We Need to Talk <> Make Yourself Clear

Here are two paragraphs from We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter by Celeste Headlee. I’m copying them down for three reasons: first, I want to remember them; second, I want to share them with you in the hopes that you, too, will remember them; and, third, they connect to / extend / justify some of the core messages of Make Yourself Clear. Publishing is often akin to shouting into the void. It’s nice to find echoes (even though they were present before you started).

[Consumers] in the United States return about $14 billion worth of electronics every year. But in 85 percent of those cases, there’s nothing wrong with the merchandise. The consumer just doesn’t understand how to use the device after opening the box. Sometimes weak documentation (such as an indecipherable instruction manual) is to blame; other times the culprit is insufficient “customer education,” the formal term for the casual conversations salespeople have with customers about a product.

p. 11

So much — more than electronics — depends upon those casual conversations. More specifically, so much depends upon our willingness to teach well — i.e., carefully, patiently, humanely — within such moments.

One more related, though unique point:

Computers can relay information in milliseconds, but human beings cannot and should not attempt to mimic this efficiency. Most of the time, it’s the tangents and offhand remarks that reveal the most about someone. It may take five minutes for your friend to relay a simple story about a trip to the grocery store, but it’s the pauses and the smiles and the bursts of laughter that make the story memorable. If you can’t pay attention long enough to listen to the whole thing, you’ll miss all of that.

p. 25

We call this the messy / clear paradox. It’s the recent idea that has most changed my approach to teaching, listening, and parenting.

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