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10 ways to have a better conversation

The world would be a better place if we only knew how to talk to one another.

It’s incomprehensible to think how communicating better can change the world.

But it can.

These days, thanks to modern technology, information can be spread from one end of the world to the other in a matter of mere seconds. You’d believe we’d use this power to communicate with each other more effectively.

Instead, we have managed to misunderstand each other even more.

In fact, according to research, we are more polarized and divided than ever. In this survey of over 10,000 Americans, we learned that this increase in “ideological uniformity” and “partisan antipathy” not only affects our government’s productivity but also our every day lives.

It’s hard to believe that something as big as this can be solved by changing just one thing only:

the way we talk and listen to one another. 

In this life-changing TED talk, radio host Celeste Headlee talks about how to make conversations worth having and why it is important to have them now.

What is happening?

The same study by Pew Research suggests that approximately third of American teenagers send out more than a hundred texts in one day. And believe it or not, almost all of them are likely to text their friends rather than talk to them face to face.

“I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach. Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and each other through screens, but rarely do they have an opportunity to hone their interpersonal communications skills. It might sound like a funny question, but we have to ask ourselves: Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain coherent, confident conversation?”

Somehow along the line, we’ve failed to learn how to look each other in the eye, talk with openness and listen without reacting.

So how do we fix this?

In a world obsessed with being politically correct, it can be difficult to talk about topics that are essential to solving problems.


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Things like climate change, immigration, and healthcare can be impossible to discuss because of our fear of offending one another.

However, even the simplest conversations can now be thwarted into arguments. And if these every day things can become so difficult to discuss, how much more the things that actually matter?

Have we truly lost our ability to communicate to each other effectively? Or can we still change things?

According to Celeste Headley, we can still fix this. Here are 10 sure-fire steps for amazing conversations.

1. Do not multitask.

Try to be present. Put down your phone. Stop whatever else you’re doing and just be in the moment.

2. Don’t pontificate.

It’s a conversation. A two-way street. Don’t expect whoever you are conversing with to just stay silent and listen to you rant. Be open to responses – wanted or not.

“You need to enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn.”

3. Use open-ended questions.

Start your questions with who, what, where, why, and how. Ask questions that don’t just require one response. Ask questions that will make them think and describe something.

4. Go with the flow.

Great conversations are the ones that aren’t forced. So go with the flow. Practice active listening and don’t just assume answers. More often than not, we deal with conversations passively instead of letting it flow in and out of our minds like water.

5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.

Why are we so afraid to let people know we don’t know things? So much so that we go on pretending like we do, and end up making fool of ourselves afterward. Don’t be afraid to express it when you don’t know something. Instead, be curious about it.

6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs.

If someone is talking about losing a loved one, don’t go ahead and start talking about your own experience. All our journeys are different. And besides, it’s not about you. Nothing ruins a conversation more than making it about you.

7. Try not to repeat yourself.

Repeating yourself is a show of disinterest. Moreover, it’s quite condescending. There is a way to make your point without necessarily repeating yourself over and over.

8. Stay out of the weeds.

People don’t care about minute details. They don’t want to know about the dates, the place, the color of what you were wearing. People want to know about people. They care about you, what you’re like, all the things you have in common. So leave the details out.

9. Listen.

The most important thing – listen. It’s a simple thing to do yet so many people forget it. We tend to be so caught up in ourselves that we forget to listen to everybody else. The reason why we never have good conversations anymore is that we never listen to the people we are talking to.

“Listening is perhaps the most, the number one most important skill that you could develop.”

10. Be brief.

A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.” Make your point and don’t go on in circles.

“All of this boils down to the same basic concept, and it is this one: Be interested in other people.”

Written by Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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