A constructive conversation

It transfers ideas from one mind to another and removes all obstacles from the way. Such a conversation feels as relaxing as a Sunday afternoon in your pajamas.




Conversational competence is the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach. Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and each other through screens, but rarely do they have an opportunity to hone their interpersonal communications skills…… Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain coherent, confident conversation?

Listening is not hearing to respond. It’s hearing to understand. Effective listening helps you understand the other’s perspective and underlying feelings. It helps you hear what’s not said.

The ideal balance is to listen 60 percent and speak 40 percent of the time.


It means you understand your counterpart’s feelings and hear what’s behind them.

Labeling Emotions

You don’t have to feel your counterpart’s emotions to understand them better. You can label them. It means validating and acknowledging them.

The most effective labels of emotions start with phrases like:

  • It seems like… you feel ...
  • It sounds like… you feel ...
  • It looks like… you’re worried that ...

It means describing the world the way your counterpart sees it in your words.

An accurate summary makes your counterpart say “that’s right” instead of “you’re right.” “That’s right” means your counterpart feels heard AND understood.


Excessive communication ends conversations before they begin.

Fewer words create a deeper impact. They let your counterpart absorb your words and think over them. And silence is also an important part of brevity.

Building Mutual Ground

Constructive conversations are held on mutual ground, where the speaker uses analogies relevant to the listener to explain how things work from a broader perspective.


We tend to trust people whose emotions are authentic, whose actions are in sync with their words.

Genuineness comes when you care about your counterpart and want the outcome to benefit everyone involved. 

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When you start noticing yourself getting tense, try to focus on breathing (on feeling the air coming in and out of your lungs).

This will take your attention off the physical signs of panic and keep you centered.



Mistakes we make in conversations
Our general tendency is to:
  • Evaluate: We judge what someone is saying and agree or disagree.
  • Probe: We ask questions from our own frame of reference.
  • Advise: We give counsel, advice, and solutions to problems.
  • Interpret: We analyze others' motives and behaviors based on our own experiences.

Put the feelings of your partner before your need to be understood.

Even when you are arguing, be careful what you say and how you say it. An angry or dejected partner is less likely to engage in a conversation effectively.

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