An informative, timely, and practical guide to the lost—and essential—art of conversation from public radio host Celeste Headlee.
Take a moment to consider how many outcomes in your life may have been affected by poor communication skills. Could you have gotten a job you really wanted? Saved a relationship? What about that political conversation that got out of hand at Thanksgiving dinner? How is it that we so often fail to say the right thing at the right time?
In her career as an NPR host, journalist Celeste Headlee has interviewed hundreds of people from all walks of life, and if there’s one thing she’s learned, it’s that it’s hard to overestimate the power of conversation and its ability to both bridge gaps and deepen wounds. In We Need to Talk, she shares what she’s learned on the job about how to have effective, meaningful, and respectful conversations in every area of our lives.
Now more than ever, Headlee argues, we must begin to talk to and, more importantly, listen to one another—including those with whom we disagree. We Need to Talk gives readers ten simple tools to help facilitate better conversations, ranging from the errors we routinely make (put down the smart phone when you’re face to face with someone) to the less obvious blind spots that can sabotage any conversation, including knowing when not to talk, being aware of our own bias, and avoiding putting yourself in the center of the discussion.
Whether you’re gearing up for a big conversation with your boss, looking to deepen or improve your connection with a relative, or trying to express your child’s needs to a teacher, We Need to Talk will arm you with the skills you need to create a productive dialogue.
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About the Author
Celeste Headlee has been a host and journalist with National Public Radio, Public Radio International, and American Public Media since 2008. She has appeared on CNN, the BBC, PBS, and MSNBC. Celeste has one son and one rescue dog, and lives in Washington, DC.
Table of Contents
1 Conversation is a Survival Skill 3
2 Communication and Conversation are not the Same 19
3 You Can't Outsmart a Bad Conversation 31
4 Set the Stage 49
5 Some Conversations are Harder than Others 59
6 Be There or go Elsewhere 89
7 It's Not the Same! 103
8 Get Off the Soapbox 121
9 Keep It Short 139
10 No Repeats 149
11 That's a Great Question 161
12 You Can't Know Everything 169
13 Stay Out of the Weeds 179
14 Travel Together 191
15 Listen! 205
16 Sometimes we Shouldn't Talk 223
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was phemomenal-- should be required reading in highschool and college
Celeste Headlee believes conversation can change the world and after reading her book We Need To Talk, I agree. Good conversations increase our empathy and they help us consider other points of view, whether it's a political issue or how to handle a tricky situation at work or even a helpful tip related to a household chore. We walk away understanding ourselves and the other person better than we did before. This, of course, takes work. More importantly, it takes self-awareness. Most of us believe we're better conversationalists than we actually are. And there's the rub. When I started reading, I thought I had a pretty good handle on my conversation skills. There are, of course, areas I can work on but overall, I thought I was in pretty good shape. I'm a great listener and naturally empathetic. I used to be a social worker, for pete's sake. It was tempting to think about how much other people really needed to read this book. But Headlee called me out. Well, she called us all out. We've all made mistakes when it comes to conversation. We've said things we wish we hadn't, we've spaced out, our words have hurt the people we love and strangers alike. At a time when we're growing more divided and disconnected, we can't afford not to think about how to converse better. The book is divided into two parts. The first section focuses on the philosophy of conversation. How do we define a good or bad conversation? What can conversation teach us? What does the research say? I found chapter 3 about the hallmarks of good and bad conversation to be especially pertinent. Chapters 4 and 5 made me think a lot about my expectations of conversation and how I can fine tune my approach for difficult conversations. I may or may not have needed this reminder while discussing a hot political topic the other night. The second half of the book offers practical suggestions, such as how to ask questions, the benefits of silence, and why repetition doesn't actually help us communicate. It also discusses when we shouldn't converse- because there are times when this is the correct response. I was underlining and asterisking so many parts. It's made me view conversation in a whole different light and I'm already trying to put her suggestions into practice. We Need To Talk offers practical, insightful advice on how to improve our conversations. It's well-written and easy to read. In fact, it mimics Headlee's advice on how to have better conversations. It's focused and to the point. It's engaging. It asks good questions. It invites us to learn about ourselves and the world around us. The truth is we all need to heed Headlee's wisdom. I have a feeling I'll be referring back to this book for years to come. It's not enough for me to read it; I need to apply its truths to my life. Hold me to it. Disclosure: I received an ARC from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
This book is a must read for everyone. After watching the author's Ted talk I was thrilled to find that she was writing a followup book that went into greater detail. Anyone that seeks to grow in their life skills should be reading this. Wonderful points of information that instantly opened my eyes to ways I was not serving others well when it came to having conversations. If you separated the principles presented in this book from the topic of conversation I believe there is great value given that speaks even deeper into human behavior and how we treat each other that would serve us well in our day to day. If you are a leader, business owner, manager or a self described average Joe, this book needs to be on your reading list and in your personal library. I'm typically not one for self help books with mindless mantras and pointless platitudes and thankfully this is NOT one of those at all. Authentic language and clearly illustrated thoughts make this a wonderfully easy to read book while still delivering the ability to profoundly impact the way we have conversations. Kudos to Ms. Headlee. I would love to see more from her. If I had more stars available I would rate this book even higher.