversationalist tips. And one of them is don’t be a topper. So if you tell me something you’re having trouble with your teenage son, my instinct is to say, “Oh, I know exactly what you’re going through. I’m having a trouble with my teenage son.” And that seems like I’m just trying to relate to you, but really, I’m saying, “I don’t really care about your problem. Let me talk about mine.” And so that’s called topping. Don’t be a topper.


And then the final one. I don’t know if this will work with a—. So, don’t fear the pause. And so I read this from a book by Kate Murphy. And she says, “If I’m talking to you”—and there’s a visual here, which is my arm sticking out—”if I’m talking to you, and I start my comment at the shoulder and I talk all the way to my fingertips, at what point have you stopped listening so you can think of what you’re going to say in response?” Usually people stop right about here. And so my advice is let me talk to my fingertips. And then I have a friend who does this. He’ll hold up his hand and he’ll pause for three or four seconds as he tries to think of what’s to say. And I always feel, wow, he’s really listening to me hard if he’s really pausing. You don’t want to do it all the time. If you’re hanging around a bar, you want the conversation to be fast and fluid. But if it’s a deep conversation or something important, then don’t fear the pause. Let me talk to my fingertips, pause, and then think of what to say. And that way you’ll really, really hear me.


Cherie Harder: David, thank you so much. This has been a real delight.


David Brooks: Thank you, Cherie. Always a pleasure to be with you.


Cherie Harder: And thank you to all of you for joining us. Have a great weekend.