Home Happenings Kids & Teens Adult Programs DONATE Join Us Login

10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation About What Matters

community Aug 08, 2019

By Helene Goldfarb and Stephanie Tran

A main function of the Social Action Committee is to facilitate conversations and action to address society’s challenges. We are involved in addressing food insecurity (SHIP, BRIDGES), helping refugees adapt to life in the U.S. (tutoring Syrian refugees), recycling plastic (Bags to Benches), racial justice (Race Dialogue Circles), and building community bonds (Fountain of Hope Storytelling Project). 

It’s often lamented how fragmented and polarized civil discourse has become. Discussing the weather and your health used to be considered safe topics, but we’re in such a state now that even those topics can lead to tense conversations.

If we can’t talk about the problems we’re experiencing in society, how will we solve them? Perhaps our biggest problem is that we’ve stopped listening to each other. Journalist and interviewer Celeste Headlee gave a TED talk in which she offered 10 tips for a better conversation. We’d like to share them with you:

1)    Don’t multitask. Be present, in the moment. Be in the conversation.

2)   Don’t pontificate. Write a blog if you don’t want push back or don’t want to hear another point of view. Set aside your personal opinion. Assume you have something to learn.

3)   Use open ended questions. Think about the who, what, when, where and how of what you’re discussing. Ask, What was that like? How did that feel?  These kinds of questions elicit a thoughtful reply.

4)   Go with the flow. Thoughts will come into your mind during a discussion and you need to let them go out of your mind. Stay in the moment.

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

6)   Don’t equate your experience with someone else’s experience. They’re never the same. It’s not about you.

7)   Try not to repeat yourself. It’s condescending and boring. Don’t keep restating and paraphrasing.

8)   Stay out of the weeds. Don’t get bogged down in details.

9)   Listen. No one ever listened their way out of a job. Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, but the intent to reply. Try listening for understanding.

10)  Be brief.

Prepare to be amazed!

If you can master even 1 of the 10 tips listed above, you will be on your way to having better and more rewarding conversations. 


Stay Up to Date on News & Events at CBH