AI Can Help You Have Smarter, More Thoughtful Conversations – Microsoft

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The ability to clearly articulate what you want and why you need it is not just vitally important to how you interact with other people—it determines the quality of the responses you get from AI as well. It’s an insight Charles Duhigg, bestselling author of multiple productivity books, uncovered while researching his latest release, Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection. 

Duhigg recently joined us on the WorkLab podcast to explain why communication is having a moment. Here’s what he told us. 

1. Communication is now a technical skill 
In the age of AI, forward-looking leaders are already prioritizing communication skills when they hire. “We’re already seeing more and more emphasis on communication ability as something that employers are looking for,” Duhigg says. “The ability to show during an interview that you can communicate and connect well with others is going to tell that interviewer something about how you also interact with technology, and that’s going to be powerful.”  

2. Want to get more from AI? Get more conversational! 
“The future of tech is going to be more and more like having a conversation and less like using a calculator,” Duhigg says. “I have a 15-year-old son, and if he reads a book that none of his friends are reading, he’ll have a conversation with AI about it. It can be really edifying. Similarly, if you ask AI questions about how it got to an answer, or what other questions it thinks you should ask, it’ll reveal interesting and useful things, and open new avenues of inquiry.” Remember, AI isn’t just a computer spitting out answers; it can be an intellectual partner too. 

3. Communicating emotion is a conversational superpower 
“If you use emotional language with AI, you can increase its effectiveness,” Duhigg says. “Saying something like, ‘The answer to this will determine whether I get a promotion’ will raise the efficacy of the answer that it delivers.” Why? Duhigg says that AI models may be trained on data that contains emotional language, “so using emotional language helps to identify which parts of that dataset the AI ought to pay attention to.” Great communicators know that offering personal or emotional context helps engage others, whether it’s a person or an AI assistant. 

4. Explaining what you need helps you understand what you need 
“One of the reasons why conversation is so useful is because not only does it help us understand another person, it helps us understand ourselves.” That goes for conversational interactions with AI as well. “Sometimes we learn things just in what we say to AI, and then sometimes we learn things from what the machine responds with. And then there are times when I don’t even understand what question I want to ask AI, and it ends up helping me understand what I’m trying to get at.” Clearly articulating exactly what you are looking for helps you clarify in your own head what it is that you actually want. 

5. AI can even help you upgrade your communication in other contexts 
“I talk to researchers who are teaching negotiation skills, and they tell all their students to practice negotiations with AI and pay attention to, What surprises you? What objections do they raise? How do they come back that catches you off guard?” Leaders should absolutely use AI as a sounding board or a stand-in to game out different scenarios or rehearse difficult conversations. 

For more productivity and communication insights from Charles Duhigg, check out the WorkLab podcast. 

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