Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, hosting a daily news/talk show on Georgia Public Broadcasting so she knows something about how to have better conversations. She’s interviewed a wide range of people from Nobel Prize winners and billionaires to truck drivers and kindergarten teachers. In that time she learned a lot about how to listen, and much of it contradicts a lot of the advice you may have heard over the years. In a TED talk that runs just under 12 minutes, she shares 10 basic rules that she’s learned.

It’s advice that can be applied in both your personal and professional life, and that can go a long way to addressing one of the problems she identifies early on in her talk:

So this world that we live in, this world in which every conversation has the potential to devolve into an argument, where our politicians can’t speak to one another and where even the most trivial of issues have someone fighting both passionately for it and against it, it’s not normal. Pew Research did a study of 10,000 American adults, and they found that at this moment, we are more polarized, we are more divided, than we ever have been in history. We’re less likely to compromise, which means we’re not listening to each other. And we make decisions about where to live, who to marry and even who our friends are going to be, based on what we already believe. Again, that means we’re not listening to each other. A conversation requires a balance between talking and listening, and somewhere along the way, we lost that balance.

You can also view this talk and access and interactive transcript at the TED talks page.


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