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  • Writer's pictureMark McMinn

High School Speeches, ChatGPT, and Quieting the Ego: Interdependence

Every couple who has been married a long time has stories they repeat. One of ours has to do with me being salutatorian in high school and thus delivering the salutation at commencement when Lisa actually had the higher GPA. Yes, we attended the same high school and graduated the same year. I'll spare you the photos.

Apparently, the last semester grades weren't considered when choosing who gave the speeches, and I got a B in integral calculus that semester, so it really should have been Lisa nervously reading words off 3 x 5 notecards for 3 anxiety-filled minutes during that now-blurry ceremony.

One thing I remember is that my speech was about interdependence. I spent hours preparing for that 3 minutes!

Just now, I typed "300 words on interdependence" into ChatGPT. It turns out AI is both quicker and more articulate than me.* I wish I would have said this in my high school salutatory:

In essence, interdependence is a cornerstone of our interconnected world. Embracing this concept invites collaboration, empathy, and a sense of shared responsibility. As we navigate the complexities of the modern era, understanding and valuing interdependence become essential for building a sustainable, harmonious global community. (ChatGPT, 03/02/24)

For context, I'm writing a series of 6 blog posts about a psychological concept called The Quiet Ego, which seems timely in a cultural moment where egos have become quite loud, perhaps especially at the beginning of another contentious election year. Two psychologists who write about this, Heidi Wayment and Jack Bauer, describe four qualities of a quiet ego: detached awareness, interdependence, compassion, and growth. As you have likely guessed, this post is about interdependence.

ChatGPT pronounces interdependence to be a "cornerstone of our interconnected world." Bauer and Wayment punctuate this as, "the capacity to understand other people's perspectives in a way that allows one to identify with those other people" (p. 12).

This is part of quieting the ego.

Shhh... Be quiet, Mark. Listen. Really listen.

So what does this mean for how we live in our noisy world?


Some take interdependence to mean having friends. This falls short of the definitions I've just repeated, but it's still a good thing. A worldwide pandemic showed that living in isolation is devastating. So yes, here's to friendship, to sitting un-alone in coffee shops and restaurants, to walking and hiking with others, to book groups and dinner parties, to playing pickleball and basketball, to bantering, to apologizing, to listening, to caring, to being with.


Because birds of a feather flock together, it's quite natural for us to join together with like-minded people. And that's great, but interdependence takes relationships a step further. What do we do when things get difficult? When acrimony sneaks into a friendship? When one person votes blue and the other red? When differences dwarf similarities? Common 21st-Century wisdom suggests we part ways when this happens, but interdependence points the other direction--toward staying put, valuing relationship over conflict avoidance. With time and effort, our egos quiet a bit and we learn to listen to another.


When we stay in relationship with those who differ from us, it opens the opportunity for a deeper sort of knowing. Psychologists who study The Quiet Ego point toward empathy and compassion as central to interdependence. This doesn't mean we always change our minds and agree with the other, but that we sink deep into understanding, recognizing the other has valid concerns and ideas.

Wisdom, it turns out, is a team sport.

Here are some questions I'm pondering today...

  • What can I learn from those who carry ideas vastly different than my own?

  • I have said for years that my most enduring interest in life is grace, so how am I living out grace in my connections with others, especially those I find difficult?

  • When I think of those who have offended or wounded me, can I imagine them as complex people who carry their own wounds, souls who have much to teach me if I can get quiet enough to listen?

Shhh... Be quiet, Mark. Listen. Learn. Pay attention. Love others as well as possible.

*As an illustration, I spent quite a long time wondering and Googling about whether this sentence should read, "more articulate than me" or "more articulate than I." It seems both are okay these days, though the grammar purists will likely conclude I got this wrong.


Previous Posts in this Series:


Note: This blog is not monetized, and I never anticipate it to be. My hope is just to bring a bit of positive psychology to one small corner of the world. Ha! As if the world has corners...


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