Three TED Talks to improve your communication skills

Ted Talk

Find out how to be a better communicator, overcome differences with colleagues and speak so others listen.


  • Communication is a critical skill in any workplace.
  • In our increasingly divisive world, people have lost the ability to communicate and, particularly, to listen.
  • These three short TED Talks offer some excellent advice to help you become a better speaker and listener.

By Beth Wallace

Job ads often list good communication skills as an essential quality for candidates and no wonder. Effective communication creates efficiencies at work, promotes collaboration and good relationships, mitigates conflict and can even boost your chances of getting what you want. Ineffective communication, on the other hand, has been shown to negatively impact productivity, job satisfaction and stress levels.

Recent research from CSIRO, Australia’s national science and industrial research agency, reveals that employer demand for workers with strong interpersonal skills such as communication has surged since the COVID-19 pandemic, as they look for staff who can work well with others, especially when working from home.

Learning how to be a better communicator is useful for any role. Whether you want to stand out to employers or learn how to get your point across to colleagues more successfully, these three TED Talks impart some valuable lessons.

1. How to disagree productively and find common ground

Number of views: 6,361,039

Run time: 15 mins

What it’s about: What would happen if we presented ideas to one another in structured debates, rather than just pushing our own agenda and dismissing everyone else’s? It’s an approach that world debating champion and leader of Boston Consulting Group’s Behavioral Science Lab, Julia Dhar, advocates. At a time when public discourse is broken – and people are often so afraid of getting into an argument that they choose not to engage – debating provides a model for structured disagreement. By encouraging people to listen to views that differ from their own and commit to the possibility of being wrong, debating has the potential to nurture new ideas and unity, whether in personal conversations, at work or on a political stage.

2. How to speak so that others want to listen

Number of views: 58,184,738

Run time: 10 mins

What it’s about: Want to make sure that others actually listen when you speak? First, steer clear of the seven deadly sins of speaking, says sound and communication expert Julian Treasure. Ranging from gossip and judging to negativity and dogmatism, these are the things that are difficult to listen to. So, if we want people to tune in to what we’re saying, they should be avoided. Instead, follow the acronym HAIL, by speaking with honesty, authenticity, integrity and love. Treasure supplements this wisdom with practical tips for using the toolbox of your voice – adapting factors such as volume, timbre, prosody and pace – to speak more powerfully and get your message across.

3. 10 ways to have a better conversation

Number of views: 29,544,969

Run time: 11 mins

What it’s about: Good conversations require a balance of talking and listening. Radio host Celeste Headlee is well versed in both. In this TED Talk, she outlines her rules of good conversation – avoiding the usual advice you might hear, such as using body language to show you’re engaged (because of course if you’re truly listening, you don’t have to try to show it). Her advice is easy to implement and includes tips to avoid becoming distracted and tuning out, plus to enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn. Even if you implement just one of these strategies, you’re likely to become a better conversationalist and a good listener.

Disclaimer: Viewing figures correct as of 12 March 2024.

This article was first published by Acuity Magazine at the following URL: