Talking about Talking

I am fascinated with the art of conversation. You will know that I periodically reflect here about my own adventures into making conversations – when I am bored, tired, disagreeable or being anti social. I have also walked away from exchanges with older women who have made the most amazing inroads into my life through a few moments of questions, answers and comments. I would like to be able to converse well, wouldn’t you?

American TV personality Barbara Walters says this about conversation in How to talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything (1970):

I happen to disagree with the well-entrenched theory that the art of conversation is merely the art of being a good listener. Such advice invites people to be cynical with one another and full of fake; when a conversation becomes a monologue, poked along with tiny cattle-prod questions, it isn’t a conversation any more. It is a strained, manipulative game, tiring and perhaps even lonely. Maybe the person doing the talking enjoys himself at the time, but I suspect he’ll have uncomfortable afterthoughts about it; certainly his audience has had a cheerless time.
A conversation, even a brief one, should have all the best features of any functioning human relationships, and that means genuine interest on both sides, opportunity and respect for both to express themselves, and some dashes of tact and perception. Conversation can be such pleasure that it is criminal to exchange comments so stale that neither really listens. 

In our technology saturated modern world the art of conversation is growing stale, as we choose to text and have e-conversations in place of face to face ones. The humble conversation is at risk of dying a sad death, only to be remembered by those older than I. Let’s hope that by listening more and by genuine interest from both parties a real conversation culture will develop. Let’s talk about it some more, hey!

Conversation – I am working on it…

I think I had almost given up on people. Recently I have been struck by the general busyness of my life and those around me. One of the things that seem to suffer when we are busy is conversation. We talk about the rain, the football (well, I don’t but others do) or our kid. But we rarely share our lives, tell our stories to each other, reveal what is really on our hearts.

As I look at a friend or acquaintance I could wonder where their sad eyes come from, or I could ask them. And dare I say it, share my own sadness. Imagine us all in a room together, holding our sadness, tears, hopes, dreams, joys in bags – our emotional baggage that we don’t talk about. I wonder what bag would be weighing you down right now?

So if I told you that I recently had dinner with a group of people and we talked philosophy and ideas; we told each other about our life when we were 21 years old; we lamented change; we laughed and we shared extreme parenting moments would you be surprised? We started talking, conversing….it was the start of something. And it has given me hope that conversation is alive. But I have to work at it. Are you with me?

Gretchen Rubin on Small Talk

Small talk. At the start of a new year I always find there are new social events to attend via work, school and community and they require me to engage in polite conversation. Do you ever have days when you really cannot be bothered? There are also occasions when I am guilty of glazing over if the conversation is boring, relentless and self absorbed. But sometimes that “Hello, my name is Susan” ….just doesn’t work. Last year I read Gretchen Rubin’s, The Happiness Project. A good friend had referred to it on numerous occasions and I had looked up her website and bookmarked and then…left it to gather dust. But after unearthing the site I purchased a copy and made my way though various chapters about Rubin’s experiment with strategically creating enduring happiness.

One of the ideas that resonated was conversation and preparing to say affirming and encouraging things to people, in particular your husband/partner. Considering how our words can build people up, whether it is a bedmate, our child, neighbour, co-worker or even enemy is a sobering exercise.

So how might out words, our polite conversation with people have the same impact? This article has simple practical ideas from googling the news before attending and event, so that you are ‘news ready’ to planning open ended questions to ask. It seems small talk is no small task.