The self-healing letter of complaint

The self-healing letter of complaint

You’ve been wronged. The service was terrible. You went unseen, disrespected and abused. You didn’t get your money’s worth. The software is sloppy, the people were rude, the entire experience was lousy.

A letter to the organization is called for. At the very least, you’ll get an apology, some free samples, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll fix the problem for everyone who comes after you. How generous of you to dig in and share the vitriol.

Better put a sharp point on it, personalize it and make it sting.

Here’s the thing: Every angry word you write is only going to confirm the story you’re already telling yourself, the story that’s still making you miserable. The more spite you put into the note, the worse you’re going to feel. You’ll relive the event again and again. And, it’s pretty certain, if a human reads the note, they’ll now feel lousy too. They might go home and kick their dog, it’s that visceral.

To what end? Is it going to increase the chances that change happens?

Here’s a different tack, a selfish one that pays off for everyone involved:

Write the most positive note you can imagine. Write about how much the brand/service/government agency means to you. Let them know just how much you trust them, how much they’ve helped you in the past. Lay it on thick, that’s okay, it’ll remind you of why you care in the first place, and it will build bridges instead of tearing them down.

Then, say, “Here’s what didn’t work” or “But I have an important suggestion…”

And, without adding the hurt and anger that you feel, explain what went wrong. Explain it clearly, in a useful way, but give the reader the benefit of the doubt. Assume she knows that it didn’t make you happy, that it completely ruined your wedding, that you’re never ever going to return. Just leave that part out.

After all, if you didn’t care about them, you wouldn’t bother writing a letter, would you?

Two things will probably happen:

  1. When you hit ‘send’ you’re going to feel better about yourself and the process you just engaged in, and
  2. It’s more likely that the long-suffering recipient of your note will actually take action

We can change the stories we tell ourselves.


How Elon Musk Learns Faster And Better Than Everyone Else

The implicit assumption is that if you study in multiple areas, you’ll only learn at a surface level, never gain mastery.

The success of expert-generalists throughout time shows that this is wrong.Learning across multiple fields provides an information advantage (and therefore an innovation advantage) because most people focus on just one field.

For example, if you’re in the tech industry and everyone else is just reading tech publications, but you also know a lot about biology, you have the ability to come up with ideas that almost no one else could. Vice-versa. If you’re in biology, but you you also understand artificial intelligence, you have an information advantage over everyone else who stays siloed.

Despite this basic insight, few people actually learn beyond their industry.

Each new field we learn that is unfamiliar to others in our field gives us the ability to make combinations that they can’t. This is the expert-generalist advantage.

An ancient memorization strategy might cause lasting changes to the brain

Weird as it might sound, there are competitive rememberers out there who can memorize a deck of cards in seconds or dozens of words in minutes. So, naturally, someone decided to study them. It turns out that practicing their techniques doesn’t just improve your memory — it can also change how your brain works.

There’s been a long-standing debate about whether memory athletes are born with superior memories, or whether their abilities are due to their training regimens. These tend to include an ancient memorization strategy called the method of loci, which involves visualizing important pieces of information placed at key stops along a mental journey. This journey can be an imaginary walk through your house or a local park, or your drive to work. The important thing is that you can mentally move back through it to retrieve the pieces of information you stored. (The ancient Greeks are said to have used it to remember important texts.)

Why We Believe Obvious Untruths

How can so many people believe things that are demonstrably false? The question has taken on new urgency as the Trump administration propagates falsehoods about voter fraud, climate change and crime statistics that large swaths of the population have bought into. But collective delusion is not new, nor is it the sole province of the political right. Plenty of liberals believe, counter to scientific consensus, that G.M.O.s are poisonous, and that vaccines cause autism.

The situation is vexing because it seems so easy to solve. The truth is obvious if you bother to look for it, right? This line of thinking leads to explanations of the hoodwinked masses that amount to little more than name calling: “Those people are foolish” or “Those people are monsters.”

Such accounts may make us feel good about ourselves, but they are misguided and simplistic: They reflect a misunderstanding of knowledge that focuses too narrowly on what goes on between our ears. Here is the humbler truth: On their own, individuals are not well equipped to separate fact from fiction, and they never will be. Ignorance is our natural state; it is a product of the way the mind works.