Having just attended TED 2018 in Vancouver, Canada, I am reminded of a former TED talk by musician Amanda Palmer. Her talk, “The Art of Asking,” resonated with me as a reminder that, even in today’s seemingly impersonal digital age, human connection is still a powerful currency.

After Amanda Palmer’s talk, the room reverberated with applause, as she received a standing ovation. What she was tapping into, which resonated so powerfully with this audience, was our communal and human need to connect with one another. After all, we are social animals and we naturally strive for a sense of community. As a species, we learn best by social learning as we model the appropriate way to interact with one another.

Bringing back human connection

Amanda held the TED audience in the palm of her hand, when she told them that she took her clothes off in front of her fans and trusted them to respectfully touch her. Such is the need for human contact. Babies that are not handled enough in the early stages of their development can fail to thrive. Simply touching the hand of a patient in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) can lower their blood pressure.

Yet in our world of hyper-technology, we communicate in ways that prohibit physical interaction. We talk to one another through email, but we don’t see each other face-to-face, or know how our communication is being received. We have friends on Facebook that we may never meet. 

This disconnect puts us in a fantastical world, where responses, reactions, and interactions occur in the mind, but not in person. This impersonal, social experience lacks the intimacy and empathy so necessary for human discourse.

Building trust

Palmer recognizes the decline of trust between artists and their audience, and has said, “For most of human history, musicians, artists… they’ve been part of the community – connectors and openers, not untouchable stars.”

In allowing people to pay what they want for her music, Palmer has laid the foundation for trust with her audience. This trust leads to face-to-face interactions. It is in those interactions that she works hard to make the most impact. In her TED talk, she emphasizes the importance of simple eye contact. She has also gone so far as to stay with her fans and invite them to be musicians on stage with her while on tour.

If you haven’t seen Palmer’s TED talk, you can view it online at AmandaPalmer.net. In 13 minutes, it is clear she is passionate about her work and connecting with her audience.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.