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What You Should Know About Conversation

Conversation is the interchange of ideas; it is the willingness to communicate thought on all subjects, personal and universal, and in turn to listen to the sentiments of others regarding the ideas advanced.

The aim of good conversation is to make quality communication between individuals. Good conversation is more easily defined by what it is not than by what it is. To come to any conclusions on this subject, one should first determine: Should the intention be to make communication with our fellows a free school in which to acquire information; should it be to disseminate knowledge or broadcast the news; or should the object be to divert and to amuse?

It might seem that any person with a good subject must talk well and be interesting. But that is not always the case! Very often, you will find that highly cultivated people are the most silent. Or sometimes, if they talk well, they are likely to talk too well to be good conversationalists. Some of them can talk long and hard about number of interesting subjects, but were nevertheless recorded as bores in conversation because they talked at people instead of talking with them.

In society delightful conversation is great gift. Good conversation is not necessarily a vehicle of information and most people do not go into society to get instruction gratis. If you observe popular people in society, you will discover that to be natural, easy, cheery, bright and pleasant is the catechism of good talk.

No matter how well educated a person is, he or she is often thrown with ordinary mortals; and the ordinary mortals have as much right to talk as the extraordinary ones.When people have time for leisure and want to mix in society, their desire is to escape from the questions which daily burden their minds. If they prefer to confine themselves to an interchange of ideas apart from their ordinary work, they have a right to do so.

In conversation with high profile professionals, never try pushing discussion on the very subjects with regard to which their opinion is most valuable. There is no doubt that is a great loss to the society, but unless they themselves bring forth the topic of their profession or art, it must remain in abeyance. Society has no right to force their mentioning it. This leads us, then, to the conclusion that the aim of conversation is to distract, to interest, to amuse; not to teach nor to be taught, unless incidentally. In good conversation people give their charm, their gaiety, their humor, certainly—and their wisdom, if they will.

Conversation which essentially entertains is not essentially nonsense. Some one has drawn this subtle distinction: "I enter a room full of pleasant people as I go to see a picture, or listen to a song, or as I dance—that I may amuse myself, and invigorate myself, and raise my natural spirits, and laugh dull care away. True, there must be ideas, as in all amusements worthy of the name there is a certain seriousness impossible to define; only they must be kept in the background."

The aim and design of conversation is, therefore, pleasure. This agreed, we can determine its elements:

Conversation, above all, is dialog, not monolog.
Conversation is a partnership, not an individual affair.
Conversation is listening as well as talking.
Monopolizing tyrants of society who will allow no dog to bark in their presence are not conversationalists; they are lecturers.
There are plenty of people who possess every qualification for conversing except the power to converse.

There are plenty of people who deliver one monolog after another and call their talk conversation. The good conversationalists are not the ones who dominate the talk in any gathering. They are the people who have the grace to contribute something of their own while generously drawing out the best that is in others. They hazard topics for discussion and endeavor each to give to the other the chance of enlarging upon them. Conversation is the interchange of ideas; it is the willingness to communicate thought on all subjects, personal and universal, and in turn to listen to the sentiments of others regarding the ideas advanced.

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