Have you heard Celeste Headlee’s TedTalk yet?
Do you ever watch TedTalks? In case you’re unaware, Ted (or Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a nonprofit organization that delivers knowledge through special events (presentations) that feature engaging, thought-provoking and challenging speakers on a variety of subjects.
I’m one of those people who love knowledge; I fiend for information. I get it any way I can. Podcasts, XM radio, news alerts, books….aaaaah books. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much free time as I’d like, so reading 3 books a week hasn’t been a reality for me for quite a while.
Heck, I even tried audio books. But, they simply do not float my cranial boat.
Maybe it’s because my commute is too short. Maybe it’s because I’m mostly a visual learner. Since I learn best by seeing and viewing, I’m easily distracted by visual stimuli- the colors, the sounds, the movements of life. This means audio books eventually morph into a sort of “white noise’ that is soon as annoying as a whining child.
TedTalks are something of an intellectual saving grace for me. They give me a chance to take a nose-dive into a subject. After which, I can read more about it later. And, I usually do.
My latest favorite talk features journalist, Celesete Headlee. She once hosted a show on NPR. Now, she hosts and executive produces a show on Georgia Public Broadcasting called “On Second thought” She’s also a thought-provoking hoot on Twitter.
Back to her TedTalk.
I found it several months ago. It was so interesting it held my attention AND that of my ten year old son. I was so inspired; I was strangely exhilarated in some way. It was the buzz of knowledge.
Today, I went to Youtube and watched it again as sort of a refresher course.
Are you ready to hear the topic?
It was/is “10 Ways to have a better Conversation”. I know it sounds sort of Norman Vincent Peale-ish. Are you old enough to remember him?
Anyhoo, it’s a great talk on conversation.
If you’re a friend of mine, I can hear you chuckling through the blogosphere.
Most people who know me, know I’m an ardent talker. My dad was one too. So was my paternal granddad and my uncle Jessie could
carry on a conversation for hours with a tree before he realized the tree was … a tree.
Yep, I have the gift of gab and I come by it honestly.
This being so, I’m not really sure I’m a skilled conversationalist. But, I’d like to be.
As you know, conversation is a two-way rhythmic verbal dance. It’s more than just brain dumping and walking away unaffected. It has layers, depths, intellectual prisms and emotional contexts.
Every introvert will cringe at the following statement: conversations are unavoidable.
There is no field or station of life that doesn’t require you to be a good conversationalist to some degree.
If you’re in ministry, you need to connect with people so that you can be of use…of service.
If you’re a business professional, you need to master the art of selling and networking (which is a fancy term for “connecting and sharing”). Abandon the thought of promoting your service or business without productive conversations.
Say you’re working in a job you’d consider rather “ordinary”. You still need to be able to communicate in order to do it well, mesh with the team and position yourself for advancement.
Assuming you share my desire to connect with people as well as blab with them, you’ll enjoy Celeste’s talk. Here is a bit of it:
Point 1: Don’t multitask. I’m guilty. You are too. If I don’t physically have my phone in my hand when I’m talking to folks, I’m making mental lists or conversational points I want to share. Bad.
Point 2: Don’t wax boring as a pompous “know it all”. The word Celeste uses is “pontificate” which sounds better than “preachy” soapbox bootyhead. I love that she encourages us to approach conversations as vehicles of learning – not necessarily spouting our pre-canned opinions and platitudes.
Point 3: Use open-ended questions instead of the run-of-the-mill inquiries that can be easily answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. I love this point. She mentions a system journalist use that includes asking “how what when where” type questions. (I think I said it right). For example, instead of asking someone “did you like it?” – which can be easily answered with a “yes” or no”- try asking something like “how did it feel when you did that?” or “What went through your mind?” Brilliant.
Point 4: Go with the flow. I love this one too. If you’re like me, your mind races a million miles a minute. So much to do, think about and plan. Well, Celeste gives us permission to be patient with ourselves and allow thoughts to just come “come and go”. No need to act on every thought. No need to communicate every thought. Just stay in the moment. Be present.
Full disclosure: as I’m typing this, I’m fighting off thoughts about the “amazing world of gumball” and that’s ok. That doesn’t mean I need to begin sharing my memories of the show. Again, allow thoughts to come and go, but stay in the conversation. Never stop listening.
Point 5: Be prepared to say “I dunno”. Did you know it’s ok to not know everything? It’s alright to not have visited every vacation spot or read every book. If you don’t’ know, just say so and posture yourself to learn something new. It makes you more interesting. It makes you more approachable It makes you more human.
I’m tempted to continue on, but I have so much to say. I don’t want to cheat you from hearing this intriguing and generous talk by the brilliant Celeste Headlee. So, go ahead and discover points six through ten on your own. If you want my take on any one of them, let me know!
Finally, the Bible renders tons of admonitions that align perfectly with Celeste’s talk. Being quick to listen is one (see James 1:19). Valuing others above yourself is another (peep out Philippians 2:3).
What do you think? Are you a good listener?