Tuesday, October 30, 2018

We Need To Talk - A Book Review

In recent years, I haven't spent as much time reading as I used to, or as I would really like to. Life is so busy, schedules full and screen time and scrolling have intruded. I intentionally shut the last one down on a somewhat regular basis but it creeps back in. When I visit a library or a book store though, my desire and compulsion to read the printed page kicks back in and I usually find a title, or two, or five, that end up in a stack near my desk or at least on a 'to read' list that I keep.

At the top of a recently gathered stack was; We Need to Talk How to Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee. Celeste Headlee is a radio host with NPR. She has conversed with many guests on her broadcasts. In her book, she addresses what many have noticed in our culture today, the increasing difficulty of having meaningful conversations. Important discussions have decreased, even amidst our increasing connectivity to one another through technology. She writes about this dichotomy with a fluid flow of words that makes for a quick, entertaining and encouraging read.

She presents some of the problems, mentions research, identifies strategies and provides inspiration for why paying attention to and improving our conversation skills is so important in all areas of our lives.

She discusses five key strategies for facilitating dialogue:
  • be curious
  • check your bias
  • show respect
  • stay the course
  • end well
She provides an overall memorable take away in the lovely example of playing a game of catch. Having played catch more that a few times with my sons, I find the simple metaphor delightful. Back and forth with an easy rhythm is the most enjoyable way to play the game. So it is is with conversation, as well. In our media saturated lives the art of conversation is losing ground. Maybe it's time to make a commitment to picking up a mitt and playing catch in a dialog. We could all use the practice.

The book challenges every reader to work at improving conversational skills. Celeste suggests asking questions as one great way to practice conversation and increase listening attention. To continue the game of catch metaphor, asking a question is like putting on a glove and tossing the ball to your partner. I plan to ask more questions while trying to keep in mind, one of the fascinating tidbits of information shared from the research; pleasure centers in our brains are stimulated by talking about ourselves, (it's like an addiction!). I'm going to try to remember that the next time someone (myself included) hogs the ball!

Read the book. Ask a question. Play ball!

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