10 ways to have a better conversation | Celeste Headlee

10 ways to have a better conversation | Celeste Headlee


All right, I want to see a show of hands: how many of you have
unfriended someone on Facebook because they said something offensive
about politics or religion, childcare, food? (Laughter) And how many of you
know at least one person that you avoid because you just don’t want
to talk to them? (Laughter) You know, it used to be that in order
to have a polite conversation, we just had to follow the advice
of Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady”: Stick to the weather and your health. But these days, with climate change
and anti-vaxxing, those subjects — (Laughter) are not safe either. So this world that we live in, this world in which every conversation has the potential
to devolve into an argument, where our politicians
can’t speak to one another and where even the most trivial of issues have someone fighting both passionately
for it and against it, it’s not normal. Pew Research did a study
of 10,000 American adults, and they found that at this moment,
we are more polarized, we are more divided, than we ever have been in history. We’re less likely to compromise, which means we’re
not listening to each other. And we make decisions about where to live, who to marry and even
who our friends are going to be, based on what we already believe. Again, that means
we’re not listening to each other. A conversation requires a balance
between talking and listening, and somewhere along the way,
we lost that balance. Now, part of that is due to technology. The smartphones that you all
either have in your hands or close enough that you could
grab them really quickly. According to Pew Research, about a third of American teenagers
send more than a hundred texts a day. And many of them, almost most of them,
are more likely to text their friends than they are to talk
to them face to face. There’s this great piece in The Atlantic. It was written by a high school teacher
named Paul Barnwell. And he gave his kids
a communication project. He wanted to teach them how to speak
on a specific subject without using notes. And he said this: “I came to realize…” (Laughter) “I came to realize
that conversational competence might be the single
most overlooked skill we fail to teach. Kids spend hours each day engaging
with ideas and each other through screens, but rarely do they have an opportunity to hone their interpersonal
communications skills. It might sound like a funny question,
but we have to ask ourselves: Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain
coherent, confident conversation?” Now, I make my living talking to people: Nobel Prize winners, truck drivers, billionaires, kindergarten teachers, heads of state, plumbers. I talk to people that I like.
I talk to people that I don’t like. I talk to some people that I disagree with
deeply on a personal level. But I still have
a great conversation with them. So I’d like to spend the next 10 minutes
or so teaching you how to talk and how to listen. Many of you have already heard
a lot of advice on this, things like look the person in the eye, think of interesting topics
to discuss in advance, look, nod and smile to show
that you’re paying attention, repeat back what you just heard
or summarize it. So I want you to forget all of that. It is crap. (Laughter) There is no reason to learn
how to show you’re paying attention if you are in fact paying attention. (Laughter) (Applause) Now, I actually use the exact
same skills as a professional interviewer that I do in regular life. So, I’m going to teach you
how to interview people, and that’s actually going to help you
learn how to be better conversationalists. Learn to have a conversation without wasting your time,
without getting bored, and, please God,
without offending anybody. We’ve all had really great conversations. We’ve had them before.
We know what it’s like. The kind of conversation where you
walk away feeling engaged and inspired, or where you feel
like you’ve made a real connection or you’ve been perfectly understood. There is no reason why most of your interactions
can’t be like that. So I have 10 basic rules.
I’m going to walk you through all of them, but honestly, if you just choose
one of them and master it, you’ll already enjoy better conversations. Number one: Don’t multitask. And I don’t mean
just set down your cell phone or your tablet or your car keys
or whatever is in your hand. I mean, be present. Be in that moment. Don’t think about your argument
you had with your boss. Don’t think about what
you’re going to have for dinner. If you want to get out
of the conversation, get out of the conversation, but don’t be half in it
and half out of it. Number two: Don’t pontificate. If you want to state your opinion without any opportunity for response
or argument or pushback or growth, write a blog. (Laughter) Now, there’s a really good reason
why I don’t allow pundits on my show: Because they’re really boring. If they’re conservative, they’re going to
hate Obama and food stamps and abortion. If they’re liberal, they’re going to hate big banks and oil corporations
and Dick Cheney. Totally predictable. And you don’t want to be like that. You need to enter every conversation
assuming that you have something to learn. The famed therapist M. Scott Peck said that true listening requires
a setting aside of oneself. And sometimes that means
setting aside your personal opinion. He said that sensing this acceptance, the speaker will become
less and less vulnerable and more and more likely
to open up the inner recesses of his or her mind to the listener. Again, assume that you have
something to learn. Bill Nye: “Everyone you will ever meet
knows something that you don’t.” I put it this way: Everybody is an expert in something. Number three: Use open-ended questions. In this case, take a cue from journalists. Start your questions with who,
what, when, where, why or how. If you put in a complicated question,
you’re going to get a simple answer out. If I ask you, “Were you terrified?” you’re going to respond to the most
powerful word in that sentence, which is “terrified,” and the answer is
“Yes, I was” or “No, I wasn’t.” “Were you angry?” “Yes, I was very angry.” Let them describe it.
They’re the ones that know. Try asking them things like,
“What was that like?” “How did that feel?” Because then they might have to stop
for a moment and think about it, and you’re going to get
a much more interesting response. Number four: Go with the flow. That means thoughts
will come into your mind and you need to let them
go out of your mind. We’ve heard interviews often in which a guest is talking
for several minutes and then the host comes back in
and asks a question which seems like it comes out of nowhere,
or it’s already been answered. That means the host probably
stopped listening two minutes ago because he thought
of this really clever question, and he was just bound
and determined to say that. And we do the exact same thing. We’re sitting there having
a conversation with someone, and then we remember that time
that we met Hugh Jackman in a coffee shop. (Laughter) And we stop listening. Stories and ideas
are going to come to you. You need to let them come and let them go. Number five: If you don’t know,
say that you don’t know. Now, people on the radio,
especially on NPR, are much more aware
that they’re going on the record, and so they’re more careful
about what they claim to be an expert in and what they claim to know for sure. Do that. Err on the side of caution. Talk should not be cheap. Number six: Don’t equate
your experience with theirs. If they’re talking
about having lost a family member, don’t start talking about the time
you lost a family member. If they’re talking about the trouble
they’re having at work, don’t tell them about
how much you hate your job. It’s not the same. It is never the same. All experiences are individual. And, more importantly,
it is not about you. You don’t need to take that moment
to prove how amazing you are or how much you’ve suffered. Somebody asked Stephen Hawking once
what his IQ was, and he said, “I have no idea. People who brag
about their IQs are losers.” (Laughter) Conversations are not
a promotional opportunity. Number seven: Try not to repeat yourself. It’s condescending,
and it’s really boring, and we tend to do it a lot. Especially in work conversations
or in conversations with our kids, we have a point to make, so we just keep rephrasing it
over and over. Don’t do that. Number eight: Stay out of the weeds. Frankly, people don’t care about the years, the names, the dates, all those details that you’re struggling
to come up with in your mind. They don’t care.
What they care about is you. They care about what you’re like, what you have in common. So forget the details. Leave them out. Number nine: This is not the last one,
but it is the most important one. Listen. I cannot tell you how many
really important people have said that listening is perhaps the most,
the number one most important skill that you could develop. Buddha said, and I’m paraphrasing, “If your mouth is open,
you’re not learning.” And Calvin Coolidge said, “No man
ever listened his way out of a job.” (Laughter) Why do we not listen to each other? Number one, we’d rather talk. When I’m talking, I’m in control. I don’t have to hear anything
I’m not interested in. I’m the center of attention. I can bolster my own identity. But there’s another reason: We get distracted. The average person talks
at about 225 word per minute, but we can listen at up to
500 words per minute. So our minds are filling in
those other 275 words. And look, I know,
it takes effort and energy to actually pay attention to someone, but if you can’t do that,
you’re not in a conversation. You’re just two people shouting out
barely related sentences in the same place. (Laughter) You have to listen to one another. Stephen Covey said it very beautifully. He said, “Most of us don’t listen
with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.” One more rule, number 10,
and it’s this one: Be brief. [A good conversation is like a miniskirt;
short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover
the subject. — My Sister] (Laughter) (Applause) All of this boils down to the same
basic concept, and it is this one: Be interested in other people. You know, I grew up
with a very famous grandfather, and there was kind of a ritual in my home. People would come over
to talk to my grandparents, and after they would leave,
my mother would come over to us, and she’d say, “Do you know who that was? She was the runner-up to Miss America. He was the mayor of Sacramento. She won a Pulitzer Prize.
He’s a Russian ballet dancer.” And I kind of grew up assuming everyone has some hidden,
amazing thing about them. And honestly, I think
it’s what makes me a better host. I keep my mouth shut
as often as I possibly can, I keep my mind open, and I’m always prepared to be amazed, and I’m never disappointed. You do the same thing. Go out, talk to people, listen to people, and, most importantly,
be prepared to be amazed. Thanks. (Applause)

100 Replies to “10 ways to have a better conversation | Celeste Headlee

  1. wow, she is awesome! totally agree! everyone has their own story and it is so interesting to learn from others!!

  2. This is great, not only about conversations but also in many other types of communications. There are some pearls in there, but I reckon this is the best: "There is no reason to show that you're paying attention, if you are in fact paying attention". And these 10 ways are made so much easy and natural "if you are in fact paying attention".

  3. It's hard to follow these rules when you are in a conversation where people don't care about following them. I am actually already doing a lot of these (1,2,3,5,7,9,10) and still I often find myself in situations where people just don't listen back, are only half-present, etc and it kind of hurts. I would really like to learn what to do when that happens…

  4. Knowing these etiquettes makes me get annoyed more easily when encountering people who break them. How do you handle this?

  5. This is good, but not very helpful if you're already good at listening, but horrible at talking. I very repeatedly get told I spend a lot of emotional energy listening to people and comforting them. But….talking….is very hard. She says you don't have to pretend if you're really listening, but what does that mean for someone who's bad at body language, and so in person, despite listening, people will think they're not, even if I could recite everything that person said up to that point? Listening is good, but too often what is judged is not the listening, but the body language, and ability to say clever things, and it feels a little disheartening to hear advice that doesn't address that.

  6. I've only had one or two conversations where we literally did not have one thing to say to each other…..

  7. i can't have a conversation with my sister. I can tell that every time i say something, she's thinking about what she's going to say. It makes for a very disjointed one-sided talk. You can tell when she's on the phone to others because they are silent for 15-20 solid minutes. She thinks she has the lock on the best stories, the funniest little jokes. I've seen her run her yap for 45 solid minutes. When she runs out of things to say, get up & walk away, not the least bit interested in what anybody else has go say…..

  8. I went to a communication class once & they taught just what she said – to summarize what was said & repeat it back. It seemed rather useless to me…..

  9. She's so right about the details in #8. I cant stand it when somebody goes to great lengths to get minor trivial details exactly right when nobody remembers them anyway……

  10. Ah that's why No1 talks to me… without YouTube I'd have nothing…some ppl no matter how hard they try will not get a break…

  11. How do I not repeat
    When I have just informed the patient of the test results, diagnosis, and recommendations, and the person asks me what's wrong with me and what should I do now?

  12. The problem of non communication is caused by the left. In fact, the ones who beat up people (antifa), dox people, deplatform people for their opinions are leftists.
    Just the truth.

  13. 10:02~11:13
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1vskiVDwl4
    And look, I know , it takes effort and energy ,
    to actually pay attention to someone, but if you can’t do that, you are not in a conversation. You are just two people shouting out (1) (2) sentences in the same place.
    You have to listening to one another .
    Stephen Covey said it very beautifully . He said , ‘’ most of us don’t listen with (3)** to understand ‘’
    ‘’ We listen with the intent to reply ‘’
    One more rule , number 10 and it is this one ‘’ Be (4)’’.
    All od this (4)** to the same basic concept , and it is this one .Be interested in other people .
    You know, I grew up with a very famous grandfather , and there was kind of a (5) in my home. People would come over to talk to my grandparents,
    And after they would leave , my mother would come over to us , and she would say ,’’ Do you know who (6)** ?’’
    She was the (7) to Miss America, he was a (8)of, Sacramento. She won a Pulitzer prize , he is a Russian ballet dancer. And I started up.. I kind of grew up assuming ‘’ Everyone has some (9) amazing thing about them ‘’ 11:13
    明日のリスニング

  14. So I take all of your advice and adapt to my communication skills but then what? I become a good listener and always get attacked by others who never adapt your advice to their communication.

  15. I love all of that and need to adjust a bit , but what about being the one that amazes once in awhile? When are you supposed to be able to share your awesomeness?

  16. Hmmm…. this is not the problem the folks I'm around have. They don't talk. Despite you ask them to communicate, they don't!

  17. I Love to come back to this ted talk every once in a while, but tbh I can't read or see Bill Nye without laughing a litte bit after his appearance in Last Week Tonight talking about climate change…

    Safety glasses off motherfuckers.
    -Bill Nye

  18. Jep. To be heard instead of to be listened to.
    Quite disappointing when you come to the conclusion that you've wasted time on a conversation because of that.

  19. I am such a good listener that people usually go on n on , i became tired of it n started avoiding conversations .. they keep talking without trying to reciprocate which makes me upset sometimes .. i want ways to get out of conv not be in great ones.

  20. Her overall theme: "Be a good listener." This cliche advice is given in every book about how to interact with people. It's nothing new, and it's not even all that effective. I'm a good listener, and I still struggle with conversation, so I got absolutely nothing out of this. A better resource is "How Conversation Works" by The Great Courses.

  21. Charming but I am afraid that unless you happen to encounter many people with these skills, which is highly unlikely, you are going to pass your life only listening. Of course, you will minimize the quarrels and this is in itself very valuable but, let's face it, you must be Buda to feel happy with that life. Perhaps these ideas bring into light that the purpose of talking is not to communicate but to socialize. For conveying and adquiring knowledge one must write and read. Anyway, I will try my best to follow her pieces of advice. I already have my own blogs and my kindle but I still love interacting with other people.

  22. A quacking woman … in itself irrational and not coming to the core, by nature … wants to teach people … you americans are funny

  23. It is hard to believe that we are more polarized now than during the Civil War. I have heard multiple historians say that things have been worse as well.
    It doesn't negate the point, but inaccurate hyperbole doesn't help IMHO.

  24. She seems like a good person to converse with until you go off topic for two seconds then she rips your head off and stops talking to you. Definitely the type of lady to yell at you or get pissy for changing the subject..

  25. I don't agree with point 9 and this saying from Buddha. You do learn when you talk. For me and for many it is a form of reinforcing what you have learnt or made sense of recently. Indeed, one needs to find the right balance of listening and speaking but one cannot outright discredit the importance of speaking in learning.

  26. lots of neurodivergent people (adhd/autism/etc) do number six. We're not trying to make ourselves seem better or that we've "gone through worse", we're just trying to show you that we can understand how you feel.

  27. Anybody afraid to talk with somebody who thinks vaccines might not be as great a thing as the media and pediatric associations want you to believe?

  28. This whole notion about technology gapping or degrading ppl ability to converse is not entirely accurate, I predate the Internet and never had the ability to socialize

  29. Everything she said you shouldnt do I’ve found to be an interesting or cute personality trait depending on how it’s done and who does it… so…. i don’t think there’s a way to put rules on convo.

    You either like someone or you don’t. It’s beyond convo technique. And to think you cAn game the system of natural human connection by acting differently, is arrogant and misleading.

    My one rule is learn to be 100% Authentic. Be yourself as often as possible and you will be ok. If you’re someone who tells long stories, own it! You might not fit into every social circle or every convo, but THATS OK!!! Just be you and u will attract people who are ok with that.

    As for everyone else, instead of judging someone for being different or “annoying” we need to learn to accept people regardless of who they are, what they say, or how they communicate.

    Thoughts?

  30. The way u talked about how important our conversation in life has made me understood just listen more nd talk less.. Thank you

  31. Everything she said is so true.
    But doesn't it apply only when the other person is applying all these points? (I'm not suggesting I do, I'm not that good).
    Some people amaze me and some others never do (although I let them speak while I listen attentively to what they have to say).

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