Not many arts have been lost and forgotten as quietly as the art of conversation. Gone are the days where people ‘liked’ to talk. Talking today is a necessity and kept as roped in as possible. Others who do engage in conversations are trying to get to a point, mostly ‘relationships’ with a reason.
Then there are the one-sided blabbering and also the murmuring souls who have nothing good to say.
None of this is what we call as the art of conversation.
What is the point of conversation?
A conversation is an exchange of our minds in a way that builds us up. In simple words, we talk to each other and pay attention to what we say and listen to what others say. Conversation, roughly speaking, has three basic steps- Listen, Understand and Speak.
We could have said that the first part was speaking. On the contrary, always speaking first could be a poor way to start a conversation. Before we start a talk, we should know if it is the right place and time. You do not have to think, it is easy. It comes naturally to us. You may have to break the ice, do it but do not grind it.
One mistake we do in our daily talks is that we do not pay any attention to the other person. We are immersed in our own goals. Paying attention does not have to be in a clingy manner. Pay heed and look at the person or at his or her face while speaking. That gives you all the cues you need.
What we tend to do instead? We are looking at the screens, we are multi tasking. We ‘do’ think it is necessary to pay attention while talking. No wonder we get bored so easily.
The art of conversation starts with listening- not with our ears but with our attention.
Most of our communication is non-verbal. Corporates study this non-verbal communication to reduce friction in companies and make better ads. In fact, most of our communication is given away by our body language and facial expression. So how could you be listening to someone with your head deep buried in a phone screen?
Thus the art of conversation needs you to understand what is actually being said instead of merely hearing the words. Drown your urge to react immediately every time.
Speaking is underrated. We do not use our voices beautifully whereas it can be tool for opening up others and ourselves. We choose to use harsh words instead of kind ones. Worst of all, we criticize.
Speak clearly and use your words well. Be diplomatic so as not to hurt the feelings of others but overdoing diplomacy makes us look fake. Speak straight but do not be harsh. Do not be rude. The aim to speak upfront is to stand up for a right cause but saying it in such a way that the listener understands it. Never be aggressive in your speaking. Do not spew out words of hatred and anger. Remember that the listener is a human made of flesh and blood with feelings and emotions. How you speak imprints on others leaving a lasting memory. Years after, words of kindness are remembered. Years later we may forget a lot of stuff but we remember how people were kind and nice to others. Words have a powerful effect on us.
How to improve your art of conversation?
Firstly, do not criticize. Do not be sarcastic. These are the poisons that have been killing off all kinds of arts from our world.
Sarcasm is not the sign of an educated mind. On the contrary, it is the depiction of a cowardly person. Sarcastic people kill off the art of conversation because no one feels comfortable to share their mind for fear of being chided and ridiculed. Sarcasm can only devastate but cannot build anything up. It cannot inspire and help anyone. Sarcasm is an intangible poison and the presence of one sarcastic person has often stopped people from conversing.
In our contemporary social media age, criticism and sarcasm has seen new heights. People often wonder why we have stopped talking to each other. Nowadays, we do not take responsibility for what we speak for we do so hidden behind our screens. It was different when we spoke face to face. Now as we type from our devices, there is least sense of personal accountability. We can comment with or without a name (or a pseudo name) and opine on anything we want to and get away with it. For instance, read the comments below the YouTube videos. There are many statements that are merely there to criticize, attack personally and have lost all sense of good manners. Why is all this important?
If we attack a person in such ways, she or he can never open up. How can you have a good conversation when people are scared to express themselves. When we talk to each other, we open our hearts and minds in the process. Once an attack of criticism or sarcasm happens, people recede to the safety of their shells. No matter what knowledge or good things one would want to say, the desire is gone.
Sarcasm is not useful in any way and we do not need it in a civilized society. Criticism however has its place as long it is offered in a constructive way. A good critic never sounds like a critic but more like a guide. A good critic knows the art of conversation. He understands the value of good communication.
Another way we can get better at the art of conversation is to be better at the language you are speaking. Words and grammar in a language are there for a practical purpose, to express yourself and to understand others. There is a beauty in every language which has been built by hundreds of years of hard work by scholars. Do not spoil it all in a moment. Know what is slang, what is derogatory and where not to use it. As much as people like to believe it, the truth is just the opposite – no one likes a foul mouthed for too long no matter how smart a look he might put up.
To speak a language well, you do not have to be a scholar. It is easy, just listen and read the people who do it right. That is the best way to learn.
Let us bring back the lost art of conversation back to life. We do not have to do much. Read this article and show it to others to make them aware. A good conversation is a great experience in itself, it is how we enjoy our humanity.