It’s so easy sometimes to ruin a good conversation opportunity, especially if you’re expecting a deep conversation and then find yourself introducing one new topic after another, with people you haven’t seen in a while, and after a long Covid year when you’ve been shaped—against your style, so to speak—by the conversation habits of other people.
Well, this post may not be the most clear or specific of posts, but I feel compelled to address, as best I can without entering into the specifics of private conversations, a few issues.
First of all, I was reading in a book the other day that you should start conversations—the author implied that all conversations—knowing what you want to get out of the conversation. I disagree. This may work for most interviews, but soul-to-soul conversations go all sorts of places, especially if you haven’t seen your conversation partner(s) in a while. But I agree with one thing: while you may want to keep them open-ended, they can go awfully wrong if you don’t rein in your horses according to the length of the conversation, the place, the people, everything. The thing is, after a Covid-marked year of not meeting with friends in person (until I got my Pfizer vaccine and its booster), the moment I saw a good friend I became a torrent.
And the irony is, while I was a torrent inside as a teenager with regard to certain issues, I remember quite clearly taking my time in conversations to really bathe in their atmosphere. I’ve always enjoyed doing that, and then, in certain stages of my life, for various reasons, I became more of a loner than I wish to be, and some of my heart-to-heart conversations suffered.
Conversation writers left and right complain about how we don’t listen—because we want to make our point(s), but also for other reasons (short attention span, deficit of empathy, etc.). And how, increasingly, because of the pervasiveness of smartphones, we don’t even want to make those points in a conversation but rather online, because online we can get things “right.”
I’m not worried about retreating into the online world myself (as ironically as it may seem). I wait patiently for the next conversation, and the next, and know that in the end, even if I don’t bring up certain topics again, some of my points may be edited for the better by my conversation partners. I also try to address, for myself, things I didn’t like in my conversations, including by reading more on certain issues where I didn’t like hearing myself speak. For instance when I voice half-formed ideas. It’s good if I’m in a dialogue geared that way, where I can unspool those thoughts with my conversation partners and come to some new ground; not good if I’ve voiced something—at the wrong time, in the wrong place—that hangs in the air between me and my friend like a rock.
So I guess I’m saying that at this point in my life I’m not so much worried about being misunderstood when I don’t explain things well enough for a certain conversation, because we all are, after all, and because we get new chances to talk about different things, in different ways, and move on, and then perhaps, in time, some things will speak for themselves better than we could have spoken about them . . . What I’m worried about is not connecting to the vibes of a meeting.
And here’s a quote from Guy de Maupassant: “Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It’s the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all.” That’s one way to do it, but find your own ways. I did, and I treasure both my conversations with friends and those of small talk with people I find agreeable. And I relish to sense all that room to grow, in love and kindness, that these parties and conversations offer. Of course, sometimes all that space you don’t vibe with can become oppressive, so yeah, I can see why some of the younger generation try to avoid long or difficult conversations.
For now, though, I wish I’d been wiser than to let Covid—and then other priorities—rob me of a whole year of meeting in person with friends. I’ve lost some of that ability to meditate in their presence, so to speak—to go with the flow in their company in what for me is one of the grand pleasures of life.
Well, I hope this has been helpful, in some way(s).
I’ll be back with some more thoughts and book reviews once I go through some more books on how to reclaim feel-good conversations in the digital age.
To a healthier, happier life,
P.S. I’d appreciate a pin/share if you found my post helpful. Thank you! 🙂