We Need to TalkPosted: October 30, 2020
We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter
Harper Wave (September 19, 2017), 258 pages
Kindle edition $11.99, Amazon paperback $12.99
If you have not watched Celeste Headlee’s TED Talk “Ten Ways to Have a Better Conversation” skip this blog post and go watch it now. It will be time well spent. It has had over twenty-two million views so far. Really.
This book covers much of the same territory as her TED talk, but in an expanded form. Celeste clearly explains how to have an open conversation with anyone, no matter what their beliefs, without letting your own biases interfere. That is something I find it nearly impossible to do with those who support that blustering individual with the orange hair who currently lives in the White House. But Headlee says we can do it. She has an interesting perspective on this:
There’s no evidence that people who are aware of their own biases are better able to overcome them than those who are unaware of their biases. And no matter how much thought you give to the issue, you’re probably not aware of all the prejudices that influence your thinking. They’re called unconscious biases for a reason, after all.
She goes on to say:
The goal of an honest, respectful dialogue is to open our minds,
not to change them.
Wow. Straightforward. Simple. And so difficult.
Celeste is of a mixed-race background, and she directly addresses those issues. Her grandfather was African-American composer William Grant Still and his wife was the pianist Verna Arvey, who was white. Celeste describes the challenges they faced in that marriage. She writes about when they had to drive nonstop from the west coast to the east coast because in those years neither white nor African-American motels would rent them a room.
Headlee is an experienced, skilled interviewer on NPR, yet she honestly describes her own errors and mistakes in interviewing people.
This is a great book on how to have a conversation, but really, if you haven’t seen her TED talk go watch it before reading the book.