Speaking skills in communication

Speaking skills in communication

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 fresh, new 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.Celeste Headlee Ted Talk

Audio books have become one of my preferred ways of learning. They are excellent for busy people.

I love TedTalks

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 is the host and executive produces for Georgia Public Broadcasting’s  “On Second thought” She’s also a thought-provoking hoot (will crack you up) on Twitter.

Back to her TedTalk.

I found it several months ago.  Both me and my ten year old son was captivated by her lecture. It was inspiring and an injection of truth.  Today, I went to Youtube and watched it again as sort of a refresher course.  I’ll try to watch it a few times every few months or so.

Reminds me Norman Vincent Peale

The title is “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation”. I know it sounds sort of Norman Vincent Peale-ish. If you’re old enough to remember him, you remember his catchy book titles. ”

“If You Think You Can, You Can’

“Stay Alive All your Life”

“The Guide to Positive Thinking”

He would have been an excellent blogger with titles like that.

Anyhoo, back to “10 Ways to Have A better Conversation” and why it moved me so intensely.  If you’re one of my friends, I hear you chuckling through the blogosphere.  My friends know  I’m an ardent and passionate 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.  Talking runs in my family.

This being so, I’m not really sure I’m a skilled conversationalist.  But, I’d like to be. Being just a “talking” doesn’t ensure I am really present in the conversation.

Conversation is more than just talking

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. I’m not sure we capture all those elements when we converse with others. What do you think?  How easy is it to be part of a conversation and be thinking of your grocery list? Or maybe you’re thinking of what you will say when the person stops talking? Maybe you’re hearing the words, but cannot fully understand their motives and what it all means.. Yes, conversation requires effort and investment.

You gotta talk to people

Plus, it’s a necessary evil of life.Tedtalk by Celeste Headlee

Every introvert will cringe at the following statement: conversations are unavoidable. Trust me, I understand.  I’m the most talkative introvert alive. However, I like to cherry pick who I talk to; but that’s not always possible.

Just about every field, career or life station requires good conversation skills.  If you’re a professional, you likely have to share your ideas in meetings while understanding what others may feel about them.  The waiters/waitresses who have conquered the art of conversing (not over styaing their welcome) get the best gratuity.

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 one can easily answer 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.goodconversation

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?

A good conversationalist? Think about it.


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