The Right Way To Have Difficult Conversations

The first step, according to Celeste Headlee:

“. . . be curious and have a genuine willingness to learn something from someone else—even someone with whom you vehemently disagree. I’m a mixed-race woman, just a few generations removed from slavery, but I’ve had valuable conversations with segregationists and members of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.”

Headlee adds:

“Another crucial skill in difficult conversations is to resist the impulse to constantly decide whether you agree with what someone else is saying. The purpose of listening is to understand, not to determine whether someone else is right or wrong, an ally or an opponent.

Often, we decide very quickly whether we will agree with someone. We listen for certain words that might be clues to their politics or faith and use them to categorize people, trying to figure out who thinks like we do and who thinks differently. But these snap judgments usually aren’t very accurate, and they close us off from getting a more complete picture.

Psychologists call this tendency to lump people into groups the ‘halo and horns effect.’ When we approve of some salient quality of another person, we are more likely to judge them positively in other respects. The opposite is true as well.”

Headlee’s book, “We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter” is out today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s