Jason Wachob

mbg Founder & Co-CEO

By Jason Wachob

mbg Founder & Co-CEO

Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth.

Charles Duhigg

Image by Charles Duhigg x mbg creative

June 23, 2024

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Close relationships help us live longer—and that’s not just a theory; it’s been proven in research time and time again. At the core of every longevity-feeding relationship is one thing: Great communication. 


Know what conversation you’re having

To have a great conversation, you first need to identify what type of conversation you’re having. Duhigg categorizes all conversations into three types:

  • Practical: What is this really about?
  • Emotional: How do we feel?
  • Social: Who are we?

Understanding the type of conversation ensures that both parties share the same goal. Without this clarity, one person might express emotions while the other tries to problem-solve, leading to misunderstandings on both sides. 

Duhugg’s tip

If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to ask. For example, if someone starts discussing a difficult situation at work and you can’t tell if it’s a practical or emotional conversation, simply ask, “Do you want to vent, or do you want help finding a solution?”

To be a better listener, Duhigg suggests using a method called looping for understanding, similar to reflective listening. This method can be broken down into three steps:

  1. Ask a question: Preferably, a deep question.
  2. Repeat back their response: Paraphrase their response in your own words.
  3. Ask if you got it right: Confirm your interpretation.

Step two can even help you identify the type of conversation you’re having. Duhigg gives an example: “What I hear you say is this is really bothering you, and you need me to come in and be more of a support to you.” If the other party doesn’t want support but rather advice, they can let you know then and there. 

The last step is essential but often forgotten, he says. It allows the other person to clarify their feelings and intentions so you can respond properly. 

Want the latest and greatest from leading well-being experts? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts.


Know when to skip the text

Thanks to modern technology, there are plenty of ways to communicate—text, call, video chat, voice message, and more. Each has its valid uses, and none should be dismissed as “poor communication,” not even texting.

“It’s not that some forms of communication are inherently bad—it’s that different forms have their own strengths, weaknesses, and rules,” Duhigg says.

For instance, a call might be better than a text if you want to convey sarcasm. For more serious discussions, it’s often best to wait for an in-person meeting rather than calling.

It’s common sense, but we sometimes forget to consider how our message will be received without context like tone, expression, or body language. So, before you press send, think about the best way to get your message across.


Ask questions about emotions

“One thing we know about consistent supercommunicators is that they ask 10 to 20 times more questions than the average person,” Duhigg says. But these aren’t just any questions—they ask deep questions about people’s values, beliefs, or experiences.

This might sound intimidating, but Duhigg boils it down to a simple rule: “Instead of asking about the facts of someone’s life, ask how they feel about their life, and it will inevitably lead to a deep conversation.”

For example, if someone mentions they went to a university in Ohio, don’t just ask which city it’s in. Instead, ask what made them choose that university or why they picked the major they did. 

These kinds of questions steer the conversation to a more meaningful place rather than sticking to one-word answers. By the end, you’ll have more insights into that person’s interests, preferences, and maybe even their deeper values.


Choose quality over quantity

When life gets busy, it’s easy to fall out of consistent communication, even with those you care about. Rather than trying to keep up with frequent but quick conversations, Duhigg suggests opting for quality over quantity.

“If there is someone special in your life, set up a time at least once a year and set aside an hour and a half to call them and catch up,” he says.

He also advises acknowledging that the first 10 minutes might be a bit awkward—and that’s okay. “But after you get over those first 10 minutes, it’s going to be magical.”

That one phone call, whether it’s once a year or once a month, is incredibly valuable and worth investing time in—however much time you can spare.

At the end of the day, we all have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to communication. But the more effort we put in, the more payout we’ll get–both in happiness and longevity. 

The takeaway

Communication is the pathway to close relationships and a skill worth practicing. Start by asking deeper questions, looping for understanding, and identifying what conversation you’re having at the moment.

For more tips on becoming a supercommunicator, listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts or watch on YouTube