In Every Conversation Counts (Page Two, Feb.), former TV host Meghji details the keys to communication.
What inspired you to write this book?
I think Ray Dalio said something really powerful: that progress isn’t just pain, it’s pain plus reflection. That’s what I would see every day in my interviews. I found the richest interviews weren’t the biggest names; they were the people that had overcome all kinds of adversity. And these people would express gratitude to me for the platform to share their story. I got the sense that there was an element of loneliness. So I started doing this deep dive of research into loneliness. Pre-Covid, human connection was an afterthought for people, but for me it was always the connection piece that lit me up: you never know what somebody is going through. With the loneliness that we’ve all experienced this year, with the remote work, social isolation, quarantine restriction—people are talking about it now.
What are the drawbacks and opportunities of connecting to others through video calls?
The virtual space is convenient, cost-effective, efficient, and it creates a great sense of accessibility. Everyone in your audience gets a front-row seat. That’s a huge opportunity for intimacy in how you connect. Yet the camera is a double-edged sword. It mutes emotion, while the person on the other side craves emotion. So if we’re presenting, we need to amplify our presence. Communicators need to, one, be more concise, and two, focus on engagement.
Any good tips for being better on Zoom?
Connecting with people even before the camera rolls is absolutely essential. There are also small subtleties. Keep as much information in the frame so they see your face and your hands; body language is amplified in virtual. One thing I recommend, something I learned from my television days: if you are not the one speaking, but people are probably looking at you, put your tongue to the top of your teeth. It activates your facial muscles. You’re presenting even when you’re not presenting, because everybody can see your face.
Your book advocates for “assertive empathy.” What is that, exactly?
We are in a culture of reaction versus compassionate responding. The notion of assertive empathy is to always, no matter how difficult the conversation, consider the relationship first and the logic second. Listen and acknowledge, then look for some type of common ground. Then introduce the idea that, although we see eye-to-eye on the common goal, here’s where I see this differently, and provide the proof or the story. That way, it’s the two of us versus the problem, instead of me versus you.