10 ways to have a better conversation
Dialogue and conversation mean pretty much the same. The only difference between them is that dialogue is used when referring to a discussion and a conversation when there is an exchange of ideas. In this essay I am going to talk about them as one. I feel that these two types of human interaction are linked so closely together that there is no reason to take them apart.
I watched a TED talk from Celeste Headlee called (10 ways to have a better conversation). (TED talk 2016). Headlee told in the TED talk 10 things to do and take into consideration when having a conversation. Most of the things Headlee told could be perfectly applied to dialogue and are also applicable to other areas of conversation.
Headlee’s firs point is to not multitask. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have any distractions like your phone in your hand, but that you are present in that exact moment. When you are talking with the person don’t think about what happened yesterday or what you may eat after this talk. You must truly listen and be present. “Don’t be half in and half out of a conversation” quoted Headlee.
The second point is to not pontificate. This means that you don’t really want any kind of response, argument, pushback or growth to your answer, because you are having a monologue in which the other person can’t have their own saying. These types of conversations are very boring and don’t lead into anything in the long run. Handlee points out that you must enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn. Open your mind and set aside your own viewpoint in order to learn new things. “Everyone you will ever meat knows something you don’t” says Headlee. Everybody has at least that one thing they know a lot about, so you can always learn something new from dialogues and conversations.
Number three is to use open ended questions. Headlee suggests starting your questions with the words who, what, where, when, why or how. “If you put in a complicated question, you are going to get a simple answer” Headlee says. If the question is very long and complicated the answer Is going to be very simple and boring. The person answering your long question is going to focus in one word or sentence and give you an answer to that. You must let the other person talk instead of giving them easy to respond question. Instead of asking, where you scared? Ask how did it feel to be scared? Doing this you push the other person to think for a moment and to give you a much more elaborated and interesting answer.
Number four is to go with the flow. The quote from Headlee´s speech is the following one “Thoughts will come into your mind and you need to let them go out of your mind”. This means that you should let go some of the thing that you have in your mind in order to be fully concentrated on what is being told next. If you say something you wanted to say three minutes ago now the thing could be already said before and you didn’t notice it because you were holding it for the next speaking turn. A good example of this is when people are having a conversation, and the other person ask a question that you have already answered in some way or another. This means that the person has sticked to that one question for too long and has not even listened to what the other person was saying. Headlee says “Stories and ideas are going to come to you, and you need to let them come and let them go”.
Number five is if you don’t know, say that you don’t know. This means that we should not talk if we are not completely sure about it. You must be aware of what are you saying. You can’t claim that you are an expert or that you know something if that is not the truth. Words can be very powerful, and we have to know when to use them and how to use them. This is very noticeable in the TV or radio. When you watch the news, or a morning radio broadcast the dialogue/conversation is closely thought after. In an everyday conversation this is not that much of a concern, but we still have to be aware of what we say and when we say it.
Number six is to not equate your experience with theirs. When someone tells you that they are very sad, don’t answer that you were very sad yesterday. You can’t compare other people’s feelings with yours. In that moment you don’t have to prove how good of a person you are but listen to what that person is trying to say to you. It is not going to take you or the other person anywhere if you just compare your feeling. Feelings are individual and impossible to compare.
Number seven is to try not to repeat yourself. This happens when we have a point during a conversation that we keep rephrasing one time after another. This is very common during conversations, and it is very irritating and doesn’t lead to anything.
Number eight is Staying out of the weeds. People don’t care about all the details. People care more about you and what kind of a person you are. So, leave out all the specifications and talk more about what people may have in common with you. Headlee’s advice is to forget the details, to just leave them out of the conversation.
Number nine is Listen.This is a very important one. People rather talk than listen to what other people have to say. When you talk, you are in control of the situation and in the centre of attention, so it is easier for many people to talk instead of listen. Headlee says that an average person talks at a pace of about 225 words per minute but can listen at up to 500 words per minute. So, when listening our brain fills out the remaining 275 words. Headlee paraphrase’s Stephen Coveys quote “Most of us don’t listen with the intend to understand. We listen with the intent to reply”
The last but definitely not least is Being brief. The main point of this is to be interested in other people. In many cases we should keep our mouth shut and mind open to be amazed and learn something new.
These are important points that are very relevant in the time being right now. If I would choose one from the above mentioned ten points it would be listening. In my opinion it is the base for everything else. In life we value good talkers, but we forget the good listeners.
Headlee, C. 2016. 10 ways to have a better conversation. TED-talk. Watched 11.2.2022