Chapter 3 – No Surprises

The best TED Talk I’ve seen on better communication

When your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have conversations — and that most of us don’t converse very well. Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, and she knows the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity, and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, she shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. “Go out, talk to people, listen to people,” she says. “And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.”

Celeste Headlee: 10 ways to have a better conversation:

  1. Don’t multitask. Be in present with mind
  2. Don’t pontificate. Enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn. Don’t just try to get your point across. Everybody is an expert in something.
  3. Use open-ended questions. Who, what, when, where, why and how.
  4. Go with the flow. Thoughts will come into your mind and go out of your mind. Let them go. Don’t think for two minutes about a clever question to ask.
  5. If you don’t know say that you don’t know.
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. It is never the same. It’s not about you. Don’t take that moment. Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.
  7. Try not to repeat yourself.
  8. Stay out of the weeds. People don’t care about the years, the names, the dates, and all those details that you are struggling to come up with in your mind. They care about you.
  9. Listen. If your mouth is open you’re not learning. And Calvin Coolidge said: No man ever listened his way out of a job. We don’t listen with the intent to understand; We should listen with the intent to understand, not just to reply.
  10. Be brief. A good conversation — short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.