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Why Better Conversations Will Improve Your Health, Essential Skills To Enhance Your Relationships & Why Men Struggle To Open Up with Nihal Arthanayke

by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee   /  April 24, 2024

Today we’re going meta, as they say. Because this is a conversation about…conversation. More than that, it’s a deep and meaningful exchange about why effective, authentic dialogue is so important to humankind – and yet seemingly in decline. And who better to exchange words with on this topic, than my fellow ‘professional conversationalist’, Nihal Arthanayake.

You may know Nihal as an acclaimed broadcaster and TV presenter. He currently presents a national daytime show on BBC Radio 5 Live, which has over 1.2 million regular listeners, and his unique style recently won him Interviewer of the Year at the BBC Radio and Music Awards. Nihal is a good friend, so I can testify to his ability to ‘give good chat’. But he’s also brilliant at having public conversations that are bold, thoughtful and honest. Guests from the world’s biggest stars to leaders of inner-city gangs have lauded his ability to stimulate positive discussions without the need for confrontation. 

In his wonderful book, Let’s Talk: How To Have Better Conversations, which has recently been released in paperback, Nihal explains that all the scientific evidence points towards us now sharing fewer conversations than we ever have done before. We may have hundreds of connections on social media, but fewer than ever in our daily lives. So, could learning the art of conversation be an antidote to loneliness?

In our conversation, we discuss the importance of empathy and active listening, with your heart and mind as well as your ears and eyes. Are you listening to understand, says Nihal, or simply to respond? We talk about vulnerability in conversation, why men in particular find that difficult, and why it feels so hard for male friends to exchange words like ‘I miss you’ or even ‘I love you’.

As an experienced interviewer, Nihal has plenty of anecdotal evidence about successful communication – it’s something he demonstrates daily on the airwaves. But he also shares his personal experience and advice, such as how he’s approached conversations with friends who are going through tough times, or why he went to couples’ therapy with his wife on realising their interactions had become more transactional than conversational.

He also explains the evolution and psychology of dialogue, as well as the neuroscience of what’s happening in the brain during meaningful discourse. And he shares some powerful, high-profile case studies who’ve proved that it is possible to find common ground with anyone, even those who are your sworn enemies, by finding your common humanity.

I really think that the skills Nihal is encouraging us all to cultivate are essential if we are to live happy and contented lives, but also essential when it comes to our physical and mental wellbeing.

This conversation was relaxed and light hearted but at the same time, powerful and provocative. As Nihal says, great conversation is the glue that binds us all together.

Disclaimer: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.*

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Watch the video version of the conversation here:

Connect with Nihal:

Instagram     Twitter

Nihal’s book:

Let’s Talk: How to Have Better Conversations

Related Feel Better Live More Episodes:

#177 How to Build Exceptional Relationships and Why You Should with David Bradford and Carole Robin

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*DISCLAIMER: Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.

†Disclosure: All books marked with a † are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We take part in Amazon’s affiliate advertising program designed to provide a way for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon’s website. You are not charged any extra by using these links to purchase books.

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee MbChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP, MRCGP