Science & Tech, Business

Communication: It’s Not Enough to Be Right

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Lesson time 5:47 min

Communicating objective truths convincingly is just as important as using methods of scientific thinking to find them. Neil shares his personal reason for this belief and some of his favorite tools of communication.

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Topics include: Communication: It’s Not Enough to Be Right


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Now that you have some sense of how to think about objective truths, I now want to spend some time sharing with you how to communicate that knowledge. Why? Well, I'll tell you why. My father, who we lost a couple of years ago. He was 89, so he had a full life. But I miss him. I still miss him to this day. I wrote about what I missed about him most. And one of them is a bit of wisdom. What is wisdom after all? It's the distilled essence of knowledge, once you've forgotten all the details. That's what wisdom is. Wise people never talk very much, because they've distilled it. They've distilled all the words down into a few sentences. And then, they're quiet. And then, they speak later on in the day. But you want to be there when they-- when they talk. My father was like that. And one of his gems, I would say, was, it's not good enough to be right. You also have to be effective. It was like, wow. Now, he-- he lived with this his entire life. He was a civil rights advocate back in the 1960s. And you can say, this is how the world should be. But if you don't have a tactic, if you have a plan to enable it, to enact it, go home. It's not good enough just to be right. It has to also work. So much of what I do when I communicate science is informed by that goal. That it takes work, especially in these modern times, where everybody is so polarized. By the way, you know why I want to share all this with you? Some of you will rise up and end up doing exactly what I'm doing. I am a public educator, not because it was ever my life's ambition, a public educator out of a sense of duty. If I can communicate something effectively in ways that others can't, and that which I'm trying to communicate matters to the health and wealth and security of the nation, I would be irresponsible if I did not. That's how I view this. When I'm called to give public talks, I'm called to appear on television, it is an active duty. And I don't say that often. I give a public talk. And some people say, oh, that was-- you look like you were having a good time up there. That was a great time. I loved it. That's one response. Another response is, you were working hard up there. To a person, those who comment that way are schoolteachers. They know what I'm doing. They see what I'm doing. I do a crazy amount of thinking and preparation, every time I'm in the public venue, in any medium, in-- from Twitter to Facebook to the morning news to the evening news to the comedic news to documentaries. There is machinery operating under the hood within me that I want to share with you. I think of Batman's utility belt. I remember-- I'm old enough to remember Batman in first serial. OK? Back in the 1960s. And wherever he was, whatever he needed to do, there was like-- one of the pouches on his utility belt, he'd reach in and there was the thing he needed in that moment. Point is you need to be 10 times more prepared than anything you might invoke in or...

About the Instructor

With a hit talk show and bestselling books, Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most popular figures in modern science. Now the influential astrophysicist teaches you how his mind works and how he connects with audiences. Learn to think like a skeptic, open your own mind through scientific literacy, distill data, and navigate bias to discover objective truths—and deliver your ideas in ways that engage, excite, and inspire.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson

Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches you how to find objective truths and shares his tools for communicating what you discover.

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