Translator: Joseph GeniReviewer: Ivana Korom All right, I want to see a show of hands: how many of you haveunfriended someone on Facebook because they said something offensiveabout politics or religion, childcare, food? (Laughter) And how many of youknow at least one person that you avoid because you just don't wantto talk to them? (Laughter) You know, it used to be that in orderto have a polite conversation, we just had to follow the adviceof Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady”: Stick to the weather and your health.
But these days, with climate changeand anti-vaxxing, those subjects — (Laughter) are not safe either.
So this world that we live in, this world in which every conversation has the potentialto devolve into an argument, where our politicianscan't speak to one another and where even the most trivial of issues have someone fighting both passionatelyfor it and against it, it's not normal.
Pew Research did a studyof 10, 000 American adults, and they found that at this moment, we are more polarized, we are more divided, than we ever have been in history.
We're less likely to compromise, which means we'renot listening to each other.
And we make decisions about where to live, who to marry and evenwho our friends are going to be, based on what we already believe.
Again, that meanswe're not listening to each other.
A conversation requires a balancebetween talking and listening, and somewhere along the way, we lost that balance.
Now, part of that is due to technology.
The smartphones that you alleither have in your hands or close enough that you couldgrab them really quickly.
According to Pew Research, about a third of American teenagerssend more than a hundred texts a day.
And many of them, almost most of them, are more likely to text their friends than they are to talkto them face to face.
There's this great piece in The Atlantic.
It was written by a high school teachernamed Paul Barnwell.
And he gave his kidsa communication project.
He wanted to teach them how to speakon a specific subject without using notes.
And he said this: “I came to realize.
” (Laughter) “I came to realizethat conversational competence might be the singlemost overlooked skill we fail to teach.
Kids spend hours each day engagingwith ideas and each other through screens, but rarely do they have an opportunity to hone their interpersonalcommunications skills.
It might sound like a funny question, but we have to ask ourselves: Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustaincoherent, confident conversation?” Now, I make my living talking to people: Nobel Prize winners, truck drivers, billionaires, kindergarten teachers, heads of state, plumbers.
I talk to people that I like.
I talk to people that I don't like.
I talk to some people that I disagree withdeeply on a personal level.
But I still havea great conversation with them.
So I'd like to spend the next 10 minutesor so teaching you how to talk and how to listen.
Many of you have already hearda lot of advice on this, things like look the person in the eye, think of interesting topicsto discuss in advance, look, nod and smile to showthat you're paying attention, repeat back what you just heardor summarize it.
So I want you to forget all of that.
It is crap.
(Laughter) There is no reason to learnhow to show you're paying attention if you are in fact paying attention.
(Laughter) (Applause) Now, I actually use the exactsame skills as a professional interviewer that I do in regular life.
So, I'm going to teach youhow to interview people, and that's actually going to help youlearn how to be better conversationalists.
Learn to have a conversation without wasting your time, without getting bored, and, please God, without offending anybody.
We've all had really great conversations.
We've had them before.
We know what it's like.
The kind of conversation where youwalk away feeling engaged and inspired, or where you feellike you've made a real connection or you've been perfectly understood.
There is no reason why most of your interactionscan't be like that.
So I have 10 basic rules.
I'm going to walk you through all of them, but honestly, if you just chooseone of them and master it, you'll already enjoy better conversations.
Number one: Don't multitask.
And I don't meanjust set down your cell phone or your tablet or your car keysor whatever is in your hand.
I mean, be present.
Be in that moment.
Don't think about your argumentyou had with your boss.
Don't think about whatyou're going to have for dinner.
If you want to get outof the conversation, get out of the conversation, but don't be half in itand half out of it.
Number two: Don't pontificate.
If you want to state your opinion without any opportunity for responseor argument or pushback or growth, write a blog.
(Laughter) Now, there's a really good reasonwhy I don't allow pundits on my show: Because they're really boring.
If they're conservative, they're going tohate Obama and food stamps and abortion.
If they're liberal, they're going to hate big banks and oil corporationsand Dick Cheney.
And you don't want to be like that.
You need to enter every conversationassuming that you have something to learn.
The famed therapist M.
Scott Peck said that true listening requiresa setting aside of oneself.
And sometimes that meanssetting aside your personal opinion.
He said that sensing this acceptance, the speaker will becomeless and less vulnerable and more and more likelyto open up the inner recesses of his or her mind to the listener.
Again, assume that you havesomething to learn.
Bill Nye: “Everyone you will ever meetknows something that you don't.
” I put it this way: Everybody is an expert in something.
Number three: Use open-ended questions.
In this case, take a cue from journalists.
Start your questions with who, what, when, where, why or how.
If you put in a complicated question, you're going to get a simple answer out.
If I ask you, “Were you terrified?” you're going to respond to the mostpowerful word in that sentence, which is “terrified, ” and the answer is”Yes, I was” or “No, I wasn't.
” “Were you angry?” “Yes, I was very angry.
” Let them describe it.
They're the ones that know.
Try asking them things like, “What was that like?” “How did that feel?” Because then they might have to stopfor a moment and think about it, and you're going to geta much more interesting response.
Number four: Go with the flow.
That means thoughtswill come into your mind and you need to let themgo out of your mind.
We've heard interviews often in which a guest is talkingfor several minutes and then the host comes back inand asks a question which seems like it comes out of nowhere, or it's already been answered.
That means the host probablystopped listening two minutes ago because he thoughtof this really clever question, and he was just boundand determined to say that.
And we do the exact same thing.
We're sitting there havinga conversation with someone, and then we remember that timethat we met Hugh Jackman in a coffee shop.
(Laughter) And we stop listening.
We're just waiting for a momentto interject our story about Hugh Jackman and coffee.
Stories and ideasare going to come to you.
You need to let them come and let them go.
Number five: If you don't know, say that you don't know.
Now, people on the radio, especially on NPR, are much more awarethat they're going on the record, and so they're more carefulabout what they claim to be an expert in and what they claim to know for sure.
Err on the side of caution.
Talk should not be cheap.
Number six: Don't equateyour experience with theirs.
If they're talkingabout having lost a family member, don't start talking about the timeyou lost a family member.
If they're talking about the troublethey're having at work, don't tell them abouthow much you hate your job.
It's not the same.
It is never the same.
All experiences are individual.
And, more importantly, it is not about you.
You don't need to take that momentto prove how amazing you are or how much you've suffered.
Somebody asked Stephen Hawking oncewhat his IQ was, and he said, “I have no idea.
People who bragabout their IQs are losers.
” (Laughter) Conversations are nota promotional opportunity.
[Conversation in the 21st century] [How are you today?Read my blog!] Number seven: Try not to repeat yourself.
It's condescending, and it's really boring, and we tend to do it a lot.
Especially in work conversationsor in conversations with our kids, we have a point to make, so we just keep rephrasing itover and over.
Don't do that.
Number eight: Stay out of the weeds.
Frankly, people don't care about the years, the names, the dates, all those details that you're strugglingto come up with in your mind.
They don't care.
What they care about is you.
They care about what you're like, what you have in common.
So forget the details.
Leave them out.
Number nine: This is not the last one, but it is the most important one.
I cannot tell you how manyreally important people have said that listening is perhaps the most, the number one most important skill that you could develop.
Buddha said, and I'm paraphrasing, “If your mouth is open, you're not learning.
” And Calvin Coolidge said, “No manever listened his way out of a job.
” (Laughter) Why do we not listen to each other? Number one, we'd rather talk.
When I'm talking, I'm in control.
I don't have to hear anythingI'm not interested in.
I'm the center of attention.
I can bolster my own identity.
But there's another reason: We get distracted.
The average person talksat about 225 word per minute, but we can listen at up to500 words per minute.
So our minds are filling inthose other 275 words.
And look, I know, it takes effort and energy to actually pay attention to someone, but if you can't do that, you're not in a conversation.
You're just two people shouting outbarely related sentences in the same place.
(Laughter) You have to listen to one another.
Stephen Covey said it very beautifully.
He said, “Most of us don't listenwith the intent to understand.
We listen with the intent to reply.
” One more rule, number 10, and it's this one: Be brief.
[A good conversation is like a miniskirt;short enough to retain interest, but long enough to coverthe subject.
— My Sister] (Laughter) (Applause) All of this boils down to the samebasic concept, and it is this one: Be interested in other people.
You know, I grew upwith a very famous grandfather, and there was kind of a ritual in my home.
People would come overto talk to my grandparents, and after they would leave, my mother would come over to us, and she'd say, “Do you know who that was? She was the runner-up to Miss America.
He was the mayor of Sacramento.
She won a Pulitzer Prize.
He's a Russian ballet dancer.
” And I kind of grew up assuming everyone has some hidden, amazing thing about them.
And honestly, I thinkit's what makes me a better host.
I keep my mouth shutas often as I possibly can, I keep my mind open, and I'm always prepared to be amazed, and I'm never disappointed.
You do the same thing.
Go out, talk to people, listen to people, and, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.