Celeste Headlee from TedxCreativeCoast knows the value of good conversation.

The Art of Good Conversation

A well balanced and insightful conversationalist has an advantage over those who unintentionally over or under participate in discussions. It is important that we all try to be the best we can when it comes to professional, social and personal interactions. Celeste offers ten ways to help you have better conversations.

Ten Ways to Have a Better Conversation

  1. Don’t multitask. 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.
  2. Don’t pontificate. If you want to state your opinion without any opportunity for response or argument or pushback or growth, write a blog.
  3. Use open-ended questions. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5.  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 inand what they claim to know for sure. Do that. Err on the side of caution. Talk should not be cheap.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Be brief.