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Posts Tagged ‘Howard Gardner

Wait: Can we talk too much?

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Feed your existential intelligence

I’m gearing up to teach again: freelance copywriting and social media marketing. My understanding of communication and writing and the volunteer social-media tethering we do continues to evolve. I can talk and teach and speculate about what works for communication and how to provide what a client needs. I can talk about how we need to help our clients think—that is a piece of the value-add a smart copywriter brings to a relationship. But these days I’m seeing more limits and caveats—especially in the promises inherent in social media.

These are English students and communications and journalism. Some  business students. Juniors and seniors. Many are excellent writers. Many, if not most, have worked hard to develop an existential intelligence, as Howard Gardner puts it. I teach at a Christian college, and from very many discussions with students, I know they will seek a place for faith in their life and work and life-work balance. Many if not all are just as eager to make meaning as they are to find a job.

That pleases me.

That’s one of the reasons I like to teach there.

One thing I’ve learned is that work alone does not satisfy the meaning-making part of life. Nor does work itself feed the existential intelligence. Craft comes close. Especially when we grow in our craft as we seek to serve others. But work and craft and meaning-making must be purposefully-pursued.SelfPortrait-08262015


Because if we don’t pursue them, we fall prey to entertainment. We gradually anesthetize ourselves and starve the existential intelligence with the well-deserved zone-out time in front of the big screen TV. I’m starting to wonder if some of our social media habits also starve our existential intelligence.

I wonder because I wrestle with these impulses.

No. One does not fall into meaning-making. It takes work to make meaning.

I suppose that is the work of a lifetime.


Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

How Does Anyone Change Direction?

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Living with Questions

I met a preacher at a wedding recently. He had just officiated the ceremony, which was a beautiful thing—two people creating a great beginning. Afterwards, making small talk, the preacher told me how a few people in his congregation had changed. I was curious, because I had been reading Howard Gardner’s Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds. In these highly partisan days, where we carefully surround ourselves with our tribe who speak our language, agree with our view of the world and where we ingest the news biased toward our agenda, I’ve been wondering how anyone ever escapes their own personal echo chamber.


“God did it,” he said. “In quite miraculous ways. Real change. 180 degrees.”

The preacher’s story of change had to do with someone coming into his congregation and how their life was different now.

“Wow,” I said, because change is remarkable. And because I like to hear stories about God doing stuff in real life.

“Sometimes I wonder,” I said, “Whether God does stuff or whether people change to fit the new club or group they’ve joined. Because I’ve noticed that the things we attribute to God can sometimes be explained by communication dynamics—how this new club or group satisfies a question someone has. Or perhaps the group dynamic meets an impulse they have, and they are more than happy to abide by the rules and unspoken ways this tribe works. And that looks like change. And perhaps that’s where change takes place: as we adopt a new moral code and sort of work ourselves into it.”

Was the preacher backing away?

“Which is not so say God is not in it,” I added, quickly.

“Hmmm,” he said.

“Because I absolutely believe God works through ordinary conversations in very big ways (now’s when you would mouse over and order a copy of my new book ListenTalk. Or just click here.)

“But I’m just sort of eager to cite the proper authorities when we talk about change,” I said. “Because change seems more nuanced, more a response to the questions we carry with us.”

Was he nodding in agreement?

Wait—where did he go?

What questions do you carry into everyday life? Those very questions may be the beginning of change.


Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Giving Voice to Change

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Check my guest post on the MedAxiom blog


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Third in a series.

Written by kirkistan

August 7, 2015 at 10:24 am

MedAxiom Blog: Conversation as a Collaboration Tool for the Value-based Future

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Check out my post today at MedAxiom: Conversation as a collaborative tool. LINK

Written by kirkistan

July 21, 2015 at 11:48 am

What Would it Take to Change Your Mind?

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Let me draw you a picture

Howard Gardner, in his book Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004) talked about the different kinds of intelligences he thinks exist. Dr. Gardner is a professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School, so he has solid reason to be espousing counter-intuitive theories of intelligence. Linguistic and logical-mathematical are two of the more primary and recognizable kinds of intelligence. And those two, in particular, are the focus of much our schooling.

But there are other kinds, says Dr. Gardner, including spatial intelligence, for instance, where one has “the capacity to form spatial representations or images in one’s mind, and to operate up them.” Sailors and airline pilots depend on this sort of intelligence, as do chess players. Or bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, where a person has “the capacity to solve problems or to create products using your whole body.” Artists, craftspeople, surgeons, dancers, football players, basketball players and many others work out problems in a very physical way.


Early in the book Gardner cited this important factor in changing one’s mind:

Presenting multiple versions of the same concept can be an extremely powerful way to change someone’s mind.

–Howard Gardner, Changing Minds, p. 16

I’m not yet to the end of Gardner’s full argument, but I suspect none of us are just one intelligence. We each have several (perhaps many) ways of knowing and depend on our different intelligences to walk through life. So hearing multiple versions of a concept may trigger something inside us that suddenly opens our eyes or our empathy. As advertisers well understand, presenting the beautiful woman next to the car or perfume bottle spurs an emotional leap that can bypass rationality. Words alone don’t do that as often.

My own daily experiments with drawing, though uniformly not up to par, have still showed a way forward with understanding. When stuck with words, I can switch to dumb sketch mode and begin to move forward again.

All this makes me wonder about the work we each need to do to find new ways to express those deep things inside that need to come out but have so far fallen on deaf ears.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

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