The Art of Conversation

“As modern culture embraces social media and digital chatter, valuable aspects of face-to-face conversation are being lost.” – Breathe Magazine

Can we talk? The one and only Joan Rivers brought that question to a whole new level during her time here on earth. Not only was she funny but her humor, combined with the ability to connect with people, is what allowed her to get away with the stuff that would follow her “Can we talk” one liner. She was bold, brave and brassy! I think it was her personal interactions and ability to read people which further allowed for this level of “straightforward-ness.”

In today’s culture,  personal interaction has been compromised because of the way people are digitally communicating as well as evolving. Everything is so rapid… the accumulation of knowledge, the ability to research, shop, learn, entertain, educate, obtain information in minutes and, yes, communicate point-blank words that are exchanged via texts that are devoid of eye contact and emotion. Sadly, the art of face-to-face conversation is becoming a lost art. We can change that though!!!!!

Have you experienced conflicts via texts because the message was received and interpreted NOT the was intended? Texting serves a purpose in that we can get a quick answer when needed. However, we all find ourselves in these lengthy threads of conversations that take more time and energy than picking up the phone does, or meeting for tea/coffee or a bite to eat. We have all become quite “laid back” in our communication styles. How many of us don’t even take advantage of FaceTime? At least we can better gauge emotions, a person’s state of mind, their need and intention via FaceTime. That’s not something we can do via texting. And boy, can THAT create unwelcomed and unexpected  problems!

I came across a line in an article I was reading,  which inspired this essay, and it seemed to compliment my previous blog, Keeping It Real. I think it succinctly states the conversation crisis we are experincing in today’s times:

“If more people are more connected than ever before thanks to technology, paradoxically there are also more people so immersed in the digital world that they forget to experience life in the real world, ultimately losing the ability to communicate in person.”

There is a word in this quote that is key. And that the word “ability.” The art of conversation takes ability, skill, talent, practice, discernment, eloquence, tact, truth, intention, meaning and language….just to name a few. We each have our own communication style. Our styles have taken years and years (and perhaps even tears) to develop. It’s as if we’ve tried on different styles of communication throughout our lifetime until we find one that suits our personality. While some of us feel comfortable in all types of conversations, there are others of us who freeze at the thought of initiating conversation, much less taking part in meaningful or sensitive dialogue.

It’s my belief that face to face conversations either make you feel alive or they scare the crap out of you. What do face-to-face conversations do for you?

  • Do you enjoy human interaction?
  • Are you comfortable speaking in different settings?
  • Are you comfortable approaching a complete stranger and initiating a convo with them?
  • How do you feel when a stranger approaches you?
  • Do you enjoy eye contact?
  • Are you a touchy-feely type of person?
  • Do you enjoy the art of a good, real, raw, oftentimes messy and significant conversation?

It’s also my belief that we can all use some conversation etiquette these days. As with all things in life, we periodically need to assess what we are doing, how we are doing it, and decide if we need to alter or make a change in our approach to a given situation. Well, the article I was reading in Breathe Magazine (The Well-being Issue), listed the following guidelines to help us improve our conversation skills:

How to start a conversation:

  • If you feel anxious, ask questions first, so you become more comfortable about sharing your thoughts.
  • Avoid discussing the weather (seriously!) and direct the conversation to more interesting matters.
  • Avoid contentious topics on first acquaintance and try to establish common ground instead,
  • Once a mutual connection is reached, turn the trivial chitchat into something more meaningful.
  • When joining a conversation, be aware of the tone and mood so you can adapt accordingly.

How to take conversation beyond small talk:

  • Share anecdotal details about your life and experiences relevant to the subject being discussed.
  • Be genuinely curious and ask open-ended questions to invite people to talk about themselves.
  • Pay attention to body language so you can change the subject if you see signs that others are no longer engaged.
  • If you are open, honest, show compassion, and maybe a touch of vulnerability, people tend to mirror these qualities.

Conversation Etiquette:

  • Be approachable. Smile. Be friendly, Keep eye contact, and listen without interrupting.
  • Show interest. Displaying attentiveness and asking meaningful questions will show that you really care and also encourage other people to open up to you.
  • Be passionate but don’t try to convert people to your beliefs. Maintain an open mind and make an effort to understand other people’s perspective.
  • Don’t make it feel like an interrogation or be a conversation narcissist. Ensure a balance in the dialogue to avoid constant questioning or boring monologues.
  • Don’t revel too much about yourself. Disclose unwelcome information and you may find an awkward silence.
  • Be yourself and be natural. If you are an introvert, be brave and practice many different social situations. Many people don’t like small talk but try to consider it as an opportunity to learn about others as well as yourself.

The aforementioned guidelines can help us all be a good “conversationalist” and enhance our ability to talk and listen effectively. And again, as with all things in life, it is a practice! And as far as difficult and sensitive conversations go? I truly believe in speaking the truth kindly, calmly and compassionately. Like Yogi Tea tags often advise: “Say it straight, say it simple and say it with a smile.”

The other guideline I like to adhere to pertains to gossip. When it comes to gossip, unless it is the absolute truth, kind and helpful, I do not partake in it. “He said / she said” scenarios are toxic, and they take on the characteristics of the “telephone game” in that each time the story is told to another person, and that person repeats it, the story has changed entirely. It truly is a waste of energy and a detriment to our mental health….just sayin’.

So my darlings, what do you say? Let’s put away our phones a little more often, and seek out a friend, co-worker, family member or complete stranger, and let’s practice the art of face-to-face conversation. And remember to be aware of the message that a phone in hand, or at the table, sends to our friends, family and colleagues when we’re in their company: that they don’t matter. Will you join me in having more face-to-face conversations where we are totally present for each other?

And if you are one of those people who are petrified and afraid to step out of your comfort zone….take baby steps. One step at a time, You may just be surprised at how you blossom and come to life. And speaking of life, the world needs more people to come alive!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

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