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  1. #1
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    Default The art of having conversations

    I've been pondering lately about the way people prefer to communicate with others. There are styles that exist regardless of Extraversion/Introversion. I have noticed that some types prefer group talk, some types prefer one on one talk, others prefer simply making one liners and jokes,... I can see this sort of behavior on the forum too.

    I was having dinner at some friends' place yesterday with my gf. We had a good time and they are great fun. They are very good socially but we both agreed that it is impossible to have an actual conversation with some of them. They seem akward, impatient, ill at ease, and preferring to keep things "light".

    This made me think: "How often do I have the opportunity to really discuss something with someone? Less and less". The opportunities are scarce. At work, everyone wants to keep things simple. And even when it happens, I think surprisingly few people are good conversationalists. They just talk about themselves, serve you predefined opinions, switch topics too early, and don't bother to ask questions and to keep things open. The best conversationalists listen alot and ask many questions. My theory is that it is partly related to the security that people have in being intimate with others and showing themselves as they are. Keeping things light is like maintaining a distance with others, making sure things go well and conflict is avoided.

    One of the reasons I get along so well with my gf (ISFJ) is that we can have long conversations about everything and nothing.

    Ideas? Opinions? Conversation?

  2. #2
    a white iris elfinchilde's Avatar
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    The science of conversation is to speak; but the art of conversation is to listen.

    It's not the words that matter, but the subtext they carry. In any conversation, there are perhaps two, or even three levels, all at the same time:

    The first is the actual words spoken.
    The second is that which is unsaid, that is the subtext beneath.
    The third is the language of the body.

    The art of conversation is to respond to the exact degree to which the other is comfortable.

    That requires understanding of all three languages, which perhaps, is why so few are skilled at it.

    The art of conversation resides in the power of the femme, the receptive principle. That power has unfortunately been lost, when people are not able to distinguish between being feminine, and feminist. But I digress.

    Ours is an egocentric age. Mostly, people hear, but they do not listen anymore.

    And so, the art has been lost.

    You say?

    Edit: the words you use tell me that you want to be heard, and to speak. You want it on your terms: to you, the offence, if any, is that it isn't going your way. But then, in return, do you listen?
    You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
    They called me the hyacinth girl.
    Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
    Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
    Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
    Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
    Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

    --T.S Eliot, The Wasteland

  3. #3
    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
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    Conversations are good...

    I am mostly a one on one conversationalist. To put it simply, I dislike small talk. I don't understand why people like that so much. I find it unproductive. It's like talking without saying anything. Lack of sincerity in the conversation I suppose. Talking to be polite, not because you want to have a chat with the other person. I suppose it makes it unlikely for me to engage another into conversation. For a few friends though I can... we can talk about everything and nothing. Part of opening up as you said is related to how at ease you are with them. I find that I talk more in situations where I don't feel like I'll be evaluated based on what I said. Perhaps that is why I dislike group conversations... because the things I say can be taken in so many ways that I would rather keep quiet than to risk making a blunder. I ought to correct that.

  4. #4
    Doesn't Read Your Posts Haight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    I think surprsingly few people are good conversationalists. They just talk about themselves, serve you predefined opinions, switch topics too early, and don't bother to ask questions or to keep things open.
    I agree, but I don't think it's surprising. I think of it as a skill that's rarely studied and rarely taught.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    My theory is that it is partly related to the security that people have in being intimate with others and showing themselves as they are.

    Ideas? Opinions? Conversation?
    Yes. . . I think your theory doesn't apply to me because I don't like being intimate with anyone other than notta, I don't like showing myself as I am ( and I don't do so in public, for that matter); however, I think I'm a skilled conversationalist that has studied communications, the art of listening, the art of persuasion, propaganda, etc. I did so because I believed early on that being a good conversationalist was probably one of the more important skills that one could have - or needs to have, rather.
    "The only time I'm wrong is when I'm questioning myself."
    Haight

  5. #5
    Senior Member LostInNerSpace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    My theory is that it is partly related to the security that people have in being intimate with others and showing themselves as they are. Keeping things light is like maintaining a distance with others, making sure things go well and conflict is avoided.

    I would agree. I'm a brilliant conversationalist, just not usually with other people. It's almost always conversations I have with my alter ego.

    The number of people I speak to IRL on an average day I could count on one finger. Often that's too many fingers. Usually when I do speak to someone the conversation goes something like this:

    Me: Hi
    Other Person: Hi
    ...
    beep
    ...
    beep, beep
    ...
    beep
    Other Person: Paper or plastic?
    Me: Plastic
    Other Person: Debit or Credit?
    Me: Debit
    Other Person: Thank You have a good day
    Me: Ok, thanks. Bye

    On the rare occasion I have a real conversation with someone it is usually because they are a brilliant conversationalist like the ENFP I went on a date with last week.

    If you read my posts you'll see that I don't often really have conversations with people. It's like each post is a statement. My posts express opinion. Usually to have a good conversation you have to be skilled at asking interesting questions that reveal things about the other person. If you want the other person to like you, you hold back from telling them things and let them discover those things about you.

  6. #6
    The Black Knight Domino's Avatar
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    I'll start up conversations with just about anyone my INTJ best friend doesn't outrightly block. lol (He thinks his Twins are too socially open, but he also confesses to being a "bitter crank").

    I also have people just walk up and start telling me their life stories which can be very psychic and engaging. I had a woman at a gas station pump next to me start telling me about the death of her husband and child in a Volkswagen Beetle. (I drove one). It was very sad. She started crying. I would have hugged her if I didn't have transmission fluid and lithium grease on me from work.

  7. #7
    a white iris elfinchilde's Avatar
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    Yea. As with Pink, elfie has all manner of strangers come up to her with their life stories too. Cab drivers will show you pictures of their kids, and tell you stories of their lives, how hard it is to get a fare nowadays. I've very seldom gotten a cab driver who didn't talk on the entire trip.

    Children will come up with their little tales of their day. With that uncertain light in their eyes, that tells you they want to be heard.

    Mostly, people want to be understood. but few want to understand. That is why the art has been lost. Everyone wants to talk; no one wants to listen.
    You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
    They called me the hyacinth girl.
    Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
    Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
    Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
    Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
    Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

    --T.S Eliot, The Wasteland

  8. #8
    Senior Member Hirsch63's Avatar
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    I certainly notice this as well. Perhaps it is rooted in culture. I wonder if the essentialy same topic was introduced in an american, chinese, african or latino environment how the conversation might evolve.

    At least our culture seems in such an immediate gratification mindset, coupled with trepidation regarding political, social or monetary topics...makes having meaningful conversation difficult at best. So we are often stuck bantering with one another until we can find a better sense of common ground. This ability to find a common ground to seems to vary among people. I think that I at least "sense" when I can have a conversation with another and we would both profit from it. Productive exchanges demand a shared understanding of a framework within which the exchange occurs. A certain level of shared experience and knowledge would be necessary for this understanding to be reached.

    This is fortunate coincidence...last evening I was considering some exchanges on this forum, and thinking also about advice I had shared with my nephew. Over the years I have begun to see communication as an economic process. We exchange conversational currency...It was Ygolo's post regarding Understanding and my subsequent reading of Covey's comments on it that jogged my memory of the economic aspects. We speak and we are seeking an exchange, hopefully a fair one. And a rich one, one with depth that you can bring your best perceptions to bear on a "high-quality" topic.

    Using this economic model to evaluate your experiences (which are similar to many of mine as well) would lead me to see that you are attempting a transaction with someone who is not (or can not be) willing to "open thier purse". You pursue the exchange in good faith, you "make an offer" and the responses you get display an inability or downright disinclination to aknowledge the value of your offering. These are not bad people..What is the problem? Why won't they Buy or Sell? They are having you over for a visit an implied "offer" but have a defined limit on what you will be allowed to "buy". Are they or we in the wrong market? Selling ice-cubes to eskimos?

    Couples will have their own internal economy, and the individuals themselves may one-on-one with you display a very different conversational manner. So many factors can influence actual face-to-face conversation.

    Or perhaps it is in direct proportion to the decline of formal letter writing or written communication (rhetorical) skills in general. I have recently been engaged to assist and lecture at a local university, an environment that I had heretofore never experienced. When I began interacting with the 20-something students I was pretty suprised by the poor quality of their written work and general lack of interest in pursuing a topic in-depth. There are quite a few emotional reactions to topics (which is perhaps the economic eqivalent of counterfeit money) which at this educational level suprised me.

    So opening up oneself could be an "economic" disaster for some....like walking around with a wad of $100 bills sticking out of your pockets or tipping your hand at cards when you are down to betting your boots.

    Anyway, thanks for the topic Mav...I have got to get off to work for awhile.
    Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings...Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you a king

  9. #9
    a white iris elfinchilde's Avatar
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    oh ok. Hirsch has a point: cultural differences. For chinese, we're actually taught first to listen, then to speak. As the saying goes for us: "You have two ears and one mouth. So listen twice as much as you speak."

    Perhaps therein the image of the enigmatic, nodding chinaman?

    yes. it's the culture of me-me-me instant gratification, that has killed the art so. A pity.

    Philo! Yes. engaging, deep conversations are always so good; no matter how brief the connection. It is sympatico.
    You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
    They called me the hyacinth girl.
    Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
    Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
    Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
    Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
    Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

    --T.S Eliot, The Wasteland

  10. #10
    mrs disregard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elfinchilde View Post
    For chinese, we're actually taught first to listen, then to speak. As the saying goes for us: "You have two ears and one mouth. So listen twice as much as you speak."
    What a marvelous saying!

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