‘. . . Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain coherent, confident conversation?
High school teacher, Paul Barnwell, from Celeste Headlee’s TED talk, ‘10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation.

Famous people are sometimes asked, ‘What book influenced you the most?’ Invariably it’s a book I haven’t read. For years I asked myself the same question, but no book stood out. I have my favourites, but I could not think of a book which has had a lasting influence upon me.

Until recently.

Out of the blue it hit me. One book has shaped the way I live my life and even today influences my behaviour. It’s a book written by English author Enid Blyton, and it’s called ‘Noddy in Toyland’.

“Hello Noddy!” 

“Hello Golliwog! How are you today?”

“I’m good thank you, Noddy. I am going to the fair today. Will you come with me?”

“Yes please. Can my friend Big-Ears come too?”

That’s how I remember it, anyway. When one character met another it was instant friendship, instant connection. I grew up thinking that’s how it’s supposed to happen, that we were all meant to be friends with one another. If there were a problem, it got fixed.

Life awakened me to reality, but by then it was too late: imprinted upon me were those Toyland values. Today, when I meet someone I assume the best of them. I feel connected with them.

It’s probably why the G. K. Chesterton quote is so important to me.

‘We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.’
G. K. Chesterton.

I really do feel that we are ‘all in the same boat together’ and that we ‘owe each other a terrible loyalty’.

However, a Toyland conversation just won’t do in real life. If we want to feel connected with the people we meet we need to have quality conversations with them. That is what this section is about.

If you don’t already have quality conversations, practise the keys in this section. Practise with a friend. Then with colleagues. Then with your enemies. Then one day you will find your conversations flowing with ease and grace.

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