Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Ten Ways to Have Better Conversations

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Ten Ways to Have Better Conversations

Crucial Learning,

5 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Communication expert Celeste Headlee can’t say it enough: Text less, talk more for a happier, longer life.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


As humans, increasingly, outsource their conversations to technology, communication expert Celeste Headlee argues convincingly for more in-person face time. She describes the deleterious effects of electronic messaging on human empathy. With humor, she explains how to improve the quality of both interpersonal and professional communications. Hint: Replace email with face-to-face interactions.


Most people overestimate their own conversational skills.

A cognitive bias called the Dunning-Kruger effect explains how people who lack competence in a skill overrate their own abilities and underrate others’. This flawed perspective holds true for communication; happily, with work, you can become the effective communicator you may already believe you are.

Engage in small talk to remain healthy and happy.

Though most people avoid it, small talk yields physical and emotional benefits. Chit-chatters exhibit better cardiovascular health and lower rates of depression and diabetes than those who shun casual conversation. According to a 2014 Harvard study, sex, heroin and self-disclosure – that is, talking about oneself – all activate the brain’s pleasure center. Self-disclosure is so pleasurable that many of the study’s participants opted for less pay in exchange for an opportunity to talk about themselves while in an MRI machine. 

The rise of email and text messaging have led to a decline in human empathy.

More of the world’s population has access to a cell phone than to a working...

About the Speaker

Radio journalist and broadcaster Celeste Headlee is a co-host of the weekly series Retro Report on PBS. Her TED Talk, “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation,” has received more than 25 million views.

Comment on this summary