The “Almost” Lost Art of Conversation

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by: Debbie Buszko

IMG_1339I’m sure you observed or experienced it. Sitting at a restaurant and watching a couple sitting across from each other engrossed not with one another, but with their cell phones. Or worse yet, sitting across from someone you’re dining with who’s engrossed on his or her cell phone! How many times have you watched parents hustle one or two children into a restaurant or party and sit them down and then set them up with their own personal device to keep them occupied? (Equally noteworthy is how easily and adeptly a two-year-old can manipulate the screen.)

What about that pedestrian crossing in front of your car, not realizing you’re about to hit them because they are either listening to music or talking on the phone with their ear buds on? We certainly have become dependent on technology and it has made certain aspects about our personal and business lives more efficient and effective. But what about the impact it has had on our personal and business relationships especially on our conversations? Engaging in and benefiting from face to face conversations is one of the most important skills for school leaders.

The importance of one-on-one personal conversation with teachers has been well documented. But it is a skill that is essential for all conversations that school leaders engage in, including those with parents, staff and (depending on the age and circumstance) students.


In a recent (March 8, 2016) Ted Talk, radio host Celeste Headlee gives solid advice in “10 Ways to have a Better Conversation” so that all conversations can be engaging, validating and hopefully, lead to learning.

Outlining the 10 most important moves of interviewing, she discusses with humor and insight those qualities that will produce a conversation that balances both talking and listening.

These simple skills, including being fully present, being a good listener and being open minded and honest will reap a tremendous benefit as you begin to build relationships with all the stakeholders in your building. Even mastering one or two of these skills, according to Headlee will improve your art of conversation.

 Mentoring Tip:

Share this Ted Talk with your assistant principals and begin your own conversation about what resonated most in Headlee’s “10 Ways to have a Better Conversation”. Each of you choose one way that can improve the conversations you have each day and practice your new skill.