10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation

I am not a great listener, at least not always. Either the kids kept me up or I just couldnt sleep or the coffee hasnt kicked in yet but I find that I sometimes feel like I know what the other person is going to say so I go ahead and respond. “Oh, your baby is up at 4 am? You have to sleep train. Absolutely. Wait, are you sleep training?” Not ok. I am equally bad with by daughters. I know you are supposed to get on their level and pay attention and respond but that doesnt happen too often. My 6 year old will yell: You never listen! 5 minutes after I accused her of the same. So I found these points by Celeste Headlee who is a professional interviewer very helpful which I have abbreviated for you. The original interview can be found here.

  1. Don’t multitask. Be present. Be in that moment. If you want to get out of the conversation, get out of the conversation, but don’t be half in it and half out of it.
  2. Don’t pontificate. If you want to state your opinion without any opportunity for response or argument or pushback or growth, write a blog. (LOL)
  3.  Use open-ended questions. Try asking them things like, “What was that like?” “How did that feel?”.
  4. Go with the flow. That means thoughts will come into your mind and you need to let them go out of your mind. Don’t listen to someone and then randomly start talking about that time that you met Hugh Jackman in a coffee shop.
  5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. If they’re talking about having lost a family member, don’t start talking about the time you lost a family member. It’s not the same. It is never the same. All experiences are individual. And, more importantly, it is not about you. You don’t need to take that moment to prove how amazing you are or how much you’ve suffered. Somebody asked Stephen Hawking once what his IQ was, and he said, “I have no idea. People who brag about their IQs are losers.” (I am so SO guilty of this!!! Though I don’t share my story because I think mine matters more, I think if I tell you I’ve been there, you know I understand how you feel and perhaps I can help.)
  7. Try not to repeat yourself. It’s condescending, and it’s really boring, and we tend to do it a lot. Especially in work conversations or in conversations with our kids, we have a point to make, so we just keep rephrasing it over and over. Don’t do that.
  8. Stay out of the weeds. Frankly, people don’t care about the years, the names, the dates, all those details that you’re struggling to come up with in your mind. They don’t care. What they care about is you. They care about what you’re like, what you have in common. Leave the details out!
  9. LISTEN. It takes effort and energy to actually pay attention to someone, but if you can’t do that, you’re not in a conversation. You’re just two people shouting out barely related sentences in the same place. Stephen Covey said, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.”
  10. Be brief. A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject. — Headlee’s Sister.