Celeste Headlee, Journalist, Speaker, and Author of We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter

Celeste Headlee, Journalist, Speaker, and Author of We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter


Pete Moore: This is Pete Moore on HALO Talks NYC. I have the pleasure of having Celeste Headlee, a public radio journalist, top 10 speaker and bestselling author. She’s going to learn about our industry and she is going to give us expert advice on how to listen to our members better. So Celeste, welcome to halo talks. Thanks. Thanks for having me. Awesome. So you want to just give you a quick background. I gave the highlights here but how you became an expert in decided to dedicate your life to helping others.

Celeste Headlee: I’ve been a journalist in public media, NPR, PRI PBS for over 20 years. And they, when I very first started out studying communication and conversation, it was because I wanted to get better at what I did. I wanted to be a better interviewer and you know, this and the interview is just basically a formal conversation with other rules. So I started reading the research on how to have better conversations. And then I was able to go in and, and try that stuff out. You know, when they told you to maintain eye contact, I could go back to my studio and try that for a couple of weeks and see if it improved conversations. And what I found was that the advice we’ve been getting for a really long time was terrible and it was not effective. And basically what I discovered was that base in order to get that advice, what they did was they, they watched people having good conversations and they said, Oh, when people are having a good conversation, they nod their head and they say, aha. And they gesture and they maintain eye contact. So if you do all those things, you’ll have a good conversation, but it just doesn’t work that way. So I had to start from scratch.

Pete Moore: Gotcha. So in our industry, health clubs, boutique studios have gotten hammered by the pandemic. A lot of members have left either. They’re, they’re afraid to go in which rightfully so. In certain instances, if you’ve got underlying conditions or you’re a certain age, it’s probably not a good idea to go ahead and socialize it until you have the vaccine. But I think one of the issues in our industry has been communication. One it’s been messaging, you know, why you should come to a health club or why you should care about your health, to why you should join our community. And also once someone is a member, how we actually continue to communicate with them real-time and I find that a lot of people use the data and just run reports and forgot that they actually have people walking physically into their location and it can have a conversation with them. And they use technology almost as a default. They, Oh yeah. I do communicate with my members. And, and I say, you know, you can look into data, but trust your gut and also talk to people. So I want to get your, your viewpoint on that and have a debate while I’m not multitasking. And I’m solely listening to your advice.

Celeste Headlee: There’s a, there’s a lot in what you just said. So let me try to pick it apart. The first thing is this trust that we have technology, there is an assumption in all kinds of industries that a digitally mediated communication is more efficient. Email is more efficient. It takes less time. And we think, we think that texting is more is, is more efficient and more clear, less prone to miscommunications. We are have these fears that if we get on the phone with somebody, it we’re going to be stuck there for 20, 30 minutes. All of this stuff has been tested. I can’t even tell you how many times we have taken all of these assumptions into the lab and they’re all wrong. A email is not faster than the phone conversation. We have tested that over and over and over again. B email is actually more prone to miscommunication than phone conversations.

Celeste Headlee: In fact the number one cause for project failure among businesses is miscommunication. The number one cause of miscommunication is overuse of email. And finally email we know, Oh, you know, we mail has been around for a very, very long time. And it actually makes people more prone to irritation. They are more likely to escalate conflict. They’re less likely to be cooperative. They’re not going to answer your questions if you’re sending out surveys to your members by email. So all of those assumptions that you make that make you avoid that conversation are just factually wrong. Now you said, I want you to trust your gut. I say, please don’t trust your gut. And the reason I say this is because 15 years of research has shown me that our guts are, are wrong all the time. We like to think as human beings, that we’re quite logical, that we’re reasonable, but we’re really not. We’re quite emotional. And your gut because your gut makes decisions on an, on a, almost a subconscious level. It means it’s the most prone to bias. Your gut instinct is the one that is going to make decisions over and over based on what, you know, what you like, what you think is right, as opposed to logic and reason.

Pete Moore: Got it. So your advice to a health club chain that let’s say has 300,000 members a year ago today, and now has a hundred thousand members because all these people have canceled or they’ve bought their own Peloton bike or no to attract by Kubota mirror. And you want to get them back. What, what would be your advice to start that conversation?

Celeste Headlee: I would say get a random sampling of people and start making some calls and say, look, I absolutely understand you do not have to defend your choice, your choice to leave the gym, but can you give me five or 10 minutes and give me your ideas on what might bring you. We really underestimate the power of crowds. We, again, I hate to keep hearkening back to research, but the fact of the matter is, is that research going back to the 19th century shows that a group of people, random people with no expertise in the subject matter actually are more accurate in their predictions and their decision-making than even the most experienced expert that you have. So if you can crowdsource it, if you can start getting ideas from people who’ve left and said, what would bring you back? Just tell us, you might find that there are, they have, they have ideas on how to make that happen.

Celeste Headlee: And not only that, but those, the power of the human voice to create impact that bonds, that Mike that might spark some loyalty that might make them rethink that decision. That you’re a business, that there are people in your employ that you are also hurting during the pandemic that might spark a feeling of I don’t want to say guilt, but it might inspire them to say, you know what, here’s something that I can do. Maybe I can go to a class where we’re all distanced apart, maybe what are they doing? You can get that information out there because they’re just not going to pay attention to the email.

Pete Moore: Got it. So when you take a look at, you know, let’s say you were, became a consultant to a group and your advice was looking up to call everyone. They say, so I, you know, how can I call, you know, 200,000 people, you know, you don’t have to. Yeah, well, I mean, I, wouldn’t one of the, one of. . . .