By David Hegg
At the risk of appearing to be culturally irrelevant, I’d like to talk about conversation. You remember? I’m referring to occasions when people are face-to-face, and they take turns exchanging information verbally.
Conversation, like so many other forms of artistic expression, is experiencing a serious mugging today, with technology all but eliminating its practice. We’ve all witnessed a restaurant booth full of people, all on their cell phones, texting. The crimes against conversation are so prevalent that Catherine Blyth could dare to title her book “The Art Of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure.” And that’s the point. Conversation as an art is sadly neglected today, and when done well, is also a true pleasure for all involved.
One of the true casualties of our mutual COVID-19 struggle has been face-to-face conversation. Yes, we had ways of “talking” technologically, and some of us became proficient at communicating through masks and at a distance. But I think I speak for all of us that we sorely miss seeing faces, reading expressions, enjoying the twinkle in the eyes, and simply conversing without looking like bank robbers.
So, here are some reasons to join my movement to free conversation from the tyranny of both technology and Fauci, followed by some suggestions for practicing it ethically. I’ll try to keep them short so you can tweet them to friends. Ha!
• Conversation is part words and part relationship. Think of it as texting someone you’re looking at, who can hear you, but without the phone part. You actually get to experience human emotions, facial expressions and eye contact. It’s how relationships form, are nurtured and flourish. How fun!
• Conversation offers immediate gratification. You can tell immediately if your message has been delivered, and you don’t have to wait for your phone to signal an answer.
• Conversation isn’t messed up by the auto-correct demon. Enough said.
• Conversation is much better at carrying emotion. Think of the tools at your disposal. You have tone of voice, pitch, pace, body language, facial expressions, and a whole host of other embellishments to communicate your point of view. You’re just not limited to CAPITAL letters, emoticons, or weird internet slang w8 4 it, IMHO. • Conversation is better at real communication because it can create understanding, correct misunderstanding, and isn’t limited to 140 characters. And herein lies the problem. Conversation will take effort, and it also takes mutual respect and cooperation.
So, to that end, here are some rules for the art of conversing as human beings:
1. Speak intelligently, using real sentences, have something worthwhile to say, and know when to stop talking so others can play, too. Dialogue that becomes monologue is rude, excruciating and never worth the time.
2. Listen attentively so you can really understand what is being said, the point of view being represented, and the heart of the speaker. Don’t make the mistake of formulating your response while the other person is still talking.
3. Never, ever, ever interrupt another person. Interruptions are just another way of saying, “I’m no longer interested in you or what you have to say.” Any way you slice it, interruptions are just an insulting way of saying your thoughts are better than theirs.
4. Compliment other people’s stories, opinions and suggestions before launching into your own. Everyone wants to be appreciated, and letting others know we have been benefited by their thoughts always enhances relationship.
5. Lastly, learn the art of conversation. If you haven’t any idea what I’m talking about, watch a few episodes of “Downton Abbey” and you’ll see a time in history when people cared about the use of words, wit and wisdom. Ah if only …
Truthfully, I am not advocating an end to texts, tweets and emails, although I do still love reading a carefully written letter from a friend. What I am hoping to do is remind us all of those wonderful conversations we had with friends and loved ones while we sat on the porch, walked along the shore, or drove long hours to Grandmother’s house.
So, pour yourself a good cup of coffee, take the chair next to mine, and let’s enter into a profitable discourse. Now’s not a good time? Well, just text me when you’re available.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.