How to Have Conversations That Matter

November 17, 2023


A group gathered around a table having a professional discussion
Communication skills are crucial for administrative professionals due to the central role they play in organizational success.

“Conversation is actually not a soft skill for our species. Conversation is the productivity hack”

-Celeste Headlee

Author, speaker, and conversation expert Celeste Headlee began her opening keynote at APC 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada by acknowledging human biology and evolution.

As some of the best collaborators on the planet, humans are emotionally designed to not only understand those around us, but also to empathize with others. This quality, Headlee noted, is why humans have become so successful and continue to thrive over time. 

However, empathy doesn't always come easily. Due to chronic fatigue and stress, increasing disconnection in the digital age, and trauma resulting from COVID-19 and political/societal upheaval, empathy can be difficult to conjure. This has inevitably caused conversation and communication gaps in the workplace, resulting in mass struggle when developing socially fulfilling relationships with those around us.

Celeste Headlee presenting at APC 2023
Celeste Headlee presenting at APC 2023

Top Causes for Not Conversing Well:

  • Lack of attention
  • Performative listening
  • Focusing on delivery
  • Rehearing your reply
  • Hearing what you expect to
  • Defensiveness 
  • Critical listening 

To minimize the impact of these hurdles, along with personal stuggles with communication skills and empathy development, Headlee says the best thing to do is listen. Listening intentfully to others and absorbing what is truly said is the key to effective and meaningful conversation. 

Celeste signing books for the audience
Celeste signing her book, "We Need to Talk," for an attendee

Let Go of Expectations and Biases

“Begin where people are, use empathic listening," said Headlee to conclude her session. By having less assumptions prior to engaging in conversation and making acceptance of others a priority, admins will be more fit to have impactful conversations within their network. This will inevitably increase productivity and performance.

In addition to her keynote, Headlee promoted her latest book, "We Need to Talk." Attendees were able to meet with Headlee and recieve a signed copy of her book after her keynote concluded.

To learn more about Celeste Headlee and her work, visit her website

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