Stanford’s most popular class, ‘Touchy Feely,’ is now a book. I read it and tried the principles in my own life –┬áhere’s what happened.

Michelle Juergen
Michelle Juergen says her friends know her as “that friend who’s always talking about her feelings.”

Most people in my life know me as that friend who’s always talking about her feelings. It’s true: I go to therapy, and I talk constantly to anyone who’ll listen about what I’m learning there; I use “I” statements; and I ask everyone, “How does that make you feel?”

It’s safe to say I’m touchy-feely.

So given the chance to read “CONNECT: Building Exceptional Relationships with Family, Friends, & Colleagues,” a new book by the professors Carole Robin and David Bradford who teach Stanford’s most popular course, Interpersonal Dynamics – known as “Touchy-Feely” – my buy-in was immediate.

The book offered me hands-on, research-backed interpersonal skills for building what the authors call “exceptional relationships,” which have six hallmarks: Both people can be more fully themselves, can be honest with each other, are willing to be vulnerable, can trust that self-disclosure will not be used against them, can deal with conflict productively, and will commit to each other’s growth and development.

I decided to test out some of the book’s lessons on one longstanding personal relationship and one new one – my best friend, and a person I recently started dating – to see what it would change.

I saw the fruits of my labor in less than a month. Here are some of the most valuable strategies I learned.

1. Stay on your side of the net

When my best friend recently told me about a summer trip she’d planned that didn’t include me, I immediately assumed it meant that she doesn’t like traveling with me. But I reeled in my melodrama and recalled one of the book’s lessons: Stay on your side of the net.

According to the authors, there are three realities in the interpersonal cycle: the other person’s intent, which only they know; their behavior, which is observable by both parties; and the impact of that behavior on you, which only you know. Imagine it as a tennis court, where there’s a net between intent and behavior. In assuming my friend’s motives, I was playing on her side of the court – over the net.

When you stay on your side of the net, you remain in your own reality and let the other person know you’re not judging their character or asking them to change their personality. This leaves room for them to hear what you have to say and tell you more about their intentions.

2. Express a ‘pinch’ before it becomes a ‘crunch’

Recently, I expressed to the guy I’ve been dating that something he did made me feel unappreciated. I told him it wasn’t a big deal, but that I wanted to talk about it while it was a “pinch” (a mild offense) so it wouldn’t become a “crunch” (a major conflict).

Before we chatted, I took Bradford and Robin’s advice of stating the intent of my feedback – to offer him more insight into how I operate and what I need from a partner, and kept the no-big-deal issue at hand from spiraling into something bigger.

3. Offer behaviorally specific feedback

Pointing out observable behaviors is crucial to good communication, as it allows the other person to share their motives.

If I tell my friend, “You don’t want to take a trip with me,” I’m setting the conversation up negatively. But if I say, “You’ve recently planned a bunch of trips but haven’t invited me on any,” I’m merely stating something observable, which allows for vulnerability where we can both talk about our needs and intentions.

4. Try the 15% Rule

Stepping 15% outside the “Zone of Comfort” means offering information about yourself that is slightly uncomfortable but not too risky, to see how the other person will respond.

The authors suggest stepping 15% outside your comfort zone when self-disclosing to gauge the other person's reaction to what you've shared_Juergen.jpeg
Stepping 15% outside of your comfort zone when self-disclosing can help you gauge the other person’s reaction.

With the guy I’m seeing, I disclosed some personal past experiences. I wasn’t stepping into the “Danger Zone” – where there’s a likelihood of him reacting negatively or me feeling like I’ve said too much too soon – but I was getting myself closer to the “Zone of Learning,” where I can gauge his reaction and decide if I feel safe sharing more.

Face the fear

The principles of “Connect” can be applied to any relationship, but I found I was just as nervous trying these tactics with my close friend as I was with a new romantic partner. After all, it’s human to fear that if someone really knew you, they’d reject you.

But I learned it’s entirely worth it. In less than a month, I experienced newfound closeness in both of these relationships. Maybe best of all, I improved how I communicate, and gave myself permission to evolve and be more fully myself.

Michelle Juergen is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, editor, copywriter, copyeditor, and ghostwriter. She often overshares her feelings on Instagram to anyone willing to read her lengthy captions.

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How to get into 6 of the best law schools in the US, according to consultants, admissions officers, and students

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Applicants should have a clear vision on why they want to be a lawyer and be able to communicate that.

  • Yale, Columbia, UChicago, and Harvard are some of the most prestigious law schools in the world.
  • Each school values high test scores, letters of recommendation, and an honest personal statement.
  • Insider regularly interviews experts on how to get into your ideal law program. You can read it all by subscribing to Insider.

Attending law school is time-consuming and expensive, but if you end up in the right program, it could lead to a fulfilling and successful career.

For example, according to Yale Law School’s website, over 13,000 YLS alumni are leaders in their organizations – and a decade after graduating they almost unanimously express job satisfaction.

But to get into a top school, you’ll need more than just high test scores. Here are some tips and best strategies on how to get accepted into one of the best law schools in the country, according to people who’ve done it.

Yale Law School

Yale Law School is the No. 1 law school in the US, according to US News & World Report, while the 2023 acceptance rate was a slim 7.3%.

Yale places high emphasis on obtaining letters of recommendation from professors who know you well and can personally evaluate aspects of your academic work. Something unique about the YLS admissions process is their faculty is heavily involved in selecting each class, so they might especially value strong academic letters.

Read more: How to get into Yale Law School, the No. 1 program in the US

Columbia Law School

Columbia Law School is currently recognized as the fourth best law school in the US, trailing only Yale, Stanford, and Harvard (and tied with the University of Chicago). Of the more than 7,000 students who applied for the class of 2020, only about 16% were accepted.

Applicants to Columbia Law should pay extra attention to their personal statements. Use this as an opportunity to reveal who you really are and what you’re passionate about. Having strong reasons to be in New York City helps as well since it’s an integral part of the school, Timothy Knox, a law school admissions counselor, told Insider.

Read more: Admissions consultants and recent graduates of Columbia Law share what it takes to get into the top 5 law school

UChicago Law School

UChicago Law School consistently ranks among the most prestigious graduate law programs in the world, with an acceptance rate of 18%. Unlike some of the other top schools, UChicago Law has an especially small class size, at just over 600 full-time students. (Columbia, which shares its No. 4 ranking, has double the number.)

The community prioritizes close faculty engagement and “the life of the mind.” Once you’ve taken your LSAT and applied, prepare for your interview by nailing your answer to the question, “Why UChicago?”

Read more: UChicago Law graduates make on average $190,000 a year. Here’s how to get in, according to admissions, students, and consultants.

Read more: UChicago Law students and a dean of admissions explain how to nail your interview and personal statement to land a spot at the elite law school

Harvard Law School

In 2018, Harvard Law School – currently third in the rankings – offered admission to just 12% of applicants. In 2019, it made the shift to rounds of admission.

Per law school admissions coaching consultant Anna Ivey, “HLS admissions officers are very conscientious about recruiting minorities of various kinds: They want a diversity of people and geographic areas,” including veterans and older applicants. This means there’s no standard profile for an HLS student. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t fit what you think to be their ideal type of candidate.

Read more: How to get into Harvard Law School, according to the chief admissions officer, students, and admissions consultants

New York University School of Law

US News and World Report ranks New York University (NYU) School of Law sixth in the nation in terms of best law programs. According to public database Law School Numbers, NYU accepts only about 34% of applicants.

NYU Law has a reputation for three specialties: an international focus, law and business offerings, and public-service opportunities.

Admissions consultant and former LSAT instructor Joseph Vijay Ingam suggests leveraging the fact that NYU uses rolling notification – in other words, applications are sent to admissions in the order in which they’re completed. Ingam has seen that it can be advantageous to apply early.

Read more: An NYU Law grad and an admissions consultant on how to get into the No. 6 law school in the US

Stanford Law School

US News & World Report ranks Stanford Law School (SLS) second in the nation, making it a prime target for aspiring attorneys. Katie Spielman, class of 2007, advised emphasizing your motivation for attending law school – and what you hope to do with a law degree in your personal statement.

“SLS has always, I think, favored admissions candidates who have a strong sense of purpose and a very clear vision of what they hope to do with their law degree and in their legal career,” Spielman told Insider.

Read more: 4 graduates of Stanford Law on how they made their applications stand out and landed spots at the No. 2 program in the US

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