A good conversation is like a game of tennis.
One player serves the ball, then the other player returns it, and back and forth the ball goes.
That’s what should happen with words in a conversation.
Someone starts the conversation then allows the other person to respond, and the conversation should develop back and forth with opportunities for both people to participate equally.
If the conversation is one with multiple people, the analogy is like tennis doubles. No player is left without an opportunity to participate in the game.
During the summer of 2020, when the world was secluded in homes and apartments with limited face-to-face human contact, every Thursday morning I met with two friends at an outdoor pavilion for conversation and socialization.
Those mornings were the epitome of what great conversation should be. We were a 3-way game of verbal tennis. Each taking a turn at speaking, then listening while another spoke, then returning with words that kept the conversation flowing and moving forward.
We called those weekly get-togethers our Covid Coffee Club. They were a much-needed escape from the pandemic world. Human contact, human interaction, sharing with others. No topic was off limits, no one was judgmental, and no one was argumentative. I was a happier person because of those weekly conversations.
Sharing ideas and thoughts with others through good conversation reduces our emotional traumas, increases our feelings of security and helps us appreciate what is good in our lives.
I sometimes wonder if the art of conversation is one of those fading social skills. It seems more and more people have no understanding of how to engage in the art of conversation. Instead of talking with others, they seek an audience. They want to speak, but don’t really want a two-way conversation of equal give and take.
And then there are people who are the opposite of this. They are the conversation killers. You know the kind I mean. You ask them what they’ve been doing lately and they reply, “nothing” or “not much”. They give you no place to go with a conversation. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who won’t engage?
And there are the ones who rage. You want to have a pleasant conversation; they want to yell about all the things that make them angry, upset, and furious. They yell at you even though you had nothing to do with what they are yelling about!
The biggest thing people seem to forget about the art of conversation is that it also requires the ability to listen. Listening is just as important as speaking.
How are your conversation skills? Are you someone others really enjoy talking with? Are you a good listener or do you tend to monopolize a conversation and make it all about you? If you don’t know, here are some conversation do’s and don’ts that may give you a clue.
Don’t . . .
Make distracting comments
Ramble on with no end in sight
Make it a competition; there are no winners and losers
Interrupt when others are speaking
Start an argument or become toxic, conversations should not be confrontations;
Dismiss or make fun of what others are saying
Be a know-it-all
Exaggerate facts or embellish the truth to make it more sensational
Do . . .
Ask questions and respond with a reply that moves the conversation along
Listen more than talk
Only interject personal experiences if they are relevant
Remember that a conversation is not a promotional opportunity… it isn’t just about you
Let go of details if you can’t remember them instead of halting the conversation while they try to think of what it was you wanted to say;
Find ways to include others who aren’t getting an opportunity to speak
Conversation is what connects us and forms a bond between us. The way we converse with others leaves an everlasting impression. The listening part of the conversation is a gift you give the person or people you are with. It’s a quiet way of letting them know they are important to you.
“Good conversation is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.”Anne Morrow Lindburgh
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