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An expert conversationalist reveals her secrets

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

We’re naming Celeste Headlee, radio host and professional interviewer, our Best Communicator of the Month, predominantly because of this gem of a TED Talk: “10 ways to have a better conversation,” which we discovered this week.

It’s worth your time to give it a listen, but in a nutshell, Headlee talks about how so many of us never develop conversational competence. She says that whether you relate to people, agree with them—or even like them—shouldn’t affect your ability to have an inspiring, fulfilling and meaningful conversation with them. These bits of advice especially caught our attention:

  • Forget about nodding in agreement, saying “uh-huh” and other similar advice. Headlee says that if you are actually listening, you don’t need to act like you are.
  • Learn something from every conversation. Everyone is an expert in something, so stop believing you have more to offer than other people. If you don’t want your ideas questioned, don’t offer them. Listen wholeheartedly.
  • Let ideas—even fantastic ones—come and go. Don’t become so stuck on responding with that witty response, awesome anecdote or great question that you lose track of the conversation.
  • Don’t repeat yourself. Restating the same message does nothing more than make you look condescending, stubborn or boring. You made your point; drop it and move on.
  • Leave out the details. People don’t care about the dates, names or specifics of your story, so don’t disrupt your conversation trying to recall them. Instead, be brief, and turn the conversation back to the other person.

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