Only Human | Podcast Review | November 30, 2015 | By

Only Human: “Listen Up! The Big Turkey in the Sky”

Alford emphasizes that emotional recall is the way to ‘win’ Thanksgiving. But the truth is, it’s the way to ‘win’ at being a great friend.

Now that the Listen Up! boot camp is over, host Mary Harris continues with the theme of improving listening skills with this episode. While the episode is meant to be particularly relevant to bracing for Thanksgiving (sorry!), I feel that the topics discussed are definitely generalizable to everyday life.

This short, 15-minute long episode highlights humorist/journalist Henry Alford’s thoughts on how to survive Thanksgiving. Alford writes a regular column for the New York Times about manners, and brings an element of humor to a conversation about listening during the holidays.

As YouTube sensation Franchesca Ramsey eloquently suggests, it really is difficult sometimes to relate to extended family because, at least in her case, they often can’t relate to her adult self. She suggests that often, family members have preconceived notions about who you are or who you ought to be, based on interactions during your youth (when you were a completely different human). Alternatively, as per the suggestion of Alford, family members are under the impression that they don’t have to withhold anything in abeyance, which is in direct contradiction with the essence of manners.

I would have loved a more thorough discussion of the aforementioned comment. I realize that it’s not directly related to listening, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I’m sure there are more than a few of us who are guilty of the thought, “work really put me in a bad mood today, but my husband will love me anyway, so I’m going to let off some steam and not worry about being too intolerable.” But – aren’t those people, the very people who will love you no matter what, most deserving of your unfettered love and praises? But then… at what point are you faking the role of a doting companion if you’re truly grumpy? If you can’t show your true self to your loved ones, then with whom can you, in the words of Alford, “let your freak flag fly?” But to what extent does having no filter affect the very loved ones you treasure?

But I digress.

Alford emphasizes that emotional recall is the way to ‘win’ Thanksgiving. But the truth is, it’s the way to ‘win’ at being a great friend. Most of us have experienced the look of excitement mixed with gratitude when you ask a friend about a tiny comment they made a few years ago. The ability to ‘resuscitate’ (Alford’s exact vocabulary) information is absolutely pivotal in a relationship. It’s a tiny gesture, but often means more than imaginable.

This episode was lovely, and a nice reminder to listen for the little things.

I do have to say, however, that I’m a little bit disappointed with the show. Perhaps I misinterpreted the original description of the podcast (and the one that is still written on the website), but my understanding was that this podcast would be “a show about health that we can all relate to.” It would have been different if this podcast had framed the entire listening segment with a discussion of social connectivity (a commonly studied public health phenomenon that correlates longevity of life with strong, lasting relationships). That, to me, would have justified multiple consecutive ‘listening’ episodes in a podcast about health. Don’t get me wrong – I’m enjoying the episodes. They’re just not exactly what I would expect from a nominally health-oriented podcast.

About the Author

Annie Ungrady is a writer at Audiologue, where she writes a weekly column called Podcast Perusal with her impressions of classic podcast and radio episodesYou can email her at

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