The Lost Art of Conversation
Posted on July 17, 2012 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
I’ve committed a few conversational etiquette crimes in my 40 plus years. In high school, I would survey about six friends to validate my own opinions. I’ve always had a tendency to analyze things to death, and through the years, friends and family had to listen … a lot. Then there was that period of my life where I was so good at creating drama, and then I spent the other half of my time filling my friends’ ears about it. Let’s just say I have conversational regrets. Since I can’t go back and fix those selfish blunders, I’ve chalked it up to a great learning experience.
“When you know better, you do better.” – Maya Angelou
My social gaffes opened my eyes to the art of conversation. One of my favorite things is to have a deep conversation where it feels like a well-choreographed dance. It’s the opposite of surface, awkward chitchat. You get lost in the conversation. Time flies. New perspectives and insights are shared, and relationships are deepened. There’s even an art to casual conversation. I love social settings where the conversation is like a tennis match, everyone gets a chance to serve and hit the ball back and share the limelight. So why does it seem like the fine art of conversation is dying?
The most common type of conversation these days is the monologue. It’s titled, “I’m so fascinating, I am going to make you my audience.” You are either cornered in a group setting by someone who will monopolize you, or your whole group is dominated by one person talking endlessly about themselves. I keep seeing it happen. After spending the whole time listening, I get home and realize, “Wow, that person didn’t ask one thing about me.”
I get that people like to talk about themselves. I joke with my husband that talking about me is my favorite topic, and he’s not quite sure I’m joking. But to dominate a conversation to the exclusion of everyone else is a major social blunder. I may politely listen, but in my head I’m wondering how someone can be so unaware. I think: It really doesn’t matter how captivating your stories may be, if you never let anyone else ever have the floor, you are only conveying one message about yourself—and it isn’t good.
Last time I checked, conversation includes banter. It’s a give and take and a somewhat balanced mix of sharing stories, responding, commenting and listening.
A conversation isn’t a litany of everything going on in your life and then we both hang up the phone.
A conversation isn’t turning friends into an audience for your endless stories and forgetting to ask even one tiny question about the other person.
A conversation isn’t reciting resume and career highlights since you graduated college because you are so impressed with yourself.
A conversation isn’t repeating the same stories because you are oblivious.
I don’t contend that I am perfect. Sometimes I talk with a friend and later when I return home or hang up the phone, I wonder if I offered too much of my opinion in my desire to help. I try and remind myself not to overstep boundaries because there are times when people just need to talk, and they may not want my input. I also work on rambling less, not repeating myself and listening more.
We could get the art of conversation back if we made the decision to be more interested with other people and less so with ourselves. Conversations will improve if people focus on the art of listening and remember that behind every face there are some beautiful stories that can expand our understanding of each other.
It’s a colossal conversational blunder to take center stage and turn friends, family or business associates into an audience for a rendition of “No one is as fascinating as me.”
What about you, do you think conversation is a lost art form?