To blog is to shout loudly in a room by oneself and expect to spark a conversation. It is this mode however, that I find is so easy to slip into during everyday discourse.
Conversation should be like tennis, one side serves the other returns the ball and the rally is maintained as long as each party remains engaged in the game. Unfortunately this is so often not the case and one player ends up dominating play resulting in short and frustrating rallies with at least one of the players, and more likely both, recognising this imbalance.
The graph of conversational satisfaction starts to decline when one of the participants is essentially delivering a soliloquy. We all love a story, but in conversation anecdotes must be kept brief if a happy equilibrium is to be sustained. Good conversation can never occur if one side is simply using the other as a nodding, “uh-huhing” intellectual sounding board.
But there are difficulties to be overcome if we wish to have more of these satisfying types of chats. It is a great strain to constantly approach conversations as journalistic interviews; it’s an effort to evaluate the open-endedness of one’s enquiries and responses to avoid that dreaded dead space, the numbing radio silence.
Equally, no-one wants filler. They want track after track with no dips in quality. Every single a hit.
This seems like an unrealistic expectation, and it is. Going into a conversation with an idea already in your head about every response, every nuance of the “interviewee” mapped out and charted like a script is never a good idea. We’ve all done it (or at least I have); gone into the shower with a real bone to pick, or that one question you’ve always wanted to know the answer to, and come out having written an entire intricately plotted scene in your head complete with directions and camera angles. You’ve got all the counterpoints ready to go, every rebuttal at your disposal. You go out into the world and perhaps you’ll ask the question, make the point, or bring up the subject. Then the disappointment begins.
The best conversations are never pre-planned. They come of their own accord, naturally, when you learn something about the other person you weren’t expecting to discover. Something tangential grows into an arm of its own.
I’ve written these paragraphs as someone hopelessly unqualified to discuss the subject. It is from my experience of frustration in conversation that this has emerged. I more than anyone am guilty of enacting these flawed methods I have highlighted, but it is only by acknowledging these inadequacies that I can hope to move past them.
So I’m going to have these conversations. I’m going to start these dialogues, because lurking within everyone are these overlaps of interest that can spark uplifting, surprising and enlightening discussion. People have so much to offer and everyone has their particular niche.
A conversation shouldn’t be about showing off how much you know about a certain subject, it should be about learning from each other and developing minds. That’s why from now on I’m resolving to berate myself not for being an asocial freak when I fail to have a satisfying chat, but for missing the opportunity to experience what the other person had to offer. Locked within everyone is the potential for fascinating conversation; we (and moreover, I) just have to get better at accessing it.