Empathy is not just some touchy-feely emotion. It’s a survival skill.

That’s how award-winning journalist and best-selling author Celeste Headlee described it while kicking off the 2021 Moneta University Speaker Series with a webinar on “How to Have Conversations that Matter.”

Headlee said authentic social interaction is the oil that keeps our human engines running. We require communication and a sense of belonging to be healthy.

The problem we face, however, is that loneliness was a global crisis before the Coronavirus pandemic even began. Then COVID-19 forced us to quarantine, wear masks that concealed our facial expressions and conduct our meetings virtually.

Headlee encouraged her audience to simply acknowledge the awkwardness as we all attempt to return to some sense of normalcy.

“The Pandemic has been traumatic and worrisome,” Headlee said. “We have to be kind with ourselves and other people.”

Headlee noted that most conversations give humans a mood boost via a spike in the hormone serotonin. Digital interactions do have not the same effect.

The three components of good communication Headlee outlined are language (vocabulary), body language (facial expressions, posture, gestures, etc.) and tone of voice. Emails, text messages and social media posts only check one of those boxes. While video calls are better, they still don’t deliver the bio feedback of an in-person engagement.

“Before pandemic we were already in trouble,” Headlee said. “This is the moment we can stop and think how we can recreate our communication habits.”

So, once we are back in person, how do we have conversations that matter? Afterall, there’s a reason the internet is flooded with memes about loathing and avoiding small talk.

Headlee suggested we start by asking questions and listening – listening with the intent to understand, not just with the intent to reply.

She also left her audience with several other tips:

  • Talk about positive topics – it makes your brain work better.
  • Resist the temptation to vent – after a very brief shot of dopamine, it then re-traumatizes you and makes you feel worse.
  • Stop to smile, wave and maybe even give a high five – it will make both you and the other person happier.

Headlee concluded the event by quoting behavioral scientist Nicholas Epley: “Nobody waves, but almost everybody waves back. Be the one who waves.”

About Celeste Headlee

Celeste is an award-winning journalist, professional speaker and best-selling author. Her work and insights have been featured on TODAY, NPR, Time, Essence, Elle, BuzzFeed, Salon, Parade and many more. She has presented to more than 100 companies, conferences and universities including Apple, Google, United Airlines, Duke University, Chobani and ESPN, and received the 2019 Media Changemaker Award.

About the Moneta University Speaker Series

To elevate our client experience at Moneta, we launched the MonetaU Speaker Series in 2020 to help us all stay connected and learning together while social distancing during the pandemic.

As we re-emerge from what was such an unusual, stressful year for so many, we are renewing the MonetaU Speaker Series with three more topical webinars given by high profile guests in 2021 – the first of these being Headlee. We hope these evenings of wisdom, encouragement and inspiration help revitalize your outlook and re-engage with some sense of normalcy. We all need this for ourselves and for each other.

© 2021 Moneta Group Investment Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved. Moneta Group Investment Advisors, LLC is an SEC registered investment advisor and wholly owned subsidiary of Moneta Group, LLC.  Registration as an investment advisor does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Moneta is a service mark owned by Moneta Group, LLC.