thoughts du jour

  • "Spend some time alone every day."- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The dying art of conversation

I'm surrounded by conversationally challenged males. One who can't speak at all, one whose conversations revolve around Cars (the movie) and Thomas (the tank engine), and another whose conversation extends to cars (the mode of transport), drinking, Ebay, cars, computer crap, and cars. And I never realised how much it bothers me until I read an article in this month's Vogue about how the art of conversation has plummeted and is almost non-existent since the introduction of modern technology.

When your friends seem a million miles away and the only conversation you get is the conversation you have with the checkout chick who you buy milk from, the Medicare lady when you get your refund, or the women on Twitter you "talk" to but have never really met and your sentences never exceed more than 140 characters, it's easy to see how important conversation really is. Especially when your life is lacking it.

I remember the days (may I remind you I'm only 27 and I'm starting a sentence like I'm 50) when I used to catch the train into the city to work, and strike up a conversation with whoever was sitting near me. Sometimes it was me who started it, sometimes it was them. Either way, it would begin with a "where are you off to?" and end with a sincerely genuine "it was great talking to you!" I also remember the days when it was perfectly natural to be friendly with your neighbors, to strike up a conversation when you went out to collect the mail at the same time: "How's that chook of yours going, any eggs yet? I heard her laying up a storm early this morning." Nowadays we only ever speak to neighbors when we're forced to. Usually we try avoiding them all together, sneaking the long way around the car, running up to the door before they turn around, pretending not to see them.

So the article spoke about the art of conversation, and how it used to be important to be able to converse with someone you didn't know. Unfortunately there are numerous occasions when I've found my conversation skills lacking, when I'm at a party standing with someone I've only just met, and have run out of conversation. I mean, what do you talk about? Or, how do you walk away politely once the conversation has run dry? "Well...I'm gonna go to the toilet/grab another drink/stand over there now..."

For all you lucky Sydney-ites (probably the only time you'll EVER hear me say that, because I'm a strictly Melbourne girl) you can go to a seven week course that teaches you the art of conversation. For those of us that aren't so lucky, there's a book titled, funnily enough, The Art of Conversation by Catherine Blyth, that I fully intend to read. 

I just never knew that something that I've been so good at for so long (my grade one school report said "Melissa talks a lot") could be an art form. Being able to make good conversation is as necessary as being able to make a good coffee, be a good listener, or a good friend. Being a good conversationalist means people view you as smart, intelligent, witty, and enjoyable to be around. I'd much rather be that than awkward and uncomfortable, which I sometimes find myself being. If I want to excel in the Communications industry I really need to start working on my conversation skills.


Rowe said...

I cannot imagine you having trouble conversing, going by your style of writing here, you come across conversational. I am in no doubt of my conversation skills most of the time. I have no trouble talking to those who want to talk on the bus, at the shop, coffee with a friend, etc. It is always that bit harder when the other person has limited conversation skills, or perhaps they don't want to talk and then I will just shut up and not bother, either. Thankfully that does not usually apply to the friend I'm having coffee with.

ACTing Like A Mama said...

I would love to attend a course like this. To people that know me, I am loud, assertive and a BIG over-sharer of all things. To people I don't know or in situations where I am in a group of people I clam up and can't possibly think of what I can talk about that would interest everyone. I also think the art of conversation is dieing. Such a shame but it does make you treasure the close few people that you can truley converse with on all matters of things. Loved the article and your blog in general!

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