How to Have a Good Conversation | Celeste Headlee | TEDxCreativeCoast

  • Published on May 7, 2015
  • When your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have great conversations - and most of us don’t converse very well. A great conversation requires a balance between talking and listening. This balance is important because bad communication leads to bad relationships, at home, at work, everywhere.
    Celeste Headlee has worked in public radio since 1999, as a reporter, host, and correspondent. She was the Midwest Correspondent for NPR before becoming the co-host of the PRI show The Takeaway. She also guest hosted a number of NPR shows including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, Weekend All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

    Celeste holds multiple degrees in music and still performs as a professional opera singer. She's the granddaughter of composer William Grant Still, the Dean of African American Composers. Celeste is an avid hiker, biker, paddler and dog walker.
    This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Comments • 2 046

  • lola brini
    lola brini Day ago

    who else was thinking about something else when she said #1 don't think about other stuff and be present

  • Onfroi
    Onfroi 4 days ago

    I am not an expert in anything..

  • David Renwick
    David Renwick 6 days ago

    The best conversationalists are listeners. I'm tired of North Americans telling us how to think and behave. Their societies are exclusive Dystopias.

  • Jahkelo Joseph
    Jahkelo Joseph 7 days ago

    Still pretty vague to me

  • kather
    kather 8 days ago +1

    wow. i do all of these things ONLY when i talk to my crushes. XD

    • Onfroi
      Onfroi 4 days ago

      crushes? smh thot

  • Awaken The Greatness Within

    I don’t care 🤔🤣😎 talk less do more

  • obsidiansea
    obsidiansea 10 days ago +11

    I get sick of providing a "listening service" to people who just want to hear themselves talk. Everyone should take turns during a conversation.

  • Dr. Ebubekir Orsun
    Dr. Ebubekir Orsun 10 days ago

    The title of the video should be " A good conversation is like a mini skirt; short enough to maintain interest, but long enough to cover the subject."

  • FaTa
    FaTa 11 days ago +1

    please sb tell me why they laugh when she says " I came to realize"?!.... please... I really am curious about that!!!!

    • obsidiansea
      obsidiansea 10 days ago +1

      Because she just said something about teaching kids not to read off of notes and then she pulled out her notes - but she did it because it was an exact quote. Still funny, though.

  • Bruce Thomson
    Bruce Thomson 13 days ago

    I'm amazed alright, I'm amazed at the amount of schitt ppl talk

  • Delima Daniels
    Delima Daniels 13 days ago

    Ok boomer

  • Chidiebere Nwaoha
    Chidiebere Nwaoha 14 days ago

    Thank you

    STRVNDXD 18 days ago +4

    yeah I'm still gonna say "you too", when the waiter tells me to enjoy my meal

    • David Renwick
      David Renwick 6 days ago

      "Why would I not enjoy my meal?"
      or "How I feel about my meal is none of your business" or
      "Don't dictate to me how I should feel about my meal" or
      "exact same thing" is an automatic dullard-alert.

    • Davis Johnson
      Davis Johnson 6 days ago


  • Billy Paulo-Desmarais
    Billy Paulo-Desmarais 19 days ago +1

    3:24 Bottom-left of the screen - Damn that laugh was fake!!

  • Ozren Kubat
    Ozren Kubat 21 day ago

    Donald Trump should have given this talk. He's just had a PERFECT conversation! Geez..

  • Weng Seng Tam
    Weng Seng Tam 21 day ago

    I disagree with Celeste. Sometimes I want to share my experiences and solicit a response where the other party shares their experiences. There are times when I enjoy hearing about people having similar problems to me. Just because our experiences and responses are not exactly identical, does not mean that they cannot be similar. We are quite capable of empathising with each other even if our experiences are not exactly identical.

    The truth is that there is a time for everything. There are few absolutes in the field of social sciences. Sometimes talking about yourself and sharing your own experiences is vital to a great conversation or it could turn into a monologue / interview.

  • none of ur business
    none of ur business 22 days ago

    i tell people the same quote from hawkins lol

  • Stephen Mann
    Stephen Mann 23 days ago

    If conversation is another art form, why don't we learn to appreciate and look for the moments we get to speak face to face and learn and teach at the same time.

  • Xafsa Saed
    Xafsa Saed 24 days ago


  • ray marchetta
    ray marchetta 24 days ago +4

    I mentally time the other person. if a minute and a half goes by and the other person doesn't shut up, they're not trying to have a conversation.

  • ray marchetta
    ray marchetta 24 days ago

    problems in conversations: My mouth needs to finish my sentence before your mind trys to finish my sentence for me. And, your mouth is going faster than your mind.

  • Donald Schofield
    Donald Schofield 25 days ago

    This is absurd (really? Quoting the liar Bill Nye?). Look at the college kids. The conservative ones are looking to discuss the problems....the left only want to put on masks and do violent acts and yell at people. They have no interest, or ability, to discuss anything.

  • clownface
    clownface 26 days ago

    well i’m 15 and the only ppl i text are my parents. ya i basically have no friends.

  • Chuck You
    Chuck You 26 days ago

    The problem is, most people are talking while never engaging their brains, like a broken pencil, it’s pointless to listen to them.

  • Nicholas Seager
    Nicholas Seager 27 days ago +9

    These principles should be taught to everyone. A lot of people have lost the art of conversation due to social media, technology, etc.

  • Franco_Acha
    Franco_Acha 27 days ago

    But what do I do when, after the other person is done talking, I have nothing interesting to add? What if I don't have a topic to talk about, or anything interesting to share at all? I can't expect the other person to hold the conversation by themselves

  • Suzanne Bodette
    Suzanne Bodette 28 days ago

    Holy s**t! I equate my experience with theirs all the time. YIKES I do however ask them how they dealt with it. Does that count?

  • TheUrbanHippy
    TheUrbanHippy 28 days ago

    Totally true! As a Lyft driver, i am constantly surprised, inspired, amazed, and in awe by my amazing passengers... 1,407 and counting. People are awesome!

  • Blue Jay
    Blue Jay 29 days ago

    the politicians know Neurolinguistic programming. “nobody“ was reinforced at least twice during the presidential debates.

  • Myron Venero
    Myron Venero 29 days ago

    This vid aged interestingly

  • jenniferbryn
    jenniferbryn Month ago

    you may not mean this, but your message seems to be a catch 22, that ends in disconnection. dig deeper you're on your way

  • jenniferbryn
    jenniferbryn Month ago

    waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy off. but I'm proud to see such a beautiful, smart, independent talk! I love the feeling of positive passion

  • Theodore Sweger
    Theodore Sweger Month ago

    Just to say thanks for a common sense approach that was beautiful. One of the best traits a person can have is the ability to truly listen to another. .

  • Pritesh Govindji
    Pritesh Govindji Month ago

    A great presentation and incredibly informative, but 2:10 had me in stitches!! :D Hahhaha

  • MattBrodure
    MattBrodure Month ago +42

    her closing statement should have been "thanks for listening"

  • Dollsmartfix
    Dollsmartfix Month ago

    Forget the how to have a conversation part...

    the question is how to *start* a conversation

    • Mesingel Empericae
      Mesingel Empericae Month ago

      I believe it's important to realize that no one is always in the right mindset to start a conversation. That (in addition to teaching your brain "how does this person's mouth form words?") is why we have control phrases like "Hello, how are you today?": the banal questions you don't expect any in-depth answer from, which will allow you to read/feel their body language while they give you the standard "Oh, I'm doing quite well, thank you! And yourself?", versus "I'm okay". The next step could be (since you started the conversation?) to offer a topic, or an idea, to then discuss. Don't go 0 to 100 by asking "What do you think of today's sociopolitical climate?", because that's too deep too fast. I find a nice middle ground to be TV shows, music, movies and stand-up comedy. Hope this helps! (And if it didn't... well, thanks anyway for reading ;) )

  • Tr0wB3d3r Tr0wB3d3r


  • Alex Umekite
    Alex Umekite Month ago

    Nice ending statement.

  • Chris Blue
    Chris Blue Month ago

    Great talk, but that clicking noise was very annoying, are her false teeth loose or something???

  • Geetika Sharma
    Geetika Sharma Month ago


  • JoseLuis Ramirez
    JoseLuis Ramirez Month ago

    Her rules start at minute 4:31. You're welcome

  • mia whitewood
    mia whitewood Month ago

    'be prepared to be amazed' great talk!

  • ningpo69
    ningpo69 Month ago

    thank you !

  • Pablo Martinez
    Pablo Martinez Month ago

    Two people who watched this video and now follow these "instructions" are bound to be silent, static waiting for the other person to start taking.

  • Max Zorin
    Max Zorin Month ago

    "A good conversation" is subjective and is always context sensitive. If any of my friends actually engaged me while following those rickdicklous PC rules I would tell them to push off, go get a few drinks and try again. You can't have a real conversation without risking offending someone, but it does not you mean should. Personally, I'm fully capable of using my own brain to selectively choose how to engage different individuals within different contexts. This is more social psycho BS.

  • angela g maldonado
    angela g maldonado Month ago

    this was a wonderful ted talk thank you !

  • Lean McQueen94
    Lean McQueen94 Month ago +5

    This might be my favorite Tedtalk

  • Me and My Shadow
    Me and My Shadow Month ago

    Wow! She is a beautiful healthy woman inside and out!

  • Jessica Thejazz
    Jessica Thejazz Month ago

    I agree with everything she says. However, again just yesterday I had a conversation with a friend I have not seen in over a year. It was lovely conversing with him, and he was interesting and lively and excited about what he had to say. I did all the right actions as described in this video. But guess what, not once did this person move the conversation from himself to ask how I was, or what was going on in my life. I could have just started talking about myself just on my own but it was just so obvious that that was the last thing on his mind cause once he was done talking about himself he ended the conversation. So all us people who are taking this advice, we are the ones who want good conversations. Having one way conversations with people, especially when they are supposed to actually care somewhat about you, is extremely disappointing and illustrates so blatantly how some people are just plain self centered and selfish. So sad.

  • TnTxGoodin
    TnTxGoodin Month ago

    100 texts a day??? I don't even send 2 wtf?

  • Noa Milin
    Noa Milin Month ago

    Kog je poslo Predrag Pale like subskrajb

  • sesalii keyho
    sesalii keyho Month ago


  • Baba Froga
    Baba Froga Month ago

    I disliked this video 'cause I had to watch it for my homework test, on a university^^

    • A J
      A J Month ago


  • alex rodriguez
    alex rodriguez Month ago +1

    I watched this because I'm socially awkward... It helped.

  • Jason Landers
    Jason Landers Month ago

    Being about conversation, this seems to be one sided...conversation is talking and listening. An interview is not really a conversation. It's a contrived scripted situation. A conversation is about both people or all people in the discussion. So what happens if all parties are just listening, then no one is speaking. A conversation isn't a public speaker situation, right. Exchange seems to be the only "rule" that applies to conversation. There seems to be some good info and advice here for becoming a better listener, but I think framing it as rules for conversation is sort of a logical fallacy. Maybe better to call the talk guidelines or advice for becoming an effective listener. Steadfast rules and regulations create restriction and negative stimuli for engaging in conversation with others. In my opinion...ha ha. Some things cannot be brief. Also empathy and connection, finding common ground and similarities and notating or expressing them, is key to feeling comfortable and validated for both or all people in a discussion. Why would you not express similar situations or your reactions to a similar situation. Of course all situations, feelings and reactions are individual, but sharing experiences of equating such is how we fully realize that, and how we trust, respect, or feel for other people. For myself, a perfect example is the best counselor/life coach, ie. therapist, I had and trusted was the only one who actually showed her own weakness and life difficulties in relating to my difficult experiences and feelings. This was key for me in knowing she was trust worthy, respectable, and a person that could help because she had been there...not just repeating psycho babble from a book.

  • supernintendochalmers1234

    I definitely feel like I already do a lot of these things. Always very interested to hear other peoples perspectives. I have a few friends all around the world I met through instagram, super cool! Its always great to hear their opinions on world issues and to hear about the places they live. My best instagram friend is from Rio De Janeiro!!!

  • Keir Scott-Schrueder

    Please me the way

  • Some Individual
    Some Individual Month ago

    I know the speaker personally. She really is very intelligent on the subject, with a lot of research in the topic. I try to take everything in this to heart and even all this time later I recommend anyone else do the same.

  • bill Bloggs
    bill Bloggs Month ago

    when i have a conversation only i speak if they interrupt i shut them down as they have nothing important for me to hear

  • Haris M
    Haris M Month ago

    This is good advice and well worth a listen. But there are times you just can't help tuning out of a conversation - either because you know exactly what's coming or the speaker is just so boring...but to be polite you have to stay engaged. Also - it's natural that during a conversation things pop into your head...the phone call you forgot to return...or the problem you just solved.
    In principle this is good advice and definitely to be followed. But it won't cover every scenario....