2024 Top 50: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection 

Communication is a foundational skill in doing the work of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Navigating the many identities and experiences that employees bring to the organization in a way that cultivates belonging and authenticity is a unique challenge that effective communication can help solve. In his keynote address at Fair360’s 2024 Top 50 event, Charles Duhigg, author of Supercommunicators, directly addressed this challenge. 

According to Duhigg, there are three kinds of conversations: 

  • Practical conversations 
  • Emotional conversations 
  • Social conversations 

Practical conversations are focused on solving a problem or making a plan. Emotional conversations focus on personal expression and discussing how someone feels. Social conversations ask questions about how we relate to other people individually and to society at large. As Duhigg explained, communication failures happen when two people are not on the same page about which conversation they’re having. 

“What we have discovered is that when two people or more are having different kinds of conversations at the same moment, it is almost impossible for them to fully hear each other. You’re literally using different parts of your brain.”  

Becoming Supercommunicators

Learning to align on the nature of a conversation builds trust and understanding and makes pivoting between conversations easier. This is not just a social phenomenon, but a neurological reality called neural entrainment. 

By practicing this conversational alignment, known as “The Matching Principle,” we can learn to skillfully have more productive discussions. These discussions, built on mutual understanding and reciprocal authenticity, help people feel heard and validated. One of the best ways to create mutual understanding is by asking deep questions. According to Duhigg, “deep questions” are questions that probe someone’s beliefs and values. 

“It’s a skill that we can and should teach to others,” Duhigg said. “Asking deep questions, study after study has shown, is how we figure out what kind of conversation is going on and how we can connect, how to bond with this other person.” 

The skills Duhigg outlined are especially important for DEI leaders. Cultivating a workplace of belonging and community depends on employees feeling safe and comfortable being their authentic selves. 

“When someone says something authentic to us, and we respond with authenticity of our own, that is when we connect.” 

Click here to view our Top 50 event page, which we will continue to update with articles and videos in the next week.