How great interviews lead to great conversations

She is the author of 2 great books, a frequently-cited TED-talk, and also radio show host, journalist and interviewer. My guest in episode 8 of Clarity in Conversations is Celeste Headlee. Celeste learned in the early stages of interviewing world leaders, plumbers, politicians and housewives that all things she learned in school did not prepare her for making great interviews.

So she started finding out herself. And noticed that the conventional lessons – look at the other person, maintain eye contact, nod, summarize – did not guarantee a good conversation. Other factors however did. This research – and her own observations about interviews that went well and less well – resulted in her 2015 TED-talk “10 ways to have a better conversation”.

In this episode of Clarity in Conversations, I speak with Celeste first of all about the research that led to the TED-talk and to her first book We Need To Talk – How to have conversations that matter. She argues along the way that the smarter people are, the less good they are at listening to others. A point worthwhile to explore. Further, we speak about curiosity as a necessary ingredient to make guests interesting for listeners to her radioshows and for herself. We speak about a term that not many people will know: conversational narcissism: the tendency to bring every conversation back to yourself. And we explore what led Celeste to write a new book, Do Nothing: how to break away from overworking, overdoing and underliving.

I reflect on the interview with Els de Maeijer, researcher Communication and Innovation at Fontys University of Applied Science in The Netherlands. Els reflects on the effect of modern technology on our attention span, which led Celeste to write her new book. Els compares our constant attention for incoming messages through e-mail and social media with the way we addictively pull the arm of the slot machines in Las Vegas: we’re hungry for more, and forget to reflect, slow down and… have a good conversation.

Like every week, the podcast ends with 3 practical tips to enhance the Clarity of your Conversations, in the office and at home.

For more information about Celeste Headlee, find her TED-talk, visit her personal website or find her books “We need to talk” and “Do Nothing” at your local bookstore.

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