The Art of Insubordination | Todd Kashdan

Summary of: The Art of Insubordination: How to Dissent and Defy Effectively
By: Todd Kashdan


Dive into the world of principled insubordination with ‘The Art of Insubordination: How to Dissent and Defy Effectively’ by Todd Kashdan. This book summary explores why nonconformity is rare, highlighting the importance of standing against norms to create meaningful change. Learn from numerous real-life examples, such as Elizabeth Jennings’ fight for equal access on public transport and Fugazi’s anti-consumerist influence in modern music. Uncover the psychological barriers that hinder dissent and understand how cognitive defusion and developing psychological flexibility can help overcome them. Finally, learn essential tactics to effectively communicate your dissent to others and avoid becoming oppressive once you gain power.

The Power of Conformity

Have you ever wondered why more basketball players don’t shoot underhand free throws, given its high accuracy rate? It’s because in the basketball world, it’s considered “girly” or “granny shooting.” This preference for the status quo extends far beyond basketball and is a human tendency to conform. We are creatures of habit and often blindly follow systems that oppress us, rather than questioning their validity. Our motivation to conform is so strong that we make judgments based on mental shortcuts or biases rather than rational analysis. In this context, acts of insubordination are scarce. It’s important to acknowledge this reality to ultimately overcome it.

Principle Insubordination: An Unconventional Pathway To Progress

In 1854, Elizabeth Jennings, a young Black woman was dragged out of a streetcar due to transportation policy that supported segregation. However, Elizabeth Jennings got support from a lawyer and was able to sue the transit service which marked as a win. Her simple act of principled insubordination sparked change leading to a new transportation policy that allowed Black people to ride public transport. Diversity leads to development of creative and counterintuitive ideas that work. Studies show that creating a culture where dissent is encouraged can lead to better performance and creativity. Additionally, effective communication is key to allowing unconventional ideas to lead the path to progress.

The Art of Persuasion

Fugazi, an influential punk rock band, showed that being principled insubordinates can lead to an effective form of communication. Their anti-consumerist and fair practices, along with their “straight edge” lifestyle, influenced their fans to adopt similar beliefs without being preachy. Scientists have now discovered that the best way for individuals with minority viewpoints to persuade others is to present consistent and flexible communication styles that spark curiosity and avoid sparking fear. By being a true believer of a cause and presenting a common bond with their audience, individuals can effectively bring about change.

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