The Art of Conversation – Is It Lost?
My interaction with people as of late would tell me that we may be on the cusp of losing the art of conversation. (sounds a bit dramatic! but I have your attention don’t I?) I am a watcher and listener, so I am always observing the flow of interaction with people, whether I am in the interaction or am a fly on the wall. I don’t write this as an expert at conversing, I have much to learn in this area. I fail at times when I talk with people. So what I write below, I am guilty of!
I have noticed a trend in conversations with people, from the observer/contributor/participant role, that questions are rarely asked. Questions about how one is doing, the adventures they embark on, how their family is faring (insert the plethora of questions here). I am an interviewer at heart so asking questions is natural for me, so it is highlighted when people do not reciprocate or aren’t in the business of that flow. I am a huge fan of the back and forth of conversations. The tennis match method. (I just made that method up!) Questions are always needed in conversing. The questions, the answer, the listening, the speaking.
What has contributed to the loss of conversation? I believe one big contributor is social media. I can look at pictures, statuses, comments and with the information gathered think that I know exactly what is going on in one’s life. So, when I see them next I don’t have to ask them about their life because I know how they are doing from the story I have arranged in my mind. However, we all are smarter than that and know that photos don’t always say how one is doing, in fact I don’t even think they skim the surface.
I have heard from some that they feel inadequate at conversing. They would rather text than sit in front of someone and talk with them. (this may be true for some who grew up more immersed in the social media age). This is so sad to me, that some feel they lack the simple skill of talking with someone. Growing up I used to talk on the phone with friends, as social media/texting was not around, but now I would rather text than speak on the phone and so my phone skills have regressed into being terrible. I feel so awkward speaking on the phone. So in some way I understand these ones.
Also, when we are in the presence of another we are all too quick to multitask. We speak but we are also looking at one’s phone or thinking of tomorrow. Multitasking is not a sought after trait in my life. I used to brag about my ability to multitask but now I see that it gives bits of my attention to the task/people at hand and I have now decided to at least try to give 100% to one thing at a time. (Still learning, in fact while writing this I went on my phone). We aren’t really there when we are with friends. We are thinking of the next picture to take, how to update our status, what we will be doing tomorrow, texting someone else, the deadline we need to meet. We are busy while we are sitting across from someone. We need to learn to be in the moment and not somewhere else. It’s a skill that will take time, but I am friends with people that have mastered this art!
The art of conversing is something that I am seeking to succeed in: the flow of the back and forth and fighting the one sided monologue, the questions asked that get to know the person and where they are at, the celebrating of one’s successes, the listening of the broken heart, the giving of advice to the questions at hand, the confidence to share my story, my thoughts, the knowing of when to listen and when to speak, the importance of learning while the one speaks. The value of the moment.
The art of conversation, if lost, would be a devastating blow to society. Because with conversation comes value, value of the individual.
Let us be people that master the art of conversation! And to those who know how to converse well, continue to teach us and call us out when we are slipping!