Celeste Headlee is an award-winning journalist, professional speaker and best-selling author of We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That...
Karin Conroy is a legal marketing consultant and founder of Conroy Creative Counsel, which specializes in creating...
Why are smart lawyers so bad at conversation?
What makes one person excellent at conversation and another terrible? Does it come down to listening? And are there ways to develop these skills?
Joining me for this conversation is Celeste Headlee, an internationally recognized journalist and radio host, professional speaker and author of bestselling book We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter and Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving. Her latest is Speaking of Race: Why Everyone Needs to Talk About Racism and How to Do It. Her TEDx Talk, 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation, has been viewed over 34 million times.
In her 20-year career in public radio, Celeste has been the Executive Producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Broadcasting and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, Here and Now, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as co-host of the national morning news show, The Takeaway, from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Celeste is a regular guest host on NPR and American Public Media. She is the host of Newsweek’s “Debate” podcast, and hosts a podcast for the National Gallery of Art called “Sound Thoughts on Art.” She is also the host of “Women Amplified,” a podcast from the Conferences for Women, the largest network of women’s conferences in the nation, drawing more than 50,000 people to its annual events. Celeste is also the president and CEO of Headway DEI, a non-profit that works to bring racial justice and equity to journalism and media through targeted training and interventions, and she serves on the board for the National Center of Race Amity.
Celeste is the granddaughter of composer William Grant Still, known as the Dean of Black American Composers and she is a trained operatic soprano. She lives in the DC area with rescue dog, Samus.
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[00:00:27] Celeste: Hi, my name is Celeste Headley. I’m a journalist. You may recognize my voice from NPR and public radio, but I have a Ted talk on 10 ways to have a better conversation with more than 34 million views. And I have three books. We need to talk, do nothing.
[00:00:43] And speaking of. Ah, the
[00:00:46] Karin: thank you for being here, Celeste. I’m so excited about this conversation. Um, there is something so amazing about talking to people who have had these Ted talks, because I feel like, um, there there’s, there’s so well organized in the structure of the way that you present this information, that when we then kind of go back through the information you presented, it’s it makes for such a great conversation and overall.
[00:01:11] Your, your focus. And a lot of the things that you’re talking about is conversations and how to be a better conversationalist and how, and it seems like it seems like something that you should just sort of be born knowing right. but we’re not,
[00:01:27] Celeste: that’s a really common mistake. Actually. People tend to think that conversational skills and social.
[00:01:33] Are a talent. Yeah. And it is true that for human beings, it is, we do have it innate talent for it as homo sapiens. But the, the skills that we think of in terms of having good convers. Are literally skills. Yeah. They can be trained and learned and improved.
[00:01:51] Karin: Yeah. And I feel like there’s so many things that get in the way, you know, like there’s, you could be a, have the skills, but then all of a sudden, um, in the middle of a conversation, there’s all these other voices that are coming into your head and they get in the way and they just kind of mess the whole thing up.
[00:02:05] So. Speaking of which the conversation or the, the topic of today’s show, um, more specifically aimed towards the legal audience that we have is why are smart lawyers so bad at conversations? so this is gonna be a good one. I love this because it, it never fails that I’ll be in the middle of a conversation.
[00:02:27] Either with a client, a potential client, or, you know, just a lawyer in general. And there’s, um, at some point in the conversation I’m sitting there think. what are you talking
[00:02:39] Celeste: about? and
[00:02:42] Karin: what just happened in this conversation?
[00:02:46] Celeste: yeah, so, you know, it’s really interesting because we have really solid research and years of it showing that the smarter you are, the worse, your conversational skills and there’s, there’s, there’s a few reasons for this.
[00:02:59] So I’m gonna block you through the most common. Yeah. Number one, is that when you’re smart, you know, a. right? Yes. So you did a dump, like you go into conversations, thinking about what you’re gonna tell the other person, you have all this stuff to teach them and educate them with. And so you’re not taking turns and you’re also not entering into conversations, giving even a thought to what you might learn.
[00:03:22] Yeah, that’s a problem. Yeah. Second, most common reason is smart. People are, are, tend to. Worse listeners. Yeah. And this is partly because they’re way more likely to assume they know what someone is trying to say. So someone will get maybe 10 words in and in their mind, they’re thinking.
[00:03:40] Karin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know where you’re going.
[00:03:41] I know where you’re going. I got the rest of this. Yeah. You can stop talking now.
[00:03:45] Celeste: right. Yeah. This is not just lawyers, although it is lawyers, it’s also doctors. Oh yeah. You know, it’s professions where people are experts in their field. They make these assumptions based on what’s happened in the past or what they know.
[00:03:59] Is often not accurate. Yeah. Right. That’s that’s the problem with statistics and probabilities is that they may be true on average, but they’re rarely true in individual cases. So smart people really have to fight against that habit of. Of listening only until they know what they wanna say.
[00:04:18] Karin: So, one thing I found fascinating about, um, your Ted talk and what you’ve talked about in the past is these different definitions of different types of conversations.
[00:04:27] So there’s discourse, there’s diatribe there’s. Um, so let’s talk about, um, all these different angles the conversation can take. Um, and so I wrote down a few of them there’s dialogue, debate discourse. Diatribe and deliberation. Um, and so why, first of all, why does it matter that you’re a good conversationalist in any of those and then, and then is it okay in some of those situations?
[00:04:56] To, to do a little bit more of that data dump and to be in the, you know, to have kind of a different position, to, to be a little bit more annoying and forthright and sort of, um, aggressive in, in your data versus in some places you should take a different stance and pull back and be a little bit more on a listening side.
[00:05:16] Celeste: Um, yes, the short answer is yes, OK. There we’ll be long, all kinds of different conversations that we all have, right? Like sometimes. Somebody’s asking you for advice, or sometimes you’re in a, in a, uh, a position in which you’re supposed to be guiding someone else or for lawyers, they are often consulted for their advice.
[00:05:36] That’s literally a, a huge portion of what a lawyer does. Sure. The danger is here that, um, the human beings hate unsolicited advice. Yes. They hate it. We it’s almost always interpreted as criticism, but here’s the other sticking point is that even when it’s solicited, that’s one of the very few and rare times when conversation actually has a negative impact on somebody’s wellbeing.
[00:06:06] Even if they ask you for advice, if what you’re doing is telling them what to do, they still hate it. And when we do brain scans, we see that they have the same reaction as though you’ve attacked. You’ve got oh, wow. In the face. Yeah. They literally are going through those physiological changes of an increased heart rate and their, their muscles will begin to tend up tent up and, and, uh, they will prepare to fight or flee.
[00:06:29] Oh my gosh, that is what is happening. And you can understand how. that makes it impossible for them to absorb in the information you’re trying to give them.
[00:06:39] Karin: So in these cases, you’re a criminal defense attorney and your client is sitting in jail and you’re telling them, okay, you need to do X, Y, Z, or even a doctor.
[00:06:48] I’m diagnosing your terminal illness. And we need to do the following. What are you supposed to do so that they don’t freak
[00:06:56] Celeste: out like that? So there’s, there’s actually, um, evidence. Ways to get around that defensive reaction. Okay. But they all involve not actually telling people what to do, but guiding them through your questions and your responses.
[00:07:14] that’s literally how you do that. Okay. So explain that more. Okay. So instead of giving advice, you’re actually gonna guide them to find their own answers through this combination of listening and asking questions. Okay. So we know that, um, As long as you’re asking questions out of a place of genuine curiosity, you can guide people along.
[00:07:36] So one of the first questions you always wanna ask is what’s the real challenge here. Yeah. Right. You’re gonna try to guide them to tell you what’s really, what’s the real story. Then you’re gonna say, you know, , you know, what have you tried already? What is, what, what have, who have you spoken to already?
[00:07:53] What things have happened already? You know, it, it, what’s your ideal outcome. If you were gonna solve this in the ideal way, what would that look like? Yeah. And you can always ask things like, and what else and what else to encourage them to keep talking. Yeah. Then you can say, now here’s the options. I’ve heard you lay out, which of those options sounds best to.
[00:08:15] Okay. What might stand in the way of what you want to do. Now, you’re talking about a criminal defense attorney who has to tell someone, you, you can turn that advice from, okay, it could be this plea, this plea, this plea, blah, blah, blah, blah. You say, oh, that that’s really interesting. Here’s your, here’s how you see the situation.
[00:08:31] Here’s what you would like to see happen. I’m gonna lay out, you know, the, the, the different specifics of this, and then you tell me which one looks best to you, and then we’ll go from there. And obviously you are gonna try to guide them to the one. that you think is, is best it’s best. Yeah. Right. But if you just start out by telling them that they won.
[00:08:52] Absorb it. Yeah. In fact, it makes them defensive and remember the defensive reaction is a fight or flee. Yeah. Which means they’ll either start tuning you out or they will resist you for no other reason except to resist.
[00:09:05] Karin: Yeah. I’ve got a couple kids and this reminds me of the toddler years, too, where it’s like, there, there, it makes no sense for me in on any level.
[00:09:15] For, for, for them to be throwing themselves on the ground and throwing a tantrum over, you know, their grilled cheese being a little too melty, but that’s what’s happening right now just because it gives them this much control over their life. And so, you know, it’s, it there’s so much, um, K kind of interesting brain science in just watching a human kind of grow, you know, like seeing the brain develop at that point.
[00:09:42] And cuz I feel like that toddler. part of your brain is, is what pops in when you have those kind of reactions. So like all of a sudden you’re a two year old and you’re like, no, it makes no sense for me to say no, but I’m gonna say no, because, because I just need to resist right now. ,
[00:09:59] Celeste: you know, the other thing, speaking of brain science, the other thing is that.
[00:10:02] When you are given when you are dispensing advice, even if it comes from a place of generosity, like you’re trying to help it still really boosts your feelings of power and self control. Yes. Like you feel like you have control and you feel like you have power. So very often that reaction you’re talking about either from the toddler or the adult is a reaction to that.
[00:10:23] Yes. Reclaiming power and, and control. That’s what they’re reacting to. So that’s what you have to avoid. Is is giving that guidance in a way that establishes your power, your control. Yeah.
[00:10:36] Karin: And that feeling where even when I’m talking to potential clients or whatever, and I’ve been doing my job for more than a decade and they start going down this road that I know is wrong, and I’m sure this happens to plenty of lawyers and I’m thinking.
[00:10:50] No, you can’t do this. And I know this is wrong. And I know I’ve been looking at this for years and years and years, and I know, and I know, and, and I instantly think, okay, you know, how, how do you pull back from that? And, and think, I know that that’s just wrong and I know the right answer for you. And I know that, um, you know, the, the way that you’re coming across is we’re kind of doing this.
[00:11:19] Bounce for power and control of the conversation. And it’s like, no, I, I know for, I’ve seen this over and over and over. I know this is wrong and they’re saying, no, um, this is still the way I wanna go. It’s like, okay. , you
[00:11:32] Celeste: know, so, well, at that point, it’s really helpful to reestablish what your roles are.
[00:11:36] Yeah. In other words, that person is gonna make all the decisions. Yeah. And it’s absolutely okay to empower them by reminding them of that. Look. your life. This is your case, and you’re gonna make these decisions, but why have you consulted me? Yes. Why am I here? Yes. Right? Yeah. It’s because, and they’re gonna say some version of, well, you’re the lawyer, you know, the law and you say absolutely.
[00:11:59] And I just wanna help you out. I have, you know, I have seen this before, and this is what’s happened. It doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen in your case, but this is the most common thing. Or this is B Baba. This is what I’ve seen in the past. And I’m just trying to give you the best options that I know will work because.
[00:12:15] You’re consulting me as a legal expert, not as your friend, but you’re consulting me based on my experience. This is what I experience tells me.
[00:12:23] Karin: That’s so good because it flips it around in their own head too. And it’s not like it’s not this battle anymore. It’s not just I’m saying this. No, I’m saying, you know, and it’s just this constant, um, Pressure and tension between, between the two people.
[00:12:36] I, I love
[00:12:37] Celeste: that you’re constantly reinforcing the fact that they have consulted you. You’re not there to tell them what to do, right? Yeah. You’re there to help them. Yes. Um, and you can always, um, also number one, never. question what they tell you about themselves. In other words, um, a really common mistake that people make is they use a, a dismissive, um, or a, or a, or a Fixit response to things.
[00:13:06] And by that, I mean, um, when someone tells you that this is what they’re feeling, this is how, what they’re afraid of. We sometimes dismiss. By saying, oh, it’s, it’s not gonna be that bad or it’s going to be okay. Yeah. Or that’s never happened. That’s unlikely. Instead, what you’re trying to do is actually say, yeah, that makes sense.
[00:13:24] Of course you would be afraid of that. Yes. Yeah. Right. Yeah. That would be terrifying. I would be upset in that situation too. Yeah. Um, can I tell you, you know, the truth is that’s, it’s unlikely. Can I ex you know, would it help you if I explained why? Yes. Um, yeah. And you can, um, for example, Some dismissive or, or Mr.
[00:13:46] Fixit repair person responses would be, you know, it could be worse. Ah, or have you tried this? You know, the same thing happened to me. You should read this. You should consult this. Oh, don’t be upset. Yeah. Don’t worry. Those are all psychologically, very dismissive. Um, on the other sound, you can say things like, then what happened?
[00:14:05] How can I help? It sounds like what you’re saying is this, is that accurate? That sounds tough. Yeah. Um, what do you think might work here? Those things? I mean, although they’re not specific to the legal profession, some version of them is going to make the other, it’s going to diffuse their defensiveness.
[00:14:21] It’s gonna, um, move them further away from that automatic resistance toward a place of where they feel safe. Yes. And where they feel understood. And. This,
[00:14:30] Karin: it comes right back to parenting again once. And I don’t know why I keep going there in my head, but, um, I I’ve seen so many parents do the same kind of thing where, you know, we’ll be at a park, a kid’s having an issue and the, the parent is like, don’t worry about it.
[00:14:45] Stop, stop, stop. Just, don’t worry about, it’s not a big thing. Well, to this two or three year old, this is the biggest thing that has happened to. All day and they’re two or three. So maybe this is the biggest thing that’s happened in the last six months or year. And you’ve just completely shut them down and let them know that you’re not on their side, that you can’t support them and all.
[00:15:06] And so with my kids, I did a similar kind of thing where it’s like, you just acknowledge it. You recognize that they’re having a hard time and then instantly. It sort of puts ice on the whole issue. So what’s becoming heated and hotter and hotter. It just kind of cools it down. Okay. She gets it, she hears me, she recognizes my issue.
[00:15:26] Okay. So now let’s like take a breath and move past it and move to the next, you know, the phase of kind of solving it or recognizing it, or, or coming to some kind of, um, you know, response instead of just spinning inside of the, the problem.
[00:15:44] Celeste: So, you know, we think of a, I want you to think about a word like compassion, because we think of that as sort of like this woo woo.
[00:15:50] Soft skills. Yes. You know, I’m not here to love you. I’m here to give you legal advice, right? Yes. But in, in the psychological framework, in other words, and when you think of compassion as a, a, as a tool, um, to bring a. Meant both mental and physical health. Yeah. There are three components to it. One there’s mindfulness.
[00:16:07] And when it comes to like pain or suffering, mindfulness is the most grounded, realistic thing you could have. It’s not saying why is this happening to me? It’s not saying this is the worst thing ever. It’s saying I’m suffering right now. Yep. This is what this is. This is pain. I’m upset. This is what’s happening.
[00:16:27] You’re mindful and aware. The next part of compassion is a common humanity. In other words, it’s not just me. Everybody goes through suffering. Lots of other people have been through this before. Right. It’s this touchstone with this common experience, which is what many kids lose sight of. Yes. Um, is especially in, in puberty.
[00:16:49] Right. you never understand me. No, one’s ever, it’s never loved anyone else this way. Right? Yeah. And the final thing is kindness and that’s not, um, it’s not babying anybody. You’re not coddling anyone. You’re just saying, you know, of course you’re upset. , you know, may I be kind to myself? May I be kind to you in this, that, because this is suffering, it happens to a lot of people.
[00:17:15] It’s tough. I can’t make it go away. Yep. And so let’s get through this with kindness. Yeah. Um, and that kind of compassion actually is not only is it, anti-depressant not only is it anti stress, but it also is double digits more motivating for improve. So, when you think about this in terms of your clients, when you are showing them that kind of compassion, you are much more likely to get the response of, I wanna make things better.
[00:17:42] I’m gonna work to make things better. We have so much clinical research showing that we think that criticism and tough love is motivating and it is the opposite. It is very demotivating. It is actually paralyzing. And that’s true, whether you’re doing it to yourself, it’s true. Whether you’re doing it to someone you’re working with.
[00:17:59] Karin: Oh, that’s so perfect. Because the next question I was thinking about asking is why this matters in terms of business and in terms of running their law firms and in terms of, you know, actually getting these results that they’re looking for in these cases and, and that leads right into it. It’s, you know, how, how does this relate to, and, and you started talking about kind of working better with your clients and working towards the same types of goals, but big picture.
[00:18:25] Why, why does it matter? They’re having better conversations overall in terms of business and kind of where they’re thinking about like they’re, you know, kind of setting up their law firm for success. Okay. This
[00:18:39] Celeste: is gonna be a, a, a lengthier answer here. Okay. Because the first reason that it matters is there is no more important skill that you have than your communication skills.
[00:18:47] And I’m not just saying that, um, as an expert in communication, this is what any evolutionary biologist will tell you is that literally. The way that homo sapiens ended up as the most successful human species, right there used to be six human species. Um, the only reason we have survived on this planet is because we are the most sophisticated communicators and collaborators.
[00:19:09] Oh, that’s, that’s cool. I love that. It means, for example, there’s only two species that regularly take down a bison, right? They are wolves and humans. Oh my gosh. Why? Because they’re pack. Oh, God, it means you can’t take down a bison, which can jump six feet straight into the air and run over 40 miles an hour and is a massive, massive animal without help.
[00:19:33] Right? Oh, so I love that. That’s how we’ve survived. Yeah. Conversation is our core competency. Even though we tend to, again, approach it like soft skills. It’s not, it’s the number one most important skill. And I should say that the vast majority of both academics and, um, executives say that listening is the most important skill for successful professional.
[00:19:56] And yet in our business journals on our trade journals, um, only 1.5% of the articles deal with listening. so we are not taking it seriously. Right. The second thing I will say. Is that. Okay, let me start here. The worst communicators on the planet are native English speaker. Oh, no. Why? Yeah. And it’s because a, we talk too quickly.
[00:20:23] We have this assumption that everyone knows, speaks English a little English. Yeah. So we use slang words. Yeah. We assume that they understand what we’re talking about. We jump in other cultures, leave longer spaces in between sentences. We will jump in and start talking right away. So there’s all these ways in which our own fluency with the language and our own.
[00:20:44] Prevents us from actually having conversations with people. Now, this is absolutely true in your business and certainly true in a, a law firm. How many times has a lawyer? A lot of my friends are lawyers. How many times have they said over the course of their business to their client? Why didn’t you tell me that?
[00:21:02] Oh yeah. Yeah. And I flip that around and say, why weren’t you listening? Yes.
[00:21:11] Karin: Oh my gosh. There’s no other little point that people get out of this whole episode. I think that’s it. And so I want to let you finish your, your, the point you’re making, but then I wanna come back to this idea of listening and how, how it can be better.
[00:21:29] Celeste: Yeah. The last point I was gonna make on this, why this matters. Yeah. Is that, um, you know, when we study, why messages go astray, misunderstanding? Yeah, they’re almost always a result of, uh, expectations and assumptions. Um, meaning that, you know, the story we’re telling in our head about what someone is trying to say yes is not as accurate as we think it is.
[00:21:56] And let me put it to you this way. Um, there’s famous sort of models in, in psychology and sociology, but I’ll give you an example. Let’s say that you injured your knee somehow, not catastrophically. You don’t need to go to the emergency room, but you hurt your knee and it hurts. And you try, you, you get referred to an orthopedic surgeon.
[00:22:18] Uh, you, uh, like 11 weeks waiting for this appointment is really hard to get in with this doctor. Yeah. And the whole time in that 11 weeks, your knee is hurting. And finally, you’re like two days away from your appointment. You can’t wait, you get a call from his office saying we need to reschedule and you’re ticked.
[00:22:38] Yeah. Right. Yeah. And so you do reschedule a few weeks later, you finally get in to see the doctor and you are ready to give him a piece of your. and he immediately starts talking and says, thank you so much for rescheduling. I really apologize. The earthquake happened in Haiti and I rushed over there to try and, um, you know, help as many children from the school that collapsed, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
[00:23:02] And all of your anger is gone. Yeah. All of a
[00:23:05] Karin: sudden it’s like, whoops, I’m not mad.
[00:23:07] Celeste: yeah. So what that leads me to is I want everyone to get into the habit of asking the. What else could this mean? Yes. Don’t assume what is motivating someone else? Because again, we aren’t as good at that as we think we are, right.
[00:23:24] We see a, a, a flash of something cross their face, and we think we know what that means. In fact, the vast majority of people think they can detect when someone’s lying and they are wrong. We can. so you have to ask yourself all the time, what else could this
[00:23:42] Karin: mean? And don’t the vast majority of people take it personally when the vast majority of the time it has nothing to do with them.
[00:23:49] Like they always kind of spin that back to themselves and make, you know, make it all about them when it’s, you know, It’s not,
[00:23:56] Celeste: they do. We’re pretty, self-centered, there’s no reason to feel guilty about that. That’s just the way humans are. That’s the way we are. Yeah. And I think it’s better if you, instead of making this some kind of point of shame, you just say, you look, this is my tendency.
[00:24:08] I need to be aware of it and counteract it. That’s all right.
[00:24:12] Karin: And then just reposition like, oh exactly. For a second. I thought they were mad at me. No, it’s probably, I don’t know if that’s true. Yeah. And you can ask.
[00:24:19] Celeste: Yes. You know, I just saw something face your face. I’m getting signs that you’re angry at me.
[00:24:24] Am I reading that right? Yes. Ask
[00:24:26] Karin: them, oh my gosh. well, that goes back to what you were saying earlier, you know, instead of saying why, you know, when they’re saying you didn’t you, why didn’t you ask, why did you tell me this? Yeah. Why? Yeah. Why didn’t you ask. Yeah, right. Didn’t you listen? Yeah. Why didn’t you listen?
[00:24:43] I’m sorry. I, I
[00:24:44] Celeste: was listening. It’s okay. You know, think of it this way. How many times have you had an interview with a professional interviewer? Yeah. Where somebody says something and I’ve heard this, like, I listened to one interview in which they were interviewing an artist for some festival. Um, and the artist.
[00:24:59] They said something like, you know, where do you get your ideas? And the artist starts telling this whole thing. And he goes, you know, of course I come outta this abusive childhood. And so da, da, and then the, the interviewer says, so where’s your next show? And I was like, oh, hello. But we do this all the time.
[00:25:16] Yeah. Because we’re not listening because we’re thinking more about what we’re gonna say in response than actually hearing. Yeah. And, and by the way, neuroscience tells us that you cannot do both those things at the same time, because the listening and preparing you, what you’re gonna say are speaking require the same parts of the brain in many cases.
[00:25:33] Yeah. You cannot do them both at the same time. Yeah. So that person may have said something that you completely missed because you were preparing
[00:25:40] Karin: what you’re gonna ask next.
[00:25:41] Celeste: Cause you were, as Steven Covey says, we’re always listening with the intent. Um, not to understand, but to.
[00:25:48] Karin: Yes. Yeah. Oh, I think that’s so, so good.
[00:25:53] And so, so I’ve looked through some of your, you’ve got your 10 rules of being a better conversationalist and some of those tie into how to be a better listener. I mean, um, number one is don’t multitask. So what are some of the top tips that you have for being a better listener? Just, uh, kind of stop what you’re doing.
[00:26:13] Listen. , I mean, it seems like so basic, but I is, is that really what it comes
[00:26:18] Celeste: down to? Um, I will say that nobody’s gonna come away from this, um, uh, interview we’re having and be like, I’m gonna be a better listener from now on . Um, we know that it actually takes practice. Yeah. Um, it’s hard. It’s very difficult and listening in at the deepest level actually burns a trace amount of glucose.
[00:26:39] Oh wow. You have to help you lose weight. but it, it that’s, but it’s trying to emphasize that it’s it is effortful . So. You’re not gonna, you know, you have to view this more, like going to the gym. Yeah. You know, you’ll go to the gym and get a good pump on, and then you’re done for the rest of your life. It’s a daily discipline.
[00:26:58] And so it, part of it is just a matter of making sure that when your brain interrupts you, cuz your brain will always interrupt you. Yes, you are saying, okay, stop. I thought this came up. Let me return to what they were.
[00:27:12] Karin: It’s kind of meditative, you know, I mean, when you’re going into meditate and it’s, it’s a lot about, um, one person that I, I talked to that talked about meditating said, okay, if you have a hard time, just imagine just, you know, how about candle in front of you and, and focus on the flame and, and try to let all of those other thoughts come in and then let, ’em just push ’em off to the side.
[00:27:34] Um, same thing with the thoughts in the middle of a conversation. And I find that myself, you know, where. Uh, you’re in the middle of that conversation and you wanna support and respond and, you know, have some kind of reaction, but it’s
[00:27:48] Celeste: intrusive. Yeah. And, and you know, if someone is not, you know, um, if the, if the idea of meditation puts some people off, some people have a really tough time meditating.
[00:27:59] Yeah. When we talk about mindfulness, you don’t have to sit down and close your. And in the middle of a conversation, exactly in the medicine. It’s a little weird when we’re talking about mindfulness, we’re just talking about pulling gently, pulling your attention back to the present moment. So when a thought arises, number one, remember the thoughts will arise.
[00:28:19] Yeah, your brain does not turn off and you have an archive, an archive librarian in there, constantly searching through the files to try and provide you with information and context and memories that might help you understand what you’re seeing and hearing. Yeah. That is going to happen all the time. So number one is that thought comes in.
[00:28:36] It’s not like, oh gosh, darn it. I’m not paying attention. It’s just like, oh, there’s a. Yeah. Okay. Now let me return. There’s no judgment there. There’s nothing deep. You don’t have to, you know, it’s not that deep. , it’s just another thought coming in. It’s not a failure. Yeah. It’s just like, okay, there’s a thought and now let me return.
[00:28:53] Yeah, that’s it. Yeah. And that’s mindfulness. That’s all that it is. And it’s the same thing. Whether you’re looking at a candle or some people have you just pay attention to your breath, you are not going to be able to look at that candle without other things arising in your head. Right. You know, when people say empty your mind, That’s crap.
[00:29:09] That’s never, that does not, that’s not a thing. no, it’s like, how are you supposed to
[00:29:15] Karin: like go to just flat brain brain process? I mean, my brain is working all the time. It’s taking in you’re air condition. Exactly. The air conditioning kept clicked on and oh, something moved over there and I mean, that’s the job of your brain.
[00:29:30] Celeste: yep. Yeah. It’s not gonna turn off. No. And so you just have to be kind to it yeah. Remember kindness. Yeah. And be like. There’s a thought. Yeah. And I’m back to what they were saying. Yeah. And if it has distracted you for a real period of time, just own up to, it goes, I’m sorry. My mind went off on a tangent.
[00:29:46] The last thing I heard was this, or could you repeat what you last said? Yeah. I wanna really hear what you’re saying to me.
[00:29:52] Karin: I think there’s so much value in a conversation when someone says something like that, where, because, because the person you’re talking to can probably see it, they see your eyes drifting into different directions and they can see they could be, they were not.
[00:30:06] Listening to that last part of the conversation. And if, if you recognize that and acknowledge it and, and say it out loud, it’s, it feels so much better to the person who’s sitting there thinking. Uh, hello? are we talking here? Like what’s happening?
[00:30:23] Celeste: Yeah. And in fact, that’s backed up by research as well.
[00:30:25] When you ask those follow up questions, when you say, I, you know, I didn’t get what you were saying. Yeah. Um, people find, they, they find that they’re trusting, you goes up, they find you more likable. They find you more honest. Oh,
[00:30:36] Karin: I think that’s really good advice because. I, I think some people are afraid to, to say or do things like that because it makes them look like, um, kind of dumb or like they weren’t, you
[00:30:47] Celeste: know, they think it makes them look that way.
[00:30:50] Karin: But it’s, it’s the opposite.
[00:30:51] Celeste: Right? Yeah. And you know, that’s one of the other tips is to say that you don’t know when you don’t know. Yes. And again, we know that research shows that people who say, you know, I don’t actually know that, or I don’t know, but I’m gonna find out. Yeah. Um, people’s trust goes through the roof, it goes up significantly, right?
[00:31:08] They are more likely to trust you. And in fact, when they’ve tested this in a, in a clinical setting with medical doctors, their, their. That the doctor is intelligent, experienced, and knowledgeable goes up. Yeah. When they’re willing to say, I don’t know that. Yeah. You’re afraid it’s gonna be the opposite, but it will increase.
[00:31:28] Karin: Because the, the alternative is if you’re not quite sure and you start answering a question and they can tell. They’re yeah. They keep repeating themselves and they don’t sound secure in this answer. And now I’m questioning everything they said to me. Um, and like the alternative is way worse,
[00:31:47] Celeste: so much worse.
[00:31:48] Yeah. And also, you know, you, a lot of times we guess yes. And then you could
[00:31:53] Karin: be
[00:31:53] Celeste: found wrong million and then they don’t know you’re right. That they don’t know what to, to trust because again, They know that, not everything that you can’t know, everything, they just don’t know which things are. Bull baloney and which one
[00:32:09] Karin: exactly.
[00:32:10] Yeah. Oh, that’s, that’s such great advice. Like just recognize the humanity in this conversation. Be a normal human being recognize when you, you drift off recognize when you don’t know things and, and then listen. Yeah. So, um, so Celeste, you know, uh, we have, we have a great library of book recommendations that, um, we like to offer our listeners.
[00:32:32] So what book are you gonna recommend to the audience today? And obviously we’re, we’re also gonna look link to all of your books that, you know, because we, those are obvious and, and we need people to start with the the, the books that you’ve written.
[00:32:45] Celeste: Um, the first book I’d recommend would be mind wise, how we understand what others think, believe, feel, and want, uh, by a, a really, really great, uh, researcher, psychologist, uh, uh, up in Chicago, Nicholas Epley, um, and.
[00:33:02] that book, you know, I always steer towards books that are evidence based. I don’t ever wanna read a book that’s based on someone’s personal experience. Yeah. Or their, um, you know, their guesses yeah. um, but that book is very much E evidence based and, um, it, it’s gonna also make sense to you. Um, what does it talk about?
[00:33:26] Um, mind wise is talking about the ways in which we relate to each other, the ways in which we think we know what other people are thinking. Oh yeah. And why, why we, we don’t um, why we’re
[00:33:38] Karin: wrong?
[00:33:39] Celeste: yeah. Yeah. Why we’re wrong and it’s okay. Right? Yeah. Like that’s all right. Yeah. Um, you can also find a book called, um, uh, mindful listening, which is part of the, uh, Harvard business.
[00:33:54] Emotional intelligence series. Oh, wow. And I also find that one to be very, very informative, um, in terms of helping people learn, you know, when I was talking about, um, you know, really working on this as a discipline that that’s, that’s gonna help you. Yeah. Um, so those would be the two that I would start
[00:34:13] Karin: with.
[00:34:13] I didn’t know that the HBR had, um, that whole emotional, what, what was the CA the category?
[00:34:19] Celeste: It’s an emotional intelligence series. Oh,
[00:34:22] Karin: that’s awesome. That’s sounds so interesting. I mean, usually they’re, uh, Harvard business is, is doing case studies on big companies and it’s, you know, talking about, um, you know, much more.
[00:34:34] Uh, finance and, you know, and it’s, it’s nice to see them get into the soft skills and recognize how important that is. for people. Um, that sounds really interesting. I’m gonna definitely take a look at that mind why sounds awesome as well. Um, so what’s one thing that, you know, that
[00:34:53] Celeste: works.
[00:34:57] I mean any of the 10 tips, if you start doing that, um, is gonna, is gonna work for you. Yeah. Um, I would, here’s the one thing I would say. you need to not have any screens of any kind in your peripheral vision, if you really wanna listen. Yeah. I’m not saying that cuz I hate tech. Yeah. Tech is awesome. yeah, but we also need to face some tough truths.
[00:35:18] Right. And one of those is that we know that having a screen. Near you or even in your peripheral vision, distracts your brain. Yes. You know that? Yeah. And so you can’t just put your phone down so often when people will go to lunch with somebody, they’ll put their phone down on the table, but I’ll tell you just really quickly about one study in which they had a whole bunch of strangers come in and have like a 10 minute conversation.
[00:35:41] and in half of those conversations, the researcher simply placed a smartphone on the table. It belongs to neither person. It never made a sound, but the people who had that conversation in the presence of the smartphone okay. Were 60 to 70% more likely to say the other person was unlikeable untrustworthy.
[00:35:58] Oh, an unempathetic.
[00:36:01] Karin: And
[00:36:01] Celeste: do they glance at it? It’s having an effect on your brain. Yeah, of course they do. Yeah. But even if you don’t consciously do that yeah. Just in your subconscious, when you pick up the presence of it. Yes. It affects your brain. Yeah. So you need to, it, you know, it needs to be gone turn away from the screens.
[00:36:16] Yeah. Yes.
[00:36:17] Karin: That’s fascinating because. Uh, you know, we’ve probably both had these conversations where people are like, I’m just gonna check something real quick. I’m listening. I know. I’m listening. Go ahead. Keep talking. it’s like, no, I’ll wait. You can put that away. Oh, wait,
[00:36:34] Celeste: thanks. Yeah.
[00:36:36] Karin: You’re not exactly.
[00:36:36] You’re not listening. And the, like you’re putting that in front of this conversation. We were just having, and you know, once in a blue moon, maybe I wasn’t talking about anything critical, but it’s just rude. Like, it’s
[00:36:48] Celeste: just, it it’s ex it’s extremely rude. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:36:52] Karin: And I mean, at the end of the day, um, when you’re, when these smart lawyers are bad at conversation, is, is it just that we’re, we’re just having this kind of interaction where it, it is just rude or it, it feels like it’s going deeper than that.
[00:37:07] Celeste: it goes a lot deeper than that. When you’re talking about why smart people tend to be worse in conversation and tend to be a lot worse, there’s a number of reasons for this human beings. Homo sapiens naturally rank people as soon as we meet them and we rank ourselves in comparison. Yeah. And we, we tend to not listen to people that we think are of lower rank that’s number one.
[00:37:28] Um, so you have to actually put effort. To, to listen to that person. Another reason is, is that smart people tend to believe that their education and their intelligence protects them from bias, and yet they are more vulnerable to bias. They are more likely to have unconscious and implicit bias on a whole range of categories than someone who’s not as smart or less educat.
[00:37:52] um, more
[00:37:53] Karin: so if you’re having these conversations and you’re the lawyer and you’re having conversation with a client and you’re coming across as not, you know, not a great conversationalist, you’re not listening that potential client or the client, um, is ranking you lower just because they’re not enjoying the conversation.
[00:38:11] Celeste: no, it means that you are, are probably not being as good in conversation because you have decided not to listen to them if they oh,
[00:38:19] Karin: so you’ve ranked them lower. And so you come across as arrogant and, um, right. Yeah. Okay.
[00:38:25] Celeste: Now, if you’re, if you are representing a client who is. A Donald Trump type client, then yes, they are probably ranking you lower and they’re not gonna listen to you.
[00:38:36] And we can see based on some of the legal decisions made by the Trump team, that it, it feels like he perhaps doesn’t listen to his lawyers. um, so, uh, yes, this goes both ways. Yeah. But it tends to make that tendency, most lawyers think of themselves fairly well. They at least think they’re smart and well educated.
[00:38:58] Yeah. And that. They’re they’re usually gonna rank themselves a little higher than the people that they’re talking to
[00:39:05] Karin: and that comes across instantly, right. People pick up on that. And another
[00:39:08] Celeste: thing is, um, that, um, there’s something that sociologists have been studying for quite some talent and organizational psychologists, which is the expertise trap, which is that the more you become an expert in the field, the more you’re learning curve, either flattens or falls, people who are experts.
[00:39:25] Stop learning and they become close-minded. And in curious, that’s not, again, this is not something to feel guilty about. This is not a comment on you personally. This is the tendency. Yeah. So you have to be aware of that tendency and you have to push back against it. Yes. That’s the only way to break free of.
[00:39:44] Karin: Oh, normally I ask people to have like one big takeaway, but I feel like that’s it, you know, for, for this episode to recognize, recognize some of these challenges that are very, uh, prolific within the lawyer community. And then that is really important to recognize that, um, your expertise needs to be. Kept it’s, you know, needs to be kept healthy and you need to be out there keeping your brain going and, and you know, all of those, all of those things are gonna make you a better lawyer, make you a better conversationalist and make you just a better human.
[00:40:21] Celeste: yes. Yeah. And you don’t ever wanna stop learning. Right? Right. Yeah. You know, it’s funny because when I was in, you know, taking some journalism training, I remember one of my trainers saying, you know, be careful because somebody who has 30 years experience may just have five years, six times over right.
[00:40:40] Love it. And, um, that’s somebody who we got suddenly began to think of themselves, an expert and stopped learning. So you don’t want
[00:40:49] Karin: that to be you. Yeah. And neither to your clients, because your clients, you’re basically, you have something that you figured out in those first six years, and you’ve just been rinsing and repeating that same, uh, kind of work over and over.
[00:41:03] And your clients are thinking, Hey, you know what, that might have worked 20 years ago, but it’s not working for me today. Right. You know, like, I need you to kind of freshen up and like check, check things out in a, in a new and, and updated. .
[00:41:17] Celeste: Yeah. And you know, that’s why you have continuing education programs.
[00:41:20] Right. Cause on some level there’s an, there’s an acknowledgement that you do have to keep learning about. What’s changed. Yeah. Yeah. Um, yeah. So that’s just part of that whole pan play of. You know, not ever assuming I’m an expert in the field. Yes. I, I don’t. Yeah. PE you know, sometimes people intro me and they say she’s an expert and I’m like, Nope,
[00:41:39] Karin: no, no, stop at that.
[00:41:40] Celeste: Yeah. the learning never ends. Exactly.
[00:41:45] Karin: That is a, that’s a perfect, uh, kind of exit point, um, Celeste Hadley, Ted speaker, not an expert, but the one that you want to go to when you need help with understanding how to be a better conversationalist. Great books, um, that you need to read. Definitely check out the Ted talk.
[00:42:03] We will link to that, your books, obviously the books that you recommended and, um, keep in mind. Why are smart lawyers so bad at conversations? Here’s some tips, like take a look at all of these, these pointers and, and, uh, pay attention. Listen . Yeah. Thank you so much for being here. This is a great conversation.
[00:42:22] Celeste: My pleasure. I appreciate it.
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|Published:||October 3, 2022|
|Category:||Marketing for Law Firms|
The podcast that provides the expertise of a Marketing Co-Counsel for your law firm. Where your firm gets answers and clarity to your marketing questions.