10 Steps to Better Conversations

  • May 7, 2019


Post by Dave Delaney

A study of 10,000 American adults found Americans are more divided than ever before. We are not listening to each other. We make decisions on who we connect with based on what we already believe.

A conversation involves the balance of talking and listening. Somewhere along the way we have lost that balance. Technology is partly to blame for this. According to Pew Research, about a third of American teenagers send more than 100 texts per day. Most of these kids are more likely to text one another than to actually speak.

Paul Barnwell wrote, “I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach.” in his article, My Students Don't Know How to Have a Conversation.

How to Talk and How to Listen

Radio host, Celeste Headlee, shares tips on how to interview someone in this amazing TED talk. Here are the ten rules you should use for any conversation.

  1. Don’t multi-task. Be present. Be in that moment. Don’t think about other things.

  2. Don’t pontificate. If you want to share your opinion without a response - write a blog post. Enter the conversation assuming you have something to learn. “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” - Bill Nye.

  3. Use open-ended questions. Start with who, what, where, when, why, how?

  4. Go with the flow. Let the thoughts that enter your mind flow away. We stop listening when we think of other things.

  5. When you don’t know, say you don’t know.

  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. All experiences are individual.

  7. Try not to repeat yourself. It’s condescending.

  8. Stay out of the weeds. People don’t care about the names, dates, and details. They care about you and what you have in common.

  9. Listen. The most important skill you can develop.

  10. Be brief.

Honesty, brevity, clarity, and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, Headlee shares ten useful rules for having better conversations. "Go out, talk to people, listen to people," she says. "And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed."



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