Title: We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter
Author: Celeste Headlee
Genre/Audience: Nonfiction, self-help, adult
Publication: Harper, 2017
Source: For review, TLC Book Tours
We Need to Talk is all about our lack of meaningful and real conversations in our technologically advanced society. Now more than ever, we hide behind our screens and communicate via text and email which we think precludes the need for face to face conversation. I am guilty as charged. I HATE talking on the phone and prefer to do most of my communications via digital conversation. As someone who has grown up shy, introverted, and sometimes socially awkward, texting has become a godsend for me. While I communicate clearly and coherently in writing, face to face interactions are much different for me. Unless I’m comfortable with someone, I tend to fumble and stumble over my words, making me feel like an idiot. When I heard about this book, I jumped at the chance to read it knowing my own struggles with conversing.
Not only does Celeste talk about why conversation is important, as well as differentiate between communication and conversation, she also offers practical tips and advice about how to better engage in conversation and respect those you’re conversing with. One thing that struck me the most is that we rarely listen more than superficially. We wait for the other person to stop talking so that we can say what we want to say, without having considered what it is they’ve just said to us. I do this ALL the time! I have a preplanned response in my head, regardless of what else has been said. As Celeste says, “I started to take note of how often I listened closely before I responded. I realized I hadn’t really been listening to him, and that meant that we didn’t really have a conversation. I had just been asking unconnected questions, crafted in advance, unchanged by his answers.” Ding, ding, ding! It was like a lightbulb going off in my head because I do constantly… and I’m willing to bet that most of you do the same. Do you REALLY listen and take in what others are saying or are you instead planning out what you’ll say next once they stop talking?
She also talks about how our failed conversations stay with us for far too long. This happens to me constantly too! I am always going back and replaying things I said wrong or things that may have made me sound dumb, mean, etc. Instead of focusing on the million good things we say and do, “it’s the failures that stay with me. Isn’t that how it is for most of? Don’t we gnaw away at failed conversations like a dog with a bone, going over what was said and what we could have done differently?” Right again! This line had me nodding my head in agreement.
Next, Celeste offers a section full of different advice you can use to improve your conversational skills such as being present, keeping it short, and more. She expands on each idea by devoting individual chapters to each suggestion, along with real life examples and research she has conducted.
All in all, this was a slim book and a fast read with useful advice that got me thinking about ways I can actually implement these strategies. I am not the best conversationalist at all and would consider it a downfall of mine. I hope I can take some of these ideas and truly utilize them. One piece of research that stood out to me involved the distraction of our smart phones. I am a self-proclaimed phone addict and it’s a shame. One thing I learned is that you can’t simply put your phone down, but you actually need to relocate it to another room. The mere fact of a phone being present distracts people and detracts from their conversations. Yikes!
This book could be a bit dry at times with all the research, and was certainly not the most thrilling nonfiction I’ve ever read, but it draws upon factual evidence as well as personal experience. Regardless, I think it’s a quick enough read that it’s worth checking out if you’re interested in learning how conversation is declining in our culture and what you can do to improve your own skills. I’d recommend it.