How many of you just avoid someone just because you don’t want to talk to them? Celeste Headlee is a journalist, author of the book We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter, and previous host of Georgia Public Broadcasting program called “On Second Thought”. Headlee made that comment in a TEDTALK in 2016 that has garnered more than 7 million views. Celeste went on to say, “This world we live in, this world in which every conversation has the potential to escalate into an argument, our politicians can’t speak to each other, and even the most trivial of issues has someone fighting both passionately for it and against it, it’s not normal.” Let me remind you, she said this in March of 2016.
Celeste talks about a Pew Research study that found us more polarized and divided then we have ever been in history. With this in mind, Celeste provides a straight and hard conversation about how to have a conversation. She presents a great story about what we are doing and NOT doing in our communications today and proceeds to provide us with 10 rules to a better conversation.
- Don’t try and multitask – be 100% present
- Don’t pontificate
- Use open-ended questions
- Go with the flow – if thoughts come into your mind during the conversation – let them go through and keep listening
- If you don’t know – say you don’t know. Headlee quotes Bill Nye who said, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”
- Don’t equate your experience with theirs
- Try not to repeat yourself
- Stay out of the weeds – don’t go into all the details
- Listen more. If your mouth is open – you’re not listening. Steven Covey said it best, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent of understanding. We listen with the intent to reply.”
- Be brief – Headlee says, “A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.”
Do you agree with the ten rules for having a better conversation? What about number nine, about listening? Do you find it challenging to listen and not interrupt? Which one of these rules resonates with you the most? Do you often repeat yourself? What 10 rules would you suggest for having a better conversation? If you would like a deep dive into Celeste’s thinking about how to have better conversations, go to the following link and hear her presentation at Talks at Google. This 50 minute presentation goes much deeper into the art of having better conversations.
Whatever you do, be sure and look at the 10 rules Headlee laid out. Try using just one of those rules in your next conversation and practice that for a week to 10 days. I think you will find your conversations being more meaningful and productive.