In a day of political posturing and a blitz of media “chatter” what does it mean to have a great conversation?
It all depends of course on one’s definition of conversation. Here the acid test is that
no matter the topic, one experiences an intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying dialog in the context of mutual trust and respect.
Let’s look at the contrast between the worst and the best in conversation styles.
Many people mistake the sheer volume of talk with conversation. However the fool’s gold of conversation is seen in
- People who just want you for an audience. They talk “at” you. The rule, “listen to me but I’m not really interested in you” is not a conversation. It is a monologue by a narcissist or political demagogue. Worse still, there can be a basic disdain for others or a driving need to be superior.
- Those who have mastered the art of superficial interaction which some mistake for genuine connection. Scratch below the surface of the “small talk” and get behind the façade of “friendliness” and you will find little substance to the person or conversation
- Clever repartee where the parties compete to be “the smartest kid on the block”.This zero sum game results in winners and losers and, in the end, there is no real connection with others.
Now contrast the above with
The Real Thing
Genuine conversation is characterized by
- A dialogue where both parties contribute equally and listen intently. No one person dominates the conversation. He/she patiently listens to the other without interrupting or restlessly wanting to inject their point of view.
- A person characterized by a generous spirit, open mind, and loving heart. These people are continually searching for the good in others and ways to validate the other person’s point of view.
- A flow of dialogue that includes both point and counterpoint. A good conversationalist is not just a “yes” person but can freely offer contrary opinions without retreating into hostility or hardened personal or political opinions. At the core they have a teachable spirit and are willing to change their point of view as new facts emerge in the conversation.
- People who have widely embraced different cultures where they see themselves as perpetual students and can celebrate differences and recognize similarities.
- A climate of safety and mutual respect and acceptance. Trust is not something that one requests but earns with the expression of the content of one’s good character.
Don’t you get the sense that conversation is becoming a lost art in the public forum?