Conversation – are we losing it?

Conversation is our World’s last free natural resource – are we losing it?

I’m not given to blowing things out of proportion. Well, at least I think I’m not. What do you think? To find out I have to ask you and we would start a conversation. The outcome would be unclear at the start and we would explore the subject by asking questions and listening to the answers in real time and then responding. Yes – I know that’s a strange concept but it does seem to work quite well when the people concerned understand the rules of conversation. Sadly most of us seem to have forgotten them.

I travel extensively. Trains, planes, buses and car travel are getting quieter and quieter as everyone who is together on the journey is existing alone but together somewhere else in space, and maybe in time, facilitated by their digital technology. Anyone who does speak is frowned at, especially if it is a one-way conversation on a mobile phone.

Hey! I hear you say – you’re teched up to your eyelids. I admit it – I am, and I’m trying my hardest to not be. However, I get some really strange looks if I start a conversation on any mode of transport with someone I don’t know. I get short shrift even from those I do know!

Before I get too hard on the people who use technology rather than their voice to communicate, it does have amongst it’s attributes of speed, immediacy and being location free, a great advantage…you have to read the whole message before you can reply. This rarely happens in a real conversation with everyone anxiously waiting to get their oar in and regularly butting into other people talking before they are finished. In the real world we are losing the art of really listening. Without really listening, real conversations cannot happen. However, although you have to wait to see the whole message, there is no emotion, tone, emphasis or pauses to help you interpret its meaning. This can lead to serious issues. Listening to messages is better, as are innovations like Face-time and Skype but they are not as good as face-to-face in my opinion.

The other advantage of digital conversation is that you can spend time composing great questions, even elegant ones. However the same issue arises in that it isn’t possible (not even with emoticons etc.) to understand the nuances intended in the question.

It seems to me that there needs to be a mixture perhaps. We can sit together face-to-face and compose our messages and send them. The other person can notify us that it has arrived and we can then say it. The receiver then gets time to compose their response and send it and then say it. And on and on. This way we have to listen fully and we get time to respond properly. Gosh – that sounds good.

Well that last paragraph was a load of old twaddle wasn’t it? I don’t know. Shall we chat about it?

All I do know is that we are losing the art of listening, losing the art of asking great questions and, if this continues, we will lose our greatest asset – the art of conversation. From conversation comes understanding. From understanding comes awareness. From conversation comes negotiation. From conversation comes compromise. From conversation come the seeds of peace. Conversation is important. Let’s not lose how to use it.

Try every day to have at least one mindful, meaningful and memorable face-to-face conversation where both people listen well, ask great questions and both grow as a result. Talking is good for you.