Possibly the most flattering email ever

Many people have written us many nice words over the years. (Of course, some people have written some not-so-nice stuff as well.) But my favorite, or at least my new favorite:

Good afternoon Stepan,

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

I started listening to your podcasts because I liked your book Freakonomics and appreciate the opportunity to learn about things I don’t have time to learn. For the work you and your staff are doing in researching and telling interesting and educational stories, I am as grateful as I expected. However, this letter is about something else.

Since many people quickly stop listening to anyone who has a different point of view, I was struck by the curious and open-minded manner in which you discuss topics with others. Sometimes I’m good at it, and sometimes my mannerisms and tone give me away, showing the fact that I’m not very good at learning the opposing point of view. This is a skill that I would like to improve and I hope my children (aged 11 and 9) will develop it. So, using your podcasts as a model, our family is working on asking questions and constructing answers in a curious and open-minded way. And we turned your last name into a verb…

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

It is for this reason that I am writing to express my unexpected gratitude.

With respect and sincere gratitude,

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

Thank you Kara. I’m really flattered! The only problem is that I don’t feel like I really fit that description the way I would like to, i.e. while I certainly try to be as curious and open-minded as possible, I often find in relistening to interviews that my biases and biases are stronger than I thought at the moment. So I’m constantly looking for ways to push them out. Maybe my name associated with this activity will be just the boost I need!

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