Celeste Headlee Profile

Celeste Headlee is a communication and human nature expert. She is an internationally recognized journalist and radio host, professional speaker and author of bestselling book We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter. Her TEDx Talk, 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation, has been viewed over 23 million times. Close to 50,000 talks have been given at 10,000 events since the TED program launched in 2009. Celeste’s talk is one of the 10 most-watched talks posted on TED’s homepage.

In her 20-year career in public radio, Celeste has been the Executive Producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show, The Takeaway, from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. She’s a regular guest host on NPR and American Public Media, the host of the series Retro Report on PBS, and author of the upcoming, “Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving” (March 2020, Harmony). Celeste is a member of Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global Thought Leader group, a select group of role models writing for Thrive. She serves as an advisory board member for and The Listen First Project and received the 2019 Media Changemaker Award. She lives in the DC area with rescue dog, Samus.

As an NPR host and journalist, Celeste has interviewed hundreds of people from all walks of life. Through her work, she has learned the true power of conversation and its ability to both bridge gaps or deepen wounds. In a time when conversations are often minimized to a few words in a text message and lack of meaningful communication and dialogue abounds, Celeste sheds a much-needed light on the lost and essential art of conversation. Celeste is an expert in human nature, reclaiming common humanity and finding well being. She frequently provides insight and commentary on what is good for all humans and what is bad for us, focusing on the best research in neuro and social science to increase understanding of how we relate with one another and can work together in beneficial ways in our workplaces, neighborhoods, communities and homes.

As a mixed-race journalist of black and Jewish descent, Celeste also speaks candidly about how to converse on race and other difficult subjects. People respond to Celeste because she connects the dots, explaining the “why” of our behavior in clear terms and providing actionable strategies for doing things differently.

Celeste Headlee Speaking Videos

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Celeste Headlee's Speech Descriptions

Leading/Building Team Culture in the “New Normal”

Navigating the recent/current events radically changing an already fast-evolving work landscape

Melding insights from both We Need to Talk and Do Nothing, team culture workshop(s) are tailored to meet a company’s specific structure (fully in office workforce, fully remote workforce, combination of the two), Celeste addresses topics including:

- Work from home stress – how work stress actually increases in a work from home scenario noting studies that reveal going into an office can provide employees with stress relief and the importance in any transition to a work from home structure to address the increased chances for burnout
- How to communicate remotely and maintain morale and team cohesion - i.e., transactivity
- How to remain productive despite the distractions of home - accountability of team members, etc.
- How to give feedback to remote workers in a constructive way, how often to check in
- Scheduling your workday to increase productivity
- Small changes that have big impacts when it comes to creative problem solving and streamlining processes
- How to structure a conference call to keep them short and effective

Do Nothing

Breaking away from overworking, overdoing, and underliving

Celeste Headlee’s Do Nothing examines the cult of productivity addressing long-held assumptions about time use, idleness, hard work and habits that are ultimately doing us harm, providing tangible to reverse the trend that’s making us all sadder, sicker and less productive, to return to a way of life that allows us to thrive. In her Do Nothing focused workshop(s) tailored to meet a company’s specific structure (fully in office workforce, fully remote workforce, combination of the two), Celeste addresses topics including:

- Burnout – what it is, how to recognize it, actionable ways to avoid it
- Work/Life Balance
- Productivity – including the myths about it and ways to TRULY be more productive

Ten Ways To Have Better Conversations

Celeste Headlee’s Having Better Conversations presentation focuses on the science-based fundamentals of communication and includes thought-provoking topics like the smarter you are the worse you are at communicating. This highly motivational talk, with 10 practical lessons, is designed to inspire self-confidence and introduces strategies for enhancing personal and professional relationships by simply becoming better at having conversations.

Celeste's workshop offers concrete actions to improve attendees' conversational skills and to broaden their view of what constitutes a good (and civil) conversation. Having a conversation is like playing a game of catch. Communication has increased in our technological age, but meaningful conversation has plummeted. If a conversation is one-sided, the ball drops. When your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have conversations - and that most of us don't converse very well. Celeste knows the ingredients of a great conversation; honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. She argues that listening is the true power of what separates those of us who can gain a competitive advantage in whatever it is we are trying to achieve. Knowing what conversational tool should be used (and when) is critical to cultivating relationships.

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– Texas Society of Association Executives

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Books by Celeste Headlee:

Speaking of Race: Why Everybody Needs to Talk About Racism―and How to Do It

A self-described “light-skinned Black Jew,” Celeste Headlee has been forced to speak about race—including having to defend or define her own—since childhood. In her career as a journalist for public media, she’s made it a priority to talk about race proactively. She’s discovered, however, that those exchanges have rarely been productive. While many people say they want to talk about race, the reality is, they want to talk about race with people who agree with them. The subject makes us uncomfortable; it’s often not considered polite or appropriate. To avoid these painful discussions, we stay in our bubbles, reinforcing our own sense of righteousness as well as our division.

Yet we gain nothing by not engaging with those we disagree with; empathy does not develop in a vacuum and racism won’t just fade away. If we are to effect meaningful change as a society, Headlee argues, we have to be able to talk about what that change looks like without fear of losing friends and jobs, or being ostracized. In Speaking of Race, Headlee draws from her experiences as a journalist, and the latest research on bias, communication, and neuroscience to provide practical advice and insight for talking about race that will facilitate better conversations that can actually bring us closer together.

This is the book for people who have tried to debate and educate and argue and got nowhere; it is the book for those who have stopped talking to a neighbor or dread Thanksgiving dinner. It is an essential and timely book for all of us.

We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter

“We Need to Talk is an important read for a conversationally-challenged, disconnected age. Headlee is a talented, honest storyteller, and her advice has helped me become a better spouse, friend, and mother.” (Jessica Lahey, author of New York Times bestseller The Gift of Failure)

Today most of us communicate from behind electronic screens, and studies show that Americans feel less connected and more divided than ever before. The blame for some of this disconnect can be attributed to our political landscape, but the erosion of our conversational skills as a society lies with us as individuals.

And the only way forward, says Headlee, is to start talking to each other. In We Need to Talk, she outlines the strategies that have made her a better conversationalist—and offers simple tools that can improve anyone’s communication. For example:

BE THERE OR GO ELSEWHERE. Human beings are incapable of multitasking, and this is especially true of tasks that involve language. Think you can type up a few emails while on a business call, or hold a conversation with your child while texting your spouse? Think again.

CHECK YOUR BIAS. The belief that your intelligence protects you from erroneous assumptions can end up making you more vulnerable to them. We all have blind spots that affect the way we view others. Check your bias before you judge someone else.

HIDE YOUR PHONE. Don’t just put down your phone, put it away. New research suggests that the mere presence of a cell phone can negatively impact the quality of a conversation.

Whether you’re struggling to communicate with your kid’s teacher at school, an employee at work, or the people you love the most—Headlee offers smart strategies that can help us all have conversations that matter.

Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving

We work feverishly to make ourselves happy. So why are we so miserable?

Despite our constant search for new ways to optimize our bodies and minds for peak performance, human beings are working more instead of less, living harder not smarter, and becoming more lonely and anxious. We strive for the absolute best in every aspect of our lives, ignoring what we do well naturally and reaching for a bar that keeps rising higher and higher. Why do we measure our time in terms of efficiency instead of meaning? Why can’t we just take a break?

In Do Nothing, award-winning journalist Celeste Headlee illuminates a new path ahead, seeking to institute a global shift in our thinking so we can stop sabotaging our well-being, put work aside, and start living instead of doing. As it turns out, we’re searching for external solutions to an internal problem. We won’t find what we’re searching for in punishing diets, productivity apps, or the latest self-improvement schemes. Yet all is not lost – we just need to learn how to take time for ourselves, without agenda or profit, and redefine what is truly worthwhile.

Pulling together threads from history, neuroscience, social science, and even paleontology, Headlee examines long-held assumptions about time use, idleness, hard work, and even our ultimate goals. Her research reveals that the habits we cling to are doing us harm; they developed recently in human history, which means they are habits that can, and must, be broken. It’s time to reverse the trend that’s making us all sadder, sicker, and less productive, and return to a way of life that allows us to thrive.

Heard Mentality: An A-Z Guide to Take Your Podcast or Radio Show from Idea to Hit

This book guides you through the process of creating a radio show or podcast from the initial idea to the finished production. Drawing on the experience of national broadcasters like Steve Inskeep, Susan Stamberg, and Michel Martin of NPR, this book includes a collective 400 years of wisdom about broadcasting and audio. It also includes a detailed guide to doing great interviews, recruiting the best talent, and staffing your show. There’s also a removable guide you can hand to producers on your staff and helpful templates you can duplicate to begin producing your podcast or show immediately.

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