Are You A Tapper?

Are You A Tapper?

Are You A Tapper?

I recently started reading Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s a really interesting look at how to really make ideas and communication “stick”. They explain a study in the 90’s in which a Ph.D. candidate created a simple game. She assigned people one of two roles: tappers and listeners.

Basically, the tappers got a list of simple songs that most of us know:  Happy Birthday, The Star-Spangled Banner, Old McDonald, etc. The listeners had to guess what song was being tapped. Simple right?

The tappers anticipated that the listeners would guess the songs correctly 50% of the time when, in reality, they only got it right 2% of the time. The tappers were becoming increasingly frustrated with the listeners. After all, how could you not guess Happy Birthday when tapped out on a table?

They found it was due to “the curse of knowledge”. Once we know something, it’s hard to imagine what it was like to not know it.  Because the tappers knew what song they were tapping, they actually heard the song in their head. It was impossible for them not to hear the song when tapping, which made it difficult to understand why
the listener couldn’t figure out the song.

Ah, the curse of knowledge. What seems so completely common sense to us, based on our knowledge or frame of reference, can be perceived so differently from someone else who is looking at the situation from their perspective.

This happens in work, at home, and in every area of our life.  If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone and felt completely frustrated because they just didn’t “get it”, you’ve been a tapper. If you’ve been on the other side of the conversation and been frustrated because the other person is completely convinced their right, and you think they’re nuts, it might be because you can’t hear the song in their head.

Are you a tapper?  Since you can’t unlearn what you already know, it’s important to take time to hum the tune for others.  Be careful not to expect people to automatically know things that seem second nature to you.  You’ll spend a lot of time frustrated, and they still won’t get it.  What tune will you tap this week?

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Read that again. 🙌 ...

I played piano from the time I was four years old until the age of 15 and during that time, I had a lot of recitals. I remember being so nervous before each recital. What if I played the wrong note? What if I forgot the music? My dad would look at me, hold my hands, and say:

Whatever you do, DO NOT think of pink elephants!!

At the time, I had no idea why in the world he would say this. All I do know is that when I sat down to play, all I saw were pink elephants, and I was able to tackle my nerves.

Turns out my dad was helping me to practice the ironic process theory which explains that when we try to suppress our thoughts, we focus on them even more. Seventy to 80% of our thoughts are negative and repetitive. If not managed, intrusive thoughts can lead to anxiety, depression, and a whole host of mental health challenges.

If you tend to get stuck in rumination, or if your thoughts sometimes get the best of you, here are a few ways to take back control:

1️⃣ Recognize that your thoughts are not facts.
2️⃣ Use your brain. Do a math problem, practice a different language, or play a puzzle game. When you access the prefrontal cortex, the higher level thinking part of your brain, you get out of the emotional limbic system.
3️⃣ Distract yourself. Sometimes a simple distraction gives you enough distance to quiet your intrusive thoughts.
4️⃣ Practice mindfulness.
5️⃣ See a therapist. When negative, intrusive thoughts impact your ability to do your job, maintain relationships, or start clouding your judgment, it may be time to get help. As someone with plenty of intrusive thoughts, therapy has helped me tremendously.

Don’t forget, your thoughts and feelings are not facts. They are simply habits that need to be shifted. Be patient with yourself, and if all else fails, whatever you do, DO NOT THINK OF PINK ELEPHANTS!

Pets provide a deep sense connection and unconditional love. I don’t know what I’d do without without these two nut jobs! Happy National Love Your Pet Day! ❤️🐶 #mindfulmonday #mindfulness #petsnuggles #ilovemydogs #petsofinstagram #nationalloveyourpetday ...

I hope your Friday includes donuts. 🍩 ...

Midweek reminder: Reset your mindset. 🧠 ...

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Anne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.

Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 3 books. Her newest, Mind Over Moment: Harness the Power of Resilience, is available on Amazon now.


  1. Very good. This give me some ideas for our Strategic Planning in a few weeks. I might have our team to try this exercise.

  2. Good Morning Anne thank you for all you do. Every one of you posting hit right on the money. I really love reading your posting and look forward to reading them al the time. I guess I am a tapper, I will stop and learn to hum the tune. Have a Blessed Day!

  3. An absolute truism in the arena of customer service and support if there ever was one. The example really makes it clear and easy for others to understand.

    -Jay Grady (who has somewhat of a relationship with the blog’s author, though I caaaan’t quite put my finger on it…hhmmmm)

  4. Excellent word. Knowledge or lack of has tripped me up in many conversations. I’m guilty of being the frustrated tapper and listener. Now I step back in either situation, take a breath and remember John Maxwell’s statement “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care”. Thanks for the encouragement!!

    • Thanks Nita! I love John Maxwell…got to see him speak a couple years ago…hilarious and so motivational.

      Hope to see you at the conference!

  5. It takes two to tango and the listener may have poor listening skills as well. I have learned to pay attention to what I’m thinking when listening to someone. The instant one begins to formulate a response is usually the instant they stopped listening and miss the most important element of what is being said. I have learned to listen with my entire being or I miss valuable information.

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