“Go out, talk to people, listen to people…” Celeste Headlee says. “And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.”

Most of us don’t converse very well. Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening.

“Buddha said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘If your mouth is open, you’re not learning.’ And Calvin Coolidge said, ‘No man ever listened his way out of a job.’”

“I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach. Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and each other through screens, but rarely do they have an opportunity to hone their interpersonal communications 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 sustain coherent, confident conversation?”

“Many of you have already heard a lot of advice on this, things like look the person in the eye, think of interesting topics to discuss in advance, look, nod and smile to show that you’re paying attention, repeat back what you just heard or summarize it.

So I want you to forget all of that. IT IS CRAP. There is no reason to learn how to show you’re paying attention if you are in fact paying attention.”

“Number one: Don’t multitask. And I don’t mean just set down your cell phone or your tablet or your car keys or whatever is in your hand.

I mean, be present. Be in that moment. Don’t think about your argument you had with your boss. Don’t think about what you’re going to have for dinner. If you want to get out of the conversation, get out of the conversation, but don’t be half in it and half out of it.”

“If I ask you, ‘Were you terrified?’ you’re going to respond to the most powerful 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 stop for a moment and think about it, and you’re going to get a much more interesting response.”

Why listen

Celeste Headlee hosts a daily news/talk show, On Second Thought, on Georgia Public Broadcasting.

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.” After that, she guest hosted a number of NPR shows including “Tell Me More,” “Talk of the Nation,” “Weekend All Things Considered” and “Weekend Edition”. Headlee also anchored election coverage for PBS World in 2012 and was a regular guest on CNN.

Headlee holds multiple degrees in music and still performs as a professional opera singer. She appears on the album “Classically Blue” from gospel artist Lea Gilmore. She’s the granddaughter of composer William Grant Still.

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