Good conversations are like mini skirts...

By: Marta Evans, Learning & Change Consultant 3 days ago Categories: Blog

I recently came across a great #TEDEdChat by Celeste Headlee titled ‘10 ways to have a better conversation’.

In the video, Ms. Headlee argues that in the polarised world we live in, where “every conversation has the potential to become an argument”, we’ve somehow lost the balance between talking and listening. We’ve forgotten how to talk and how to listen, even though conversational competence is one of the most important life skills we have. After all, who wouldn’t want to have better, more interesting and engaging discussions, either at home or at work?

She shares 10 tips with her audience to improve the quality of our conversations. Whilst they are all useful, the following four tips particularly resonated with me. They correspond with a coaching attitude that I wholeheartedly believe in, and that we, here at Juniper, are trying to cultivate in the organisations we work with.

  • Don’t multitask – Be “here and now”. How often do we glance at our phone whilst talking to someone? Or carry on typing an email thinking that we can listen AND write at the same time? The ugly truth is that we can’t. So if you commit to have a conversation, have a conversation. Be present and give all your attention to the other person.
  • Enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn. As a child, we are curious and eager to learn – so why not have this attitude when we grow up? People are fascinating, they are different, individual and certainly know something that we don’t. Life is much more interesting if we are ready to learn something new each day. And much less stressful if we stop trying to prove how much we already know!
  • Listen, really listen. True, active listening takes effort and energy, but it’s essential for a great conversation. As leadership author Stephen Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. So listen to understand, get yourself lost in the other person’s world and see what a difference it makes!
  • Be brief. In our world of tweets, 10-minute meetings and the strive to squeeze as many things into a day as we can, being concise and to-the-point when we speak is ever more important.


And what conversations have to do with a miniskirt? The sister of Ms. Headlee put it beautifully:

“A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.”