Celeste Headlee has been a radio host for years, and during that time she’s learned how to have conversations that actually produce meaning and dialogue.
As most of us know, the art of conversation is something that’s dying out quickly. We’ve all been to dinner with that one friend who just won’t put their phone down, and it sucks. Who wants to compete with a tiny hand-held device for attention?
Celeste is now on a mission: to teach us how to have better conversations that leave us feeling fulfilled and connected to one another.
She teaches us the best way to have better conversations: become a good interviewer. That’s how she found she was able to have great conversations with others. There are numerous rules to practicing the etiquette of professionally interviewing people, but Celeste offers us 10 – and even then, she says that if we can just master one, our conversations will be exponentially better. These are the rules that the radio host lives by when she interviews people on a daily basis for her show (and which she just sticks to really during all of her conversations in everyday life).
1. Don’t multi-task
Not only should you make sure your phone or tablet or keys are out of hand, but be present in your mind. Leave any other thoughts at the door.
You should never be half in a conversation because you’re thoughts are elsewhere.
2. You must enter conversations assuming you have something to learn
Never pontificate because as famed therapist M. Scott Peck has said, “True listening requires setting aside of oneself.” Understand that everyone is an expert in something, and that if you really listen, it’s possible to walk away from every single conversation you have having learned something.
3. Use open-ended questions
This is a great tip for keeping the conversation going and interesting. Never ask yes or no questions because the response will always be (you guessed it) yes or no. Short and to the point, which, much like sex, doesn’t leave anyone satisfied.
Instead, ask questions that will actually make your conversation partner think and respond with more detail. Questions like What was that like? and How did you feel? are great because they get the other person to think about their answers instead of replying in a single word.
4. Go with the flow
Stay on topic with your partner. Ideas or questions might pop up into your head while the other person is talking, but let them slip right back out. Lingering on these questions in your mind means you’re no longer actually listening to what the other person is saying. So, let those ideas and thoughts just go away when they pop into your head in the middle of your partner’s conversation.
5. It’s ok that you don’t know everything
If you don’t know something, say that you don’t know. Talk shouldn’t be cheap. So never claim to be an expert in something or know something that you’re not really certain about. You’ll never learn anything if you pretend to know everything, and like we mentioned above, everyone knows something you can learn from.
6. Don’t equate their experiences with yours
Ex: If your partner is talking about losing a family member, don’t bring up your feelings and experiences with losing a family member. It might feel like you’re standing with them by doing so, but your experience will never be theirs. All experiences are individual. In the moment when someone is sharing something so personal, remember that they’re sharing something that is not about you. Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.
7. Try your best to avoid repeating your point
It’s condescending (and boring). Conversations should be a back and forth of ideas, so don’t linger and push your own the entire time.
8. Don’t obsess over tiny details when talking
Stuttering and taking forever to tell a story because you’re trying to remember exact dates, names of restaurants, etc is unnecessary because quite frankly the other person doesn’t care about those things. What they do care about is finding out what you two have in common and getting to know you more.
It sounds so simple, and yet it feels impossible in the moment. It takes practice and energy, but those who learn to listen are much better conversationalist (and better liked by others).
10. Keep conversations like mini-skirts
Short enough to remain interesting but long enough to cover the subject.
Watch the full video here:
- What do you feel is the most important of these tips to remember?
- If you’ve tried any of these already, how did they go over?