cover image We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter

We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter

Celeste Headlee. Harper Wave, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-266900-1

Based on a popular TED talk, this unassuming but powerful debut offers 10 strategies for improving conversational skills. Headlee recounts her own missteps as a public-radio host as her launching point for an urgent plea: “It only takes one good conversation to change your understanding of someone else’s world, your world, and the world at large.” Never losing sight of this imperative, the book demonstrates the need for better communication in the workplace, in civic spaces, and at home. Headlee is careful to avoid lecturing (at times too much so—her unassuming approach can sometimes come across as a lack of confidence in her own expertise). Her point is to challenge readers, especially the best educated, to recognize their own shortcomings. A common theme in books on communication skills is the importance of listening and empathy—and this work is no different—but Headlee supplements her injunction to listen with directions on avoiding such tendencies as “woolgathering” (“indulging in random thoughts or daydreaming”) while in conversation, or “shift responses” (the often unconscious “desire to take over a conversation”). Tidbits from sociological studies and anecdotes from history, including from civil rights activist Xernona Clayton’s groundbreaking conversations with KKK leader Calvin Craig, round out a book that takes its own advice and has much to communicate. [em]Agent: Heather Jackson, David Black Agency. (Sept.) [/em]