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How to Have a Good Conversation | Celeste Headlee | TEDxCreativeCoast


Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Ivana Korom 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. We’re just waiting for a moment
to interject our story about Hugh Jackman and coffee. 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. [Conversation in the 21st century] [How are you today?
Read my blog!] 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 “How to Have a Good Conversation | Celeste Headlee | TEDxCreativeCoast”

  • Its easy for me..I can listen because I have nothing left to say…Three times this year someone asked me for directions and after I spoke they insalted me…

  • Anti-vaxxing…..maybe you should look into the topic before laughing it off. Vaccines do carry risk, so research and choose wisely.
    Did you know that some vaccines can shed the virus, which could spread to immunocompromised people? So, after receiving a live virus vaccine, it's best to stay away from cancer patients, infants, and anyone else medically fragile.

  • Was it a real conversation? Or did you just get lectured?
    Maybe you feel like you just sat through lecture (yawn).

    When you walk away from having had a conversation with someone, how do you feel? Was it nice to talk to that person? Do you feel they heard and understood you?

    Do you think they felt understood? While they were talking were you thinking only about your reply?

    Or was it "Two people shouting out barely related sentences in the same place."?

  • at first when i watched this video for the first time i thought i needed this but now i think everyone should watch this and learn bc the ammount of people that doesnt actually know how to have a conversation is incredible

  • LiSteN / SiLeNt…..
    If anyone gets offended point them towards the probation centre. That's who deals with the offending.
    Have fun, be natural, laugh lots, smile often but dont pee pee ya pants.
    If all that fails just think out loud in the corner and watch people try to eavesdrop lol

  • Yes she's right when it comes to vaccination they have found a way around needing to convince people or listen to opposing views, they have found it is so much faster and easier to just mandate them! Hail brave new world!

  • This is a good speech. But it comes at more of a listening angle then a speaking one. She has some great tips for being a receiver or receptor in a conversation. There is absolutely nothing that can give me any kind of advice on being the speaker.

  • Nice, thanks for the video, I learn a lot from this, especially that part where "conversation is like a miniskirt" 😉

  • This is good advice and well worth a listen. But there are times you just can't help tuning out of a conversation – either because you know exactly what's coming or the speaker is just so boring…but to be polite you have to stay engaged. Also – it's natural that during a conversation things pop into your head…the phone call you forgot to return…or the problem you just solved.
    In principle this is good advice and definitely to be followed. But it won't cover every scenario….

  • when i have a conversation only i speak if they interrupt i shut them down as they have nothing important for me to hear

  • I know the speaker personally. She really is very intelligent on the subject, with a lot of research in the topic. I try to take everything in this to heart and even all this time later I recommend anyone else do the same.

  • I definitely feel like I already do a lot of these things. Always very interested to hear other peoples perspectives. I have a few friends all around the world I met through instagram, super cool! Its always great to hear their opinions on world issues and to hear about the places they live. My best instagram friend is from Rio De Janeiro!!!

  • Being about conversation, this seems to be one sided…conversation is talking and listening. An interview is not really a conversation. It's a contrived scripted situation. A conversation is about both people or all people in the discussion. So what happens if all parties are just listening, then no one is speaking. A conversation isn't a public speaker situation, right. Exchange seems to be the only "rule" that applies to conversation. There seems to be some good info and advice here for becoming a better listener, but I think framing it as rules for conversation is sort of a logical fallacy. Maybe better to call the talk guidelines or advice for becoming an effective listener. Steadfast rules and regulations create restriction and negative stimuli for engaging in conversation with others. In my opinion…ha ha. Some things cannot be brief. Also empathy and connection, finding common ground and similarities and notating or expressing them, is key to feeling comfortable and validated for both or all people in a discussion. Why would you not express similar situations or your reactions to a similar situation. Of course all situations, feelings and reactions are individual, but sharing experiences of equating such is how we fully realize that, and how we trust, respect, or feel for other people. For myself, a perfect example is the best counselor/life coach, ie. therapist, I had and trusted was the only one who actually showed her own weakness and life difficulties in relating to my difficult experiences and feelings. This was key for me in knowing she was trust worthy, respectable, and a person that could help because she had been there…not just repeating psycho babble from a book.

  • I agree with everything she says. However, again just yesterday I had a conversation with a friend I have not seen in over a year. It was lovely conversing with him, and he was interesting and lively and excited about what he had to say. I did all the right actions as described in this video. But guess what, not once did this person move the conversation from himself to ask how I was, or what was going on in my life. I could have just started talking about myself just on my own but it was just so obvious that that was the last thing on his mind cause once he was done talking about himself he ended the conversation. So all us people who are taking this advice, we are the ones who want good conversations. Having one way conversations with people, especially when they are supposed to actually care somewhat about you, is extremely disappointing and illustrates so blatantly how some people are just plain self centered and selfish. So sad.

  • "A good conversation" is subjective and is always context sensitive. If any of my friends actually engaged me while following those rickdicklous PC rules I would tell them to push off, go get a few drinks and try again. You can't have a real conversation without risking offending someone, but it does not you mean should. Personally, I'm fully capable of using my own brain to selectively choose how to engage different individuals within different contexts. This is more social psycho BS.

  • Two people who watched this video and now follow these "instructions" are bound to be silent, static waiting for the other person to start taking.

  • Just to say thanks for a common sense approach that was beautiful. One of the best traits a person can have is the ability to truly listen to another. .

  • waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy off. but I'm proud to see such a beautiful, smart, independent talk! I love the feeling of positive passion

  • you may not mean this, but your message seems to be a catch 22, that ends in disconnection. dig deeper you're on your way

  • the politicians know Neurolinguistic programming. “nobody“ was reinforced at least twice during the presidential debates.

  • Totally true! As a Lyft driver, i am constantly surprised, inspired, amazed, and in awe by my amazing passengers… 1,407 and counting. People are awesome!

  • Holy s**t! I equate my experience with theirs all the time. YIKES I do however ask them how they dealt with it. Does that count?

  • But what do I do when, after the other person is done talking, I have nothing interesting to add? What if I don't have a topic to talk about, or anything interesting to share at all? I can't expect the other person to hold the conversation by themselves

  • These principles should be taught to everyone. A lot of people have lost the art of conversation due to social media, technology, etc.

  • The problem is, most people are talking while never engaging their brains, like a broken pencil, it’s pointless to listen to them.

  • This is absurd (really? Quoting the liar Bill Nye?). Look at the college kids. The conservative ones are looking to discuss the problems….the left only want to put on masks and do violent acts and yell at people. They have no interest, or ability, to discuss anything.

  • problems in conversations: My mouth needs to finish my sentence before your mind trys to finish my sentence for me. And, your mouth is going faster than your mind.

  • I mentally time the other person. if a minute and a half goes by and the other person doesn't shut up, they're not trying to have a conversation.

  • If conversation is another art form, why don't we learn to appreciate and look for the moments we get to speak face to face and learn and teach at the same time.

  • I disagree with Celeste. Sometimes I want to share my experiences and solicit a response where the other party shares their experiences. There are times when I enjoy hearing about people having similar problems to me. Just because our experiences and responses are not exactly identical, does not mean that they cannot be similar. We are quite capable of empathising with each other even if our experiences are not exactly identical.

    The truth is that there is a time for everything. There are few absolutes in the field of social sciences. Sometimes talking about yourself and sharing your own experiences is vital to a great conversation or it could turn into a monologue / interview.

  • The title of the video should be " A good conversation is like a mini skirt; short enough to maintain interest, but long enough to cover the subject."

  • I get sick of providing a "listening service" to people who just want to hear themselves talk. Everyone should take turns during a conversation.

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