May 12, 2013

On Conversation: Introduction

Study for Conversation, Leon Kroll

All my life, I've learned that the key to a good conversationalist is to listen more than you talk.  The general perception of conversation is that everyone wishes to be the center and subject. Obviously, it will be a dull conversation indeed if the conversation is a fight to say the most. Also, listening is a difficult skill to master because it does not simply mean being quiet. Your mind can not be wandering while someone else speaks. You need to stay quiet but attentive, actively seeking to understand and frame questions. Finally, many books stress that the best way to make friends is to get them talking about themselves. Be attentive to that and they will be yours forever.

But what happens when two master listeners sit down for a conversation?

This past winter, a friend came to visit. While we had stayed in touch through letters and emails, we hadn't ever sustained a real conversation for any length of time. It turns out that she has studied at the same school of conversation as I have- asking questions, giving intelligent responses, but tending to be on the quieter side.

For the first time in a long time, I found myself needing to not only fill at least half of the conversational time, but keep up a conversation nearly three straight days.  There is a reason the Victorians valued conversation so highly; it is difficult. Very difficult. Hence my interest in a mini-series on how to have a conversation. As always, please share any tips or tricks you have learned.

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