Dr Todd Kashdan is a Professor of Psychology at George Mason University and a leading authority on wellbeing, curiosity, psychological flexibility, and resilience.

He has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles; his work has been cited over 30,000 times. He is the author of several books, including “Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life” and “The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why being your whole self – not just your “good” self – drives success and fulfilment”.

We were honoured to connect with Todd and our Learn with Sue community and gain some candid insights into what makes him tick.

On Education…

For over twenty years, Todd has been teaching college courses on the science of wellbeing. He shared his enthusiasm for engaging with students and encouraging the need to push boundaries.

“I teach students that everything is up for questioning; just make sure you hold the same standard for things you believe in and care about as for the things you dislike. And if you can hold to that truth, then this is the appropriate way science should progress.”

Continuing this theme, we discussed the nuances of communication and language use with our audiences and how emotional intelligence and the art of curiosity play into the outcomes of all learning and teaching opportunities. People rise to the occasion when we remove conscious and unconscious bias as best as possible and treat all audiences as intelligent regardless of the perceived context. Todd shares the need to be as subjective as possible and look for ‘Insider Status’ in research studies.

Todd shared that one of the criticisms he has of psychology, in general, is that many researchers are focusing on singular themes, and in truth, he believes they are all in concert; they interact with each other. He considers what he does as synergising research areas and says, “I try to look for zigging when everyone else is zagging.”

Sue and Todd discussed the role of formal academic qualifications in the field of Positive Psychology and wellbeing. Although they both highly value research and knowledge, some great questions were posed: How much weight should we be placing on university or academic degrees? What is the link between cognitive intelligence and creativity?

This led our discussion to conformity, a running theme in Todd’s approach. Is it time to buck tradition? Have formal qualifications become a signal of conventionality in academic society, and are we overlooking the importance of industry experience

On Dissent….

Todd’s recent work encompasses evidence-based strategies on how we can become better allies of our leaders in change. He believes for ideas to evolve and societies to progress, we need ‘rebels’ to question conventional ideas and improve on them.

His book “The Art of Insubordination: How to dissent and defy effectively” sums up this challenge and speaks of his drive to ask curious questions and leverage rigorous science.

“For ideas to evolve and societies to progress, we desperately need rebels to challenge conventional wisdom and improve it. Unfortunately, most of us fear nonconformists, perceiving them as disloyal, reckless, destructive, or just plain weird. Because most would-be rebels lack the strength and skills to overcome hostile audiences, principled insubordination remains an underleveraged asset in the workplace and public square.”

The book is grounded in cutting edge research and encourages us to challenge the status quo. The work further highlights his passion for justice, creativity, inclusion, and innovation. During our dynamic conversation, Todd shared his views on the notion of likeability and the role of social pressures.

Todd’s latest book addresses some key questions:

  • What are the most effective ways to express unpopular, important ideas?
  • How can we help principled rebels be heard and influential?
  • How can we better manage the discomfort when trying to rebel or interacting with a rebel?

When Sue prompted Todd on his legacy, he summed it up perfectly!

“I would love to be known as a very nuanced researcher who asks the questions that others forget to ask about” – Todd Kashdan –

We would like to thank Todd for the thought-provoking chat and his continued passion for Positive Psychology.

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