We Need to Talk by Celeste Headlee [Book Summary – Review]

Every one of us speaks. It could even be about, to, over, and at times with other individuals. All thanks to current technology; nowadays, we now stay in touch more than we ever did in the past. However, what kinds of discussions do we have?

They are not good conversations! Even now that it has gotten easier to remain connected, the nature of our conversations has reduced. The skill of connecting with other individuals is declining. We are not as empathetic as before. We also pay attention less. 

This is understandable in a way – having great discussion is not something that is easy. In these following blinks, we will understand the reason why it is important to make an effort and find out how one can really get familiar with others through discussions. 

In this book, you will discover 

  • how to have a conversation with a person you don’t share a similar view;
  • what the distinction between a shift response and a support response is, and also
  • the reason why talking about one’s self is a bit similar to sex.

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Chapter 1 – One of the core of being human is great communication; however our current life has given us some bad practices.

Let’s assume you put a woman and say for instance, a snow leopard of a Komodo dragon next to each other, you may start to ponder on how we turned into the leading species. There are a lot of animals present in this work that moves faster, more powerful, and bigger than humans. Some animal teeth contain poison. Still, in a way, humans have evolved and are at the top spot.

Communication is one of the cause why are at the stop. What humans don’t have in physical ability, has been substituted in our ability to communicate with one another in tiny information – and also to listen as well. This a lot has very means of evolutionary benefits.

With all these known, it is weird, that we don’t attempt a bit more when we communicate. As a matter of fact, nowadays, we are becoming more and more worse at communicating.

The main point here is that: great communication is important to human life; however, the life we live now has put us up with some not-so-good conduct.

Since the beginning of time, humans have been communicating with one another; however, this is an actual modern illustration that reveals the reason why education on how to do it better is significant – bad communication requires money. For big firms in the United States and the UK, based on a report from the year 2008, the influence could be up to $37 billion in a year.

It is not only monetary, and it is not only corporations that are impacted as well. A different study discovered that in the year 2010, students in college were 40% less compassionate than students from 30 years before. Certainly, a huge factor in this is the growth of technology as well as social media, and this strengthens short-lived superficial relationships, not compassion.

In a different research study, researchers had different couples of strangers all together in a room and told them to talk – and also, there was a phone on the table in half of the rooms. Although the phone was just staying there, it has a bad influence on the pairs’ communication. It was revealed that the couples that had no phone in their rooms were establishing great relationships, and also experiencing more trust as well as compassion.

What can be done about this situation? Having your cell away from you is only the start. The most significant thing to do other than that is to begin by taking the craft of discussion more seriously.

It is a regular thing for one to rashly put the blame on other people for not being fun during a bad discussion. Without a doubt, stop that! Rather, take charge of creating a fun discussion on your own; you will be surprised at the outcomes.

Chapter 2 – Seek mutual understanding, and you will discover that you can have even the most difficult discussions.

Are you the kind of person that avoids tough discussions? A lot of individuals shy away from such. However, at times, discussions that seem extremely hard can go well. 

For instance, let us look at the example of Xernona Clayton. She was given birth to during the 1930s and she got occupied in the United States civil rights movement. Also, Clayton was in charge of a city planning program in Atlanta Georgia – even there, one of her male coworkers called Calvin Craig who was a well-known person in the Ku Klux Klan. 

Even though Clayton was aware of this, both of them (Clayton and Craig) needed to form a relationship that was professional. Additionally, even though things didn’t begin well, as time passed by, they developed a connection, with Craig usually passing by Clayton’s office, saying she was an interesting person to converse with.

In the year 1968, at the end of the day, Craig stopped being a member of the KKK – openly relating his change to the connection he as well as Clayton had formed.

The main point here is: to seek mutual understanding, and you will discover that you can have even the most difficult discussions.

Communicating without assessment is difficult. However, the example of Craig and Clayton shows that one can usually look for something to discuss, even with individuals that completely have different opinions. Particularly nowadays, in our greatly divided universe, it is so simple to think that one has nothing to tell your idealistic opposers. However, it is a good thing to attempt to strike the divide. 

Everybody has preconceptions, even though they don’t openly hold racial prejudices. Take for example, that your kid is having a sleepover at his or her friend’s place, and you are talking to the parents of your child’s friend. It is possible that you discover that you share similar views on different political problems – however, does that signify that your kid will be in safe hands at their home? We have the tendency to think that, agreement on one topic signifies agreement on every other thing – likewise, disagreement on one thing can bring about us disapproving every other thing. As a matter of fact, that is not actually true.

Regardless of who you are having a conversation with, It is significant to respect and also devote yourself to the discussion. Pay attention to what the person is saying, and attempt to sympathize with their opinions. Xernona Clayton transformed Calvin Craig’s view, not by having an assertive coaxing, but, by becoming an interesting colleague.

Truthfully, not all discussions need to end in teary makeup and a connection of everlasting friendship – not agreeing is okay. However, you need to listen. You might discover other things that will shock you as you will find out in the following part.

Chapter 3 – Don’t presume that you are aware of what other individuals are facing.

The author of this book is a host on a radio show where she has interviewed a lot of people. However, she as well makes errors during the conversation frequently.

For instance, there was a time a shattered friend whose father died came to her for solace. The author replied by relating her personal experience of grief – the author’s father passed on when she was only nine months.

However, relating it to her own situation made her friend more agree. And she said, “You win.” Nevertheless, she had the opportunity to have a bond with her dad.

As a matter of fact, that wasn’t the intention of the author. However, thinking retrospectively, she got to know that she had shifted the entire discussion from her friend and concentrated on herself.

The main point here is that: Don’t presume that you understand what other persons are experiencing.

This is a thing a lot of us do frequently, usually without knowing. Charles Derber who is a sociologist refers to this as “conversational narcissism.” According to him, there are two kinds of reply in a discussion – one is the shift response and the other one is the support response. The author showed an example of shift response even though she had good purposes.

By only saying, even I is an example of shift response since it changes the concentration from the other party to one’s self. If your friend says they are preoccupied, it might seem okay to respond by saying, same here. However, the substitute which is the support response – makes sure the concentration is on them. If your friend says they are busy, ask them the reason why they are preoccupied – what is their schedule like presently?

Replying in that manner is much more difficult than it seems. It is normal for one to project their personal situations onto the other person. As a matter of fact, that is how compassion functions. If a person talks about savory food, you imagine yourself eating the food as well.

The issue in this is that, at times your life doesn’t relate to another person’s own. Let’s assume you used a knife to cut your finger lately, and you needed to visit the hospital. When your friend says she cut her finger in the same manner the previous night, you will instantly return to what you’ve experienced – even though your friend’s situation was just a small injury. When the matter is a big one, such as demise, it can turn into a severe problem.

It is normal to possess a diverse understanding base from other individuals. Frequently, we act as if we understand what a person is saying even when we don’t know. Just accepting what you do not understand might seem humiliating, however, it is usually a great first approach to forming a trust.

Chapter 4 – it is possible for you to make humans communicate by simply asking them open-ended questions; however the actual potential lies in paying attention to what the person has to say.

If you are interested in making your friend or coworker open up to you during a conversation, one of the great approaches to do that.is considering the kinds of questions they are being asked.

You might assume that one of the greatest approaches to obtain a lengthy, comprehensive reply from them is to ask a lengthy, comprehensive question. However, that isn’t the case. The best effective approach to facilitate a detailed reply is to utilize one of the six short words namely; why, who, how, when, what, or where.

Questions that make use of those words are open-ended questions – you definitely can’t reply with yes or no and are compelled to deeply think about a longer response. It is a method preferred by journalists; however, it is effective for anybody.

As a matter of fact, that is not the only thing you need to do.

The main point here is: it is possible for you to make humans communicate by simply asking them open-ended questions; however the actual power lies in paying attention to what the person has to say.

Let’s assume you are interviewing a person that had just experienced a tornado. If you ask a person a question such as, were you afraid? The person will most likely reply with yes, and with that comes the end of the interview. Therefore, ask open-ended questions like, what was it like being really close to a tornado? Also, ask them about what they heard and how it must have felt. Let them say what they went through according to their own terms.

It is beneficial to be fearless of quietness. A lot of people rashly fill quietness … however, a small break can usually be an indication that individuals are paying attention or listening. Pausing to assemble your thoughts together is the best manner to direct a discussion in a fun manner.

Also, you have to pay attention to woolgathering: allow your mind to wander away from the discussion the person is having with you, similar to walking around a field, accumulating tiny wool from the bushes, without having any aim.

It is rare to find active listening. You will usually end up woolgathering even though you were attempting to pay attention – for example, if you are wondering about what next to say whereas the other party is still talking. You are not listening again if that is done! It is much better to concentrate on what the person is saying to you at that point and allow the discussion to go smoothly.

At the end of the day, if you can completely involve yourself in the discussion, you will see that you won’t woolgather anymore – and also see that you are asking the greatest, most fun, open-ended questions. The reason is that you are listening well. This is a thing we will further look into in the following part.

Chapter 5 – The art of listening is an active skill and not a passive one.

Current scientific research examined what goes on in the brain when individuals describe themselves. The study revealed an interesting thing: when a person describes themselves, the exact portion of the brain ignites when they consume sugar, take cocaine, or have sexual intercourse. It appears that describing yourself is that satisfying. 

Conversely, listening isn’t like that. As a matter of fact, it actually a tasking job. Also, if you believe that it basically entails not discussing it for a period of time, you are wrong – it is an ability.

However, here is great information: it is an ability that one can learn.

The main point here is that: the art of listening is an active skill and not a passive one. You are most likely not really great at doing it.

The majority of people see themselves as a good listener; however, there is a cause to be in doubt, among other things as a result of contemporary technology giving numerous interruptions. Have you ever been in a situation where you are inactively scrolling through the emails on your phone while in a meeting? Don’t be deceived that it is you multitasking. It is not possible to concentrate on two different things at the same time! You are only carried away.

Listening actively is not a thing that a lot of individuals do naturally – however, with practice, one can get better. One of the first things you have to take note of is that individuals communicate via more than only words. Gestures have deep meaning as well – even the tone of voice as well. Put all of these in mind and you will begin to form an in-depth knowledge of what a person is attempting to say.

This is another method: instead of being bothered about what you will comment next in the discussion, attempt and figure out what the other party is going to communicate next. Or, in your head, what about attempting to sum up what the person is saying – as a means to concentrate your attention?

The turning point of the author came when she thought about opera. Since she came from a family with a musical background, she had a lot of opera experiences as a young child. However, she didn’t pay attention to it until years after, during an audition when she needed to aria, and she was compelled to participate in a very practical manner. All of a sudden, she got to understand the fuss about it.

It is similar to listening to humans. It is more difficult than it seems. Also, it needs your active engagement. However, it is worth the stress. 

Chapter 6 – Be cautious of the listener whenever you are speaking. 

The ability to listen properly is one thing; however, listening is just 50% of any discussion. Even though you are totally listening to what the other party is saying; there is no way around it – at a point, you will need to talk as well!

How do you ensure that your inputs to a discussion are significant? Attempt to see the situation from the listener’s views, and think of how you sound to them. 

The following three pieces of advice can be of assistance: Firstly is to be brief. Secondly, avoid repeating what you’ve said. Thirdly, keep away from shaggy dogs (this will be looked into soon)

The main point here is: be cautious of the listener whenever you are speaking.

The majority of the interviews on public radio usually go on for about a little beyond five minutes. They might appear more than that and it is because, a great interview will contain exciting details – however, the fact is that, it normally requires more time to warm a pizza that is frozen.

There is a valid cause for this. We possess short attention spans – if you trust one research, the normal attention span for humans is a second less than the attention span of a goldfish! Definitely, this is a thing all of us can attempt to work on; however, the fact still stays – if you continue for a long period of time, individuals will become carried away.

When you are talking, pay attention to the other party. Do they constantly look elsewhere? Do they attempt to make you say your story fast? Consider discussion as a game of catch – if the other party is not prepared to get the ball, there is no need to throw it then.

Likewise, don’t be tempted into believing that saying the exact point over and over again makes it unforgettable. According to research, it was revealed that even told repetition assists the speaker in remembering points, it does not do anything for the people listening. As a matter of fact, if you repeat the same thing severally, the other party will probably stop paying attention.

Lastly, don’t give shaggy dog narratives – this means explaining all tiny details that the listener eventually loses the direction of the story. It is normal to believe that if you truly want a person to recall a thing, you have to go in-depth – however, as a matter of fact, a lot of information can make one get carried away. 

Let us look at the game of catch one more: let us assume you wish for the other person to catch a particular ball. Would it be helpful if you threw a lot of various balls all at once? Not likely, while trying to get a hold of everything, they will eventually miss that ball!

Chapter 7 – Having great discussions is a difficult thing – however, everyone gains from getting them right.

Having conversations with other people is what being a radio host entails and it is the work of the author. However, that doesn’t signify she is on all the time. As a matter of fact, when the author gets back home after work; she usually tells her son to help her talk to people if she needs to have a conversation with them about administrative jobs. 

Does that mean she is being antisocial? That isn’t the case. However, she understands her limits. 

As a matter of fact, rewarding discussions needs effort; therefore, if you are not fit for it mentally, at times it is the best option not to engage in that conversation instead of having such conversations when are not ready for it. 

The main point here is: having great discussions is a difficult thing – however, everyone gains from getting them right.

Every discussion is not the same. A study that was conducted in the year 2010 among students in Arizona asked them to state how happy they were, and their replies were mapped against the kinds of discussions they were getting involved in. According to the study, it was revealed that the happiest student among them had the tendency of being more sociable – and this finding is not really unexpected. However, the study also found out that, the overall happiest student were not the ones that talked more, Instead, it was the students that had the most meaningful discussions.

As we can see, it is beneficial to be social. However, it is much better to be actively involved. Meaning, small talk isn’t really it when it comes to discussions. It is quality that matters and not quantity. 

However, what is the reason why conversation is beneficial for you? In a simpler term: empathy. Based on research, empathy has reduced among young individuals which is an actual worry. Empathy lets us know what the other person is going through, and develop genuine bonds. 

Being empathetic and concentrating on other individuals apart from yourself is beneficial to you in a lot of ways. For instance, it is possible that volunteering and charity work will make you healthier and even happier. A study even claimed that recommended that individuals who volunteer frequently have a tendency of living a long life.

Also, as a matter of fact, there are advantages that empathy has for the other party you are having a conversation with; this is because having a great discussion is beyond only yourself. Getting to know other people, their thoughts, their feelings, and the reason they are who they are – is a tasking job; however, extremely beneficial for both of you.

It is only a conversation away from you.

We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter Celeste Headlee Book Review

One of the factors that make us human beings is communicating with one another; however, we don’t usually lay as much emphasis on great discussions as we ought to –  particularly since the growth of technology. In order for us to have a great discussion, we have to put in our maximum attention, put in our open minds, and also devote ourselves to being great listeners. Practice how to be an expert in it and you will get happier and even more compassionate.

Have a significant discussion. 

Although it might seem simple; however, there is much more aspect to holding great discussions than we know. When next you have the opportunity, take the craft of the discussion very seriously. Actively partake in what the other party is trying to say to use, offer support responses instead of shift responses, also, consider how their circumstances are dissimilar from what you are experiencing. You will be surprised to know what you can find out.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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