How to Have Better Conversations

In this very engaging TEDx video, Celeste Headlee – journalist, author and public speaker – shares her 10 Tips for Better Conversations.

Watch the video now, but if English is not your first language, please scroll down for our vocabulary expansion list before you view the video.

Conversational fluency is important, right? We all know that. And we know it is even harder to converse well in our second language. But the beauty of these tips is that these “rules” transcend language; these tips will work for you regardless of the language you are speaking. But if English is not your first language, our vocabulary notes may help you better understand the tips.

What are Celeste’s Ten Tips for Better Conversations? How can she help you talk and listen…. better? I know it sounds simple, but (surprise!) you may not be doing it very well. Please see her tips below with our English vocabulary expansion notes.

  1. Don’t multitask: (=don’t do several things at the same time) Example: don’t talk, apply makeup and check your phone at the same time. When you are speaking with someone, show them some respect and give them your undivided attention.
  2. Don’t pontificate: (=don’t lecture). Don’t try to browbeat (=bully with an arrogant, “I am an expert” manner) someone into your POV (point of view). You are not a professor speaking to a class. And please don’t share excessive facts and details. That gets boring.
  3. Use open-ended questions: Avoid questions that can be answered with yes or no.
  4. Go with the flow: Be flexible and allow the conversation to develop organically.
  5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know. Be authentic. Never try to BS your way around a subject you do not know. Honesty is refreshing!
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs: Do not – the first time the other person pauses for breath – tell them how the exact same thing happened to you! While sharing common experiences certainly has its place, wait until the right moment to say, “me too.”
  7. Try not to repeat yourself. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t say the same thing.  Again and again. Don’t do it. See how annoying that is?
  8. Stay out of the weeds: Avoid needless detail. It gets boring and can dilute your point.
  9. Listen: Listening is the golden rule of conversation, and listening well is an art. Check out any of Julian Treasure’s books or videos to learn about becoming a better listener.
  10. Be brief: Conversation is like tennis. You can’t just hang onto the ball; you have to hit the ball back to the other guy. 😉 With the possible exception of great storytellers, if you speak too long, you will lose the listener’s attention.

You might also enjoy our post The Fine Art of English Conversation with 14 MORE conversation tips. Are you looking for an online conversation course to improve your conversational business English fluency?

Call The English Center +31 20 823 0569


Brenda de Jong Pauley, 2022


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