The art of conversation. It’s important, isn’t it?
We’re heading into the time of year when we may be called upon to socialize more than usual. But what if we’re out of practice? What if we’re going through tough times? What if we simply don’t do “pleasantries” very well?
Can we learn? Is it a valuable skill, even in our virtual world?
Recently I was chatting with an acquaintance I hadn’t spoken to in some time. Despite my tendency toward introversion (and enjoyment of serious topics that engage my mind), in person, like most of us, I have a lighter side – and a silly one.
I found myself chatting – surface chatting – and it was delicious. The two of us bounced from topic to topic, talked and laughed for about 20 minutes, and we were able to reconnect in this entertaining manner without delving into anything too intense. There’s enormous pleasure to be had in banter!
Is conversation an art?
Most would agree it is.
Has it become a lost art?
I worry about that sometimes, considering the amount that we all abbreviate our conversations, especially when we begin talking the way we text or tweet. Then there’s the increasing prevalence of social isolation in the real world, as we work remotely and communicate through our devices.
Dos, Don’ts, and Tips to Improve Conversation
It’s helpful to bear in mind that every art has its elements of underlying craft – skills we can acquire and knowledge to guide us.
For example, it’s all too easy to bring the wrong tone to a conversation. Imagine you’ve had a dreadful day. The dog was teething on your Jimmy Choos. The boss was indifferent to your presentation. The engine light is flashing on your dashboard and the kids are fighting in the back seat.
Who wants chit-chat?
Chocolate, vodka, or running away from home sound more in order.
However, it’s critical to remember that there’s a time and place for everything including serious topics, free-form venting, and even confrontation. But these don’t belong in certain venues, public or private. It’s also important to:
- Read the responses of the other party to the conversation.
- Show sensitivity to subjects that touch on difficulties they’re going through.
- Avoid politics, religion, be cautious in your humor.
(Do you sense or know there are issues of work stress? Marital problems? Health concerns? Cut the other person some slack!)
Practice Makes Perfect
I stumbled into these Dos and Don’ts when it comes to conversational etiquette, courtesy of The Art of Manliness. There are some good ones here! Among others, the recommendation to listen more than you talk is always excellent, as is the advice to come prepared with a few topics at the ready.
A few of the don’ts?
Don’t interrupt, and don’t “one-up” the person you’re talking to. (I admit to struggling a bit with the former, depending on how long I’ve been silently sitting behind a computer screen…)
If you’ve never been good at talk that is light and polite, it does indeed have its place and its usefulness. Moreover, it’s learnable.
As for light and bright? That, too.
If you need icebreakers because you’re out of practice, they’re learnable, too.
If you need to psych yourself out of a bad mood (and slip into a better one), can you imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes if they’re face-to-face with a moody cranky grump?
Great Conversation? Huge Mood Enhancer!
The magical consequence of being dragged (even kicking and screaming) into a situation where people are enjoying conversation is that you just may find your bad mood morphing into a good one.
Who doesn’t relax around smiles and laughter? Who doesn’t enjoy hearing people’s stories? And isn’t it flattering when you ask someone about their life – not in an intrusive way, but an interesting one?
And if the conversation turns flirtatious (and you’re free as a bird) – enjoy!
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