Talking is something we learn from an early age; it is a skill that most of us have no problem developing in our early childhood years, under most circumstances. However, the art and skill of conversation is something that must be developed as we mature and engage in the world around us; and can sometimes take well into our adult years to master.

The Nature of Conversation

The definition of conversation, according to most dictionaries, is the “informal exchange of ideas by spoken word.” The idea is that we are able to exchange ideas with other people through the means of our dialogue with them, and they, likewise, are able to exchange their ideas with us.

The root words of dialogue in simple terms mean: “two” people sharing “words” together. That is really a nice idea, but many times, conversations can be more like, monologues, meaning “one” person only who is speaking. We all have been in those kinds of monologue conversations, where we couldn’t get a word in edge-wise, to use a colloquial term.

Conversely, there are conversations that don’t have any engagement or feedback from the other person we are talking to, and it can be simply exhausting to carry the conversation, when the other person is offering absolutely nothing of merit to the conversation—it would be like trying to dance with a partner who doesn’t really move their feet, and you have to kind of drag them around the room—it truly is a drag, and it’s tiring!

The Notion of Conversation

Conversation is a wonderful, and most delightful thing when carried out properly! It can be quite a wonderful experience to gain new understanding, have moments of interesting discovery, or shared recollection, or spontaneous joy or laughter. The experience is unique, pleasant, artful and enjoyable, and time is of no essence.

The notion of proper conversation is that you offer as much interest to the conversation topic as possible, and you take turns engaging in the exchange. No one should dominate, that is only for lectures and speeches, but for good conversation, it requires the willingness to learn pertinent information and well as offer pertinent information. It’s more like a friendly game of volleyball, the goal is to keep the ball up in the air. The goal is not to “score,” that is only if it were a debate.

Therefore, artful conversation can be developed by observation and practice. Read, observe and build your knowledge of many topics, and then practice listening to others who are skilled, then give it a try yourself. Keep eye contact, take turns and enjoy the experience!

Article Written By: Debbie Harper, Ph.D.