NEED SOLITUDE. DECIDEDLY NOT A RECLUSE. Having written yesterday about the need for solitude in order to think, research and write—I’m now going to undercut my image as a recluse (which I’m not) by saying that I regard good conversation as one of the greatest pleasures in life—and one I am far from sure we give enough consideration to. Do we give any serious consideration to it? Not very much. Instead, we mostly assume that once children have learned to talk, adequate conversational skills will follow as a byproduct of the mere business of living. Indeed, , that is exactly what does occur—though whether that produces good conversationalists is another matter entirely. There is one hell of a difference between adequate and good.
WHY IS BEING A GOOD CONVERSATIONALIST AN ADVANTAGE? But what are the advantages of being a good conversationalist?
- It helps you get on better with people in general.
- It promotes trust—the basis of the finer aspects of human behavior
- It enables you to be more empathetic
- It enables you to share your own concerns more effectively.
- It improves your popularity
- It is highly likely to improve your love life and it certainly promotes intimacy
- It promotes mutual understanding
- It helps you learn, to evaluate and to teach
- It promotes intellectual curiosity.
- It is both innately interesting and a pleasure—and, with a bit of luck, vastly entertaining.
- It both reduces stress and promotes health.
- It hones the mind, helps you to appreciate subtlety, and to think better in almost every way..
All in all, it adds up to a formidable host of advantages—which affect just about every aspect of out lives—which we don’t give much attention to. Damned odd, when you think about it.
CONVERSATION IN THE U.S. Are conversational standards high in the U.S.? Well, there are certainly plenty of interesting people here—but whether our conversational skills are to scratch is another matter entirely. Based upon my own experiences and observation, they are not. But leaving out what I think, I was interested to see a headline in THEATLANTIC.COM stating as follows:
My Students Don’t Know How To Have A Conversation
The thing is this: Although aptitude may come into it, conversational skills are primarily learned—and now they are undermined by:
- The internet.
- Smart phones and other digital devices.
- A constant barrage of both political and commercial propaganda.
WHERE CONVERSATION IS CONCERNED, I’VE BEEN LUCKY. I’m a fairly good conversationalist because others took the time to teach me, because I had an expensive education, because I’m widely read and travelled, and because I have worked at it. Also, I come from a culture—Ireland—where good conversation is valued, and where wit is the stuff of life. I was also brought up in a house without TV—and where conversation was the primary source of entertainment.
Without good conversational skills, I doubt very much that I could function as an writer.
THE TOUGHEST CONVERSATION I HAVE EVER HAD? This was with Dr.Edward Teller—“Father of the H-Bomb”—shortly before he died, and it took place at Lawrence Livermore National Lab where I had gone to see their supergun shoot. The shot was delayed so to keep me entertained I was introduced to Teller and other luminaries. It was a great experience—but it was hard pounding during the interview (which took place in front of an audience.