Our busy texting, snapping, whatsapping and tiktokking lives have not only affected our willingness of writing out full words or, yawn, sentences, they have reduced our conversational skills.
How Can The Art Of Conversation Help You Succeed In Life?
Before our digital lives took off, the art of conversation was a sign of education and manners; it showed you had the time and the right social life to continuously improve your conversational style. It distinguished you. And guess what, it still does. Why? Although we have many more ways of expressing ourselves quickly and in heavily abbreviated forms, we are still bound and mesmerised by those who can speak well and entertain us with their wordcraft.
The art of conversation is part and parcel of life and the glue that keeps us together; it introduces and connects us to people, who may turn out to be highly relevant in our lives, it being a friend, a partner, an employer or employee. The art of conversation is the building block for building a social circle, which in turn is one of the important ingredients for our general sense of well-being.
So away from our phones and close friend groups, how do we talk to people, and how do we start conversations AND keep them going? Before anything, let’s avoid the trap of mentally dismissing people we meet as ‘irrelevant’ or ‘uninteresting’ as appearances today can be very misleading. This little bit of arrogance or awkwardness can lead to many a missed opportunity.
Conversations, some ground rules
Good manners and an open mind are great tools in our arsenal when we want to start a conversation with anyone in any situation, even if we consider ourselves to be shy. As Harry Mount in the Spectator wrote, “in an increasingly, selfish, rude world, good manners are superweapons.”Having any conversation suggests that we must be polite and make an effort to be nice. Looking constantly at our phones or answering texts whilst talking to someone else will kill off that conversation before it even started.
Lots of great conversations, if not all, start with small talk. After all, one does not open a chat with our views on nuclear power or deforestation. Small talk is meant to be easy and light. It normally is a topic that regards the here and now. Small talk comments can be about an event we are attending, about food we are buying/eating, about something we are watching or, if really nothing else springs to mind, about the weather. Compliments are another excellent way to start a conversation. The: ‘I like your trainers/your puppy/ your car/ your top/ your sunglasses’ (to be used age and gender appropriate please) are surely good small talk starters. There are very few people who do not fall for a good compliment.
For conversations to continue beyond the small talk, ask questions. This shows interest and engagement. Without getting too personal or too intense, questions will almost always make a little chat into a more interesting one - and who knows what we can take away from it.
Another ground rule is that we must let the other person talk without us interrupting them: let them answer the question we asked and listen. Listening is something many people find really hard and mostly we are just waiting for the other person to finish talking, so we can say what we want to say. Like “oh, this is what happened to me…” This way our conversations become a mere exchange of words (or air) and lose colour and interest. The better we listen, the more we gain.
So, when we really talk to others and really listen to them, there are so many (unexpected) things we may learn, which may lead us in different directions or even change our lives. It will certainly make us feel more connected, contented and happier.
A positive attitude, a smile and a bit of humour will go a long way in making good (spoken) conversation. Stop worrying and start talking. It would be a shame to miss out.
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