This Week in TED: 10 ways to have a better conversation

Carrying a conversation is not everyone’s best skill. For this reason, Celeste Headlee, in her TED talk, 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation aims to guide people in achieving better conversational tactics.

Celeste Headlee

“I talk to people that I like,” says Headlee who started her career as a journalist in 1999. “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 how does she do this? “A conversation requires a balance between talking and listening,” she continues. “Somewhere along the way, we lost that balance.”

The balance was lost mainly due to easily accessible technology.“According to Pew Research, about a third of American teenagers send more than a hundred texts a day,” says Headlee. “Many of them, almost most of them, are more likely to text their friends than they are to talk to them face to face.”

So, Headlee came up with some rules. “I have 10 basic rules,” she says. “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.”

1. Don’t multitask – This doesn’t only pertain to placing your phone or tablet aside. This also includes the thoughts running in your head that are distracting you.

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 – This helps others to actually give a more detailed and interesting response while staying away from one-word responses.

4. Go with the flow – Let thoughts come and then leave. Thinking of what you want to say next will prevent you from listening.

5. If you don’t know, say you don’t know – Don’t be afraid to say this. It’s better than blabbering on false information.

6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs – When someone is talking about an experience or situation that has to do with them, don’t try to make the moment about yourself, instead of listening to what you are being told. “Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.”

7. Try not to repeat yourself – This gets boring and no one wants to hear the same thing repeated over and over again.

8. Stay out of the weeds – Nobody is worried about the meaningless little details. Get to the point.

9. Listen – The most important step. Headlee quotes, “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.”

10. Be brief – “A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject,” a quote by Headlee’s sister.

To end her talk, she challenged the audience to be inspired by their future conversationalist self.

“Go out, talk to people, listen to people, and, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.”

Watch it below: