10 Ways to Have Better Conversations: A Reaction to Celeste Headlee’s TED Talk

In this blog post, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on one of the most popular TED Talks with over 30 million views: 10 Ways to Have Better Conversations by Celeste Headlee. I’ll share Celeste’s 10 tips and then offer my 2 cents on each concept she talks about.

1. Importance of Staying Present in a Conversation

Celeste’s Tip: Don’t try to multitask. Be present in the moment. Don’t be half in the conversation and half out of it. If there’s a conversation you don’t want to be having, then don’t have it. Get yourself out of it. But don’t just be half there.

My Take: Ask yourself the question, “Are you present?” It’s one of the most powerful questions you can ask in a conversation. Someone asked me this question at an absolutely crucial point in my own life, and it fundamentally changed how I saw this situation. 

2. Learning Something New in a Conversation

Celeste’s Tip: Don’t pontificate. Enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn. You can always learn something, no matter who you’re talking to or what the topic of conversation is.

My Take: Everybody is an expert in something. Be open to learning from others in a conversation. Bill Nye said “Everyone you meet knows something you don’t.” and I try to take that to heart. 

3. What People Care About in a Conversation

Celeste’s Tip: Stay out of the weeds. People care about what you’re like and what you have in common, not the minute details.

My Take: Focus on connecting with the person, not impressing them with facts.

4. How to Use Open-Ended Questions in a Conversation

Celeste’s Tip: Start your questions with who, what, where, when, why, or how.

My Take: Use questions that begin with how or what and not why, as why questions can invite people to defend themselves.

5. Letting Your Thoughts Flow in a Conversation

Celeste’s Tip: Go with the flow. Let thoughts come and go.

My Take: Be genuinely curious about the person you’re talking with, and the conversation will naturally flow.

6. Importance of Being Honest About Your Expertise

Celeste’s Tip: If you don’t know, say you don’t know. Talk should not be cheap.

My Take: Be humble and honest about your knowledge and expertise.

7. Why You Should Avoid Comparing Experiences in a Conversation

Celeste’s Tip: Don’t equate your experience with theirs. It’s not about you.

My Take: Focus on understanding the other person’s perspective rather than trying to relate it to your own experiences.

8. Why You Should Avoid Repeating Yourself

Celeste’s Tip: Don’t repeat yourself. It’s condescending and boring.

My Take: Trust that the other person heard and understood your point.

9. Importance of Listening in a Conversation

Celeste’s Tip: Listen more. It’s the most important skill you can develop in a conversation.

My Take: Practice active listening and ask questions like “What else?” to encourage the other person to share more.

10. How to Prepare Yourself for a Conversation

Celeste’s Tip: Be interested in other people. Be prepared to be amazed.

My Take: Approach every conversation with curiosity and an open mind.

In summary, having better conversations requires being present, open to learning, asking open-ended questions, listening, and being genuinely interested in others. Practice these tips to improve your conversations and connections with others.