I often wonder, living in a technology obsessed culture the way we do, if the art of conversation is slowly dying out. To add another layer to the often difficult nature of conversing one-on-one, I also am an introverted writer. Most times when I am out in the world I find myself struggling to connect to others. It isn’t for lack of trying, it’s that I have been approaching conversation all wrong.
I recently came upon a TED talk called: 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation
TED talks are short lectures to promote information and idea sharing. The particular talk that I will be referencing was presented by Celeste Headlee. She is a broadcaster that makes her living interviewing people from all walks of life. She said that even if we only used one of ten her principles for conversation, it would vastly improve our ability to talk with others. To hear the whole lecture, click on the title above.
Out of the 10 ideas, three stood out for me. I believe that anyone who watches it will experience it differently and have their own takeaways. That’s why if you have 12 minutes, I highly recommend you view it for yourself.
The first two principles that have truly helped me are #4: Go with the Flow and #6: Don’t Equate My Experience with Theirs
She said that while we are listening to others, thoughts and related stories naturally come to mind. We should let these thoughts come and then, let them go (#4). It also isn’t necessary to share every relatable tidbit we may have (#6). We may miss important parts of the other person’s narrative if we keep interjecting our own stories. I thought to fit in better, I had to share the ways my personal stories related to what was being said. Turns out, I don’t have to do that at all! I can let the story of the other person naturally unfold, let my own stories come and go, and ultimately, have a much more interesting conversation.
The last principle that I really loved was #10: Be Brief
Essentially the concept is that if we are able to keep our talking short, we will be better equipped to find the amazing hidden something about the other person. For me, this not only means learning specifically what is amazing about them, but also, what nuggets of wisdom I can take with me.
Here is an example of when I put these principles in action. I recently went a cruise with my husband. At dinner, our server was very kind and sweet. She was with us for several meals so I had the opportunity to get to know her. She didn’t start working on a cruise line until her son was older, but she shared stories of friends who had to leave babies and young children for months at a time. That was a powerful reminder to me that I take for granted that I get to see my kids every day. This has stuck with me and made me more grateful. By learning her story, I was able to deepen and appreciate mine.
I encourage you to get out there, start some conversations and as Celeste Headlee states as her personal view of talking to others:
“I’m always prepared to be amazed, and I’m never disappointed.”
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent