Podcast 324: Learn from the Wisdom of Teachers, a Clever Way to Use Email, and Anna Sale Talks about How to Have Difficult Conversations


Mother’s Day is approaching, on May 9. My #1 New York Times bestselling book The Happiness Project makes a great gift for the mothers in your life. Or request it for yourself! If you’re so inclined, it’s a big help to us when you rate or review the Happier podcast. Easy instructions here.

Try This at Home

Learn from the wisdom of teachers. We just celebrated National Teacher Appreciation Day, and these days, more than ever, we appreciate teachers.

I’m writing a book of aphorisms and as part of that project, I’m collecting “Proverbs of the Professions.” The insights from teachers are terrific:

  • I hear, I forget; I see, I remember; I do, I understand.
  • Whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning.
  • Your students don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
  • When you take a child by the hand, you take a parent by the heart.
  • Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.
  • Attention-seeking behavior is connection-seeking behavior.
  • You get what you get and you don’t get upset. (Also known as “You git what you git, and you don’t throw a fit”)
  • Children save their drama for their Mama.
  • If you don’t have a plan, the students will.
  • Apples and trees (when teachers meet students’ parents).
  • I can’t care about a student’s grade more than he or she does.
  • To teach is to learn twice.
  • Connect before I correct.
  • The children who are hardest to love need it the most.
  • To be effective, you must be objective.
  • Don’t smile until Thanksgiving.
  • If you yell in the first week, you have to yell all year.
  • What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you.
  • A teacher tells a student where to look but not what to see.
  • Trust is the most wonderful thing to have and the most terrible thing to lose.
  • Any teacher who can be replaced by a computer should be.
  • You can’t say you can’t play.
  • Don’t treat a gift like a burden.

I’m still collecting them, so if you have a great proverb of the profession, send them my way.

I’m planning to create a free PDF with all these great insights, so stay tuned.

Happiness Hack 

If you’re following up with someone by email after a long time, instead of starting a new email chain, go back to your old emails and continue that chain. Seeing the previous exchange will help the other person to remember you and what you’re emailing about.

Interview: Anna Sale.

Anna Sale is the host of the wildly popular WNYC podcast, Death, Sex & Money, which is about “the things we think about a lot and need to talk about more.”

Now she’s written a terrific book, Let’s Talk About Hard Things (AmazonBookshop), about how to navigate tough conversations, with lots of practical suggestions. In it, she tackles five of the most fraught conversation topics: death, sex, money, family, and identity.

We talk about:
  • what it was like to switch from podcasting to writing (she found it hard!)
  • how she gained insights from writing that were different from podcasting
  • In writing about these subjects, did she gain insights in a way that was different from doing interviews?
  • She talked about her observation: “It’s downright terrifying to discuss the things that are important to us with the people who are most important to us.” (In an earlier episode, Elizabeth and talked about how sometimes, it’s easier to confide in a stranger or distant acquaintance.)
  • how her understanding of her own family’s story changed over time, and how hearing people’s stories can help understand other people’s perspectives
  • So much of a hard conversation is listening. How does she think about how to listen.
Some insights:
  • “I found the effort of reflecting on, not only my process as an interview but also applying it broadly, to tough conversations.”
  • “I put words to what I’ve been learning but hadn’t quite declared.”
  • “It’s really important, when you’re talking to someone important to you, to think about how these comments will be received.”
  • “Sometimes tough conversation just—start.”
  • “Asking to hear these stories again…you hear a very different story from what you’re told when you’re six years old.”
  • “When you’re trying to make sense of where you’re oriented in a family—maybe someone’s reaction doesn’t make sense—that prompt ‘Can you tell me again, what that was like?’ and you’ll hear more complicated versions.”
  • “With family, the assumption is: I should be able to understand…we come from the same place.”
  • “Asking to hear stories again reinforces that sense of compassion that can get lost in family.”
  • “Pacing is so important in hard conversations.”

Anna’s Tendency: Anna is a Questioner. (Don’t know if you’re a Questioner, Upholder, Obliger, or Rebel? Take the free short quiz here.)

Anna’s Try This at Home

She has two suggestions. First, instead of doing a Zoom call for work, do a walk-and-talk. Second, if you grind your teeth, wear a night-guard.

Elizabeth’s Demerit

She’s not responding to texts from friends in L.A.

Gretchen’s Gold Star

I give a gold star to my daughter Eleanor for launching her podcast, People My Age, on Spotify. People My Age is a podcast about obsessions, trends, social media, and culture seen through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old living in New York City.” I’m biased, but I think it’s really interesting.

Jamie’s podcast is Greater. Eliza’s podcast is Eliza Starting at 16 (though she’s not updating it anymore).


  • Want to learn more about the Four Tendencies? For free resources, click here. Particularly relevant to this episode, there’s a guide for “Using the Four Tendencies with Children and Students.” If you’re a teacher, parent, coach, or professor, this guide is intended for you.
  • On Wednesday, May 12 at 3:30pm EST, I’m excited to be joining the team at Betabrand Live for an interactive conversation about happiness, habits, and how using my Four Tendencies framework can help you find the strategies—and even clothes—that work for you. We’ll also be doing a giveaway where five participants will win a “Happiness bundle,” including a signed copy of my book The Happiness Project, and a free pair of Dress Pant Yoga Pants from Betabrand.

What we’re reading

Elizabeth: Well-Behaved Indian Women by Saumya Dave (AmazonBookshopSuper Senses: The Science of Your 32 Senses and How to Use Them by Emma Young (Amazon)



Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.