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Document 360: #1 Knowledge Base Software

Malcolm Gladwell — Why People Can't Express What They Really Mean and Feel

by Tom Johnson on Jun 16, 2006 •
categories: technical-writing

Malcolm Gladwell podcastThis is another mind-bending podcast that will change how you perceive others' responses about your work. Malcolm Gladwell, a well-known essayist for the New Yorker, explains that the aeron chair — similar to our modern computer chair that we all love to sit in all day — was originally despised and deemed ugly. It didn't catch on for 2 years, and then it quickly became the most popular chair. Everyone came to love it.

Through various experiments and studies, Gladwell concludes that people find responses about some topics extremely difficult to articulate. While they may think they dislike something (like the aeron chair), in their hearts they may actually like it. There is a disconnect that causes people to express dislike in their heads while they actually like it in their hearts (and vice versa). Worse, when people are pressed for a reason, they cross their true feelings even more plainly. Here's an excerpt from IT Conversations:

Malcolm explores why we can't trust people's opinions -- because we don't have the language to express our feelings. His examples include the story of New Coke and how Coke's market research misled them, and the development of Herman-Miller's Aeron chair, the best-selling chair in the history of office chairs, which succeeded in spite of research that suggested it would fail.

This podcast is truly fascinating and worth listening to.

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