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Faith Salie, an Emmy-winning contributor to “CBS Sunday Morning,” a co-host of “Science Goes to the Movies,” and a regular panelist on National Public Radio’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”, will discuss how to become a better listener as the Friday evening speaker at the MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show on Jan. 24.
A self-described “professional listener,” Salie will share what she has learned from interviewing actors, Broadway lyricists and an artist with ALS carving his final work. Her advice is relevant for anyone trying to connect with others in this noisy age – a time when many are talking but few are paying attention.
“Shutting up is what I learned to do, and it changed my life,” Salie writes in her memoir, “Approval Junkie: My Heartfelt (and Occasionally Inappropriate) Quest to Please Just About Everyone, and Ultimately Myself,” published in 2016.
Salie says people who listen ask surprising questions that “unlock” people, foster understanding and build community. Through listening, she says, we can find our own voices and add more meaningfully to the conversation. But the listening must be genuine.
“There’s a huge difference between listening to help yourself seem funny or smart or right, and listening to help someone express himself,” Salie writes in her book.
She warns against people making every story about themselves.
“We think we’re building a bridge of sharing,” she writes, “but most of the time, we’re really putting up scaffolding over someone else’s story and clambering all over it.”
Salie’s own story began in Weymouth, where she was born, before her family moved to the Atlanta suburbs. In her memoir, she explains that her quest for validation produced tangible results: good grades, a Harvard degree, a Rhodes scholarship, a master’s degree in modern English literature from Oxford University, and the prized tiara at the Miss Aphrodite high school pageant.
“But caring too much about people liking you will confine you forever to mediocrity and second-guessing yourself,” she writes.
Salie’s book candidly explores her struggle with anorexia, her doomed first marriage, and the pain of losing her mother to cancer. She learned hard lessons while pursuing a career in show business, the pinnacle of people-pleasing endeavors. She starred in the 2004 sitcom “Significant Others” and made guest appearances on shows such as “Married … With Children,” “Charmed” and “Sex and the City.” Despite her hard work, she was confronted with Hollywood’s obsession with appearance. “Why aren’t you as pretty as I want you to be?” an acting coach once asked her.
She quips that her Oxford classmates “became things like 2020 presidential candidates and Pulitzer Prize winners,” while she went to Hollywood “and landed on a ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ collectible trading card worth hundreds of cents.”
Over the past decade, Salie has solidified her reputation as a journalist, writer and podcast and TV host. She turned to radio in 2007 as host of “Fair Game From PRI with Faith Salie.” On “Science Goes to the Movies,” produced by CUNY-TV in New York, she has interviewed experts about the connections between science and pop culture.
For “CBS Sunday Morning,” Salie has examined “mansplaining,” expressed her disdain for open office plans, and gone swimming with the Weeki Wachee mermaids in Florida.
As a writer, Salie has contributed to numerous publications and websites, including Slate, Health and O, The Oprah Magazine. She has sung with the Boston Pops, performed stand-up comedy and appeared at Carnegie Hall. This past April, Salie adapted “Approval Junkie” for the stage and performed it in Atlanta.
Salie’s journey toward greater self acceptance has led her to a second marriage and motherhood; she and her husband live in New York City with their son and daughter.