While sitting at my desk working the other day, I decided to multitask and listen to some TED Talks to see what new things I could learn today, or just find one that I thought I might benefit from hearing.  I came across Celeste Headlee’s talk on “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation” and thought this is the one, let’s see how I can improve my communication skills!  I pressed play and went back to working on my spreadsheets, but after a few minutes I realized I wasn’t really paying attention to what she said and started it from the beginning (truth be told I did that at least 3 times).  This makes her first point very funny.

1.) Do not multitask, be present in the moment.  In today’s world we are all programmed to do as many things as we can at a time, and a lot of time while talking to people in our minds we are going through a checklists of other things we need to be doing.

2.) Don’t pontificate, enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn.  Pointing out that everyone knows something you don’t know. 

3.) Use open ended questions, personally I think this one takes some time to train yourself on exactly how to word your questions in casual conversations.  I do, however, think it is important to get the person engaged in the conversation, and to discover their thoughts on a subject.

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4.)  Go with the flow, if mid-conversation you have a thought, just say it.  If you try to wait for the person speaking to finish, the whole time they are talking your mind is really just concentrating on remembering that awesome thought you had rather than what they are actually saying.

5.) If you don’t know something, say you don’t know, it is much better to say you don’t know than to pretend you do only to look like a fool or a liar later on.

6.) Don’t equate their experiences with yours, conversations are not a time to brag or make your experience the focus of the conversation.  We can all probably think of a “one-upper” – you know that friend that always has to one up you on all your life experiences.  Don’t be that person!

7.) Try not to repeat yourself, when talking to children or in a work environment this tends to happen most frequently; but there should be no need to repeat yourself over and over.

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8.) Stay out of the weeds, people don’t care about the details.  As a good friend once said “just give me the baby without the labor pains”, in other words get to the point.

9.) Listen, this one is self-explanatory.

10.) Be brief, a good conversation is like a mini skirt; short enough to retain attention but long enough to cover the subject. 

What are your thoughts on some of these points?