Monday, April 2, 2012

The Lost Art of Conversation

Earlier in March, the Financial Times (FT) shared an interesting article titled "How To Have A Conversation", published in the "Life & Arts" section of their magazine.  The subject matter struck me as interesting, given that a whole decade had passed us by and no one paid much attention to the fact that the art of chatting had been systematically displaced by chatter, texting, and dare I say, something called sexting.  Silly me,  I grew up thinking that "chatter" was the sound my teeth made when they were cold.

The FT piece is fairly well written, perhaps a bit long for my taste.  Here's an excerpt: "What makes a good conversationalist has changed little over the years. The basics remain the same as when Cicero became the first scholar to write down some rules, which were summarised in 2006 by The Economist: 'Speak clearly; speak easily but not too much, especially when others want their turn; do not interrupt; be courteous; deal seriously with serious matters and gracefully with lighter ones; never criticise people behind their backs; stick to subjects of general interest; do not talk about yourself; and, above all, never lose your temper.' But Cicero was lucky: he never went on a first date with someone more interested in their iPhone than his company."

Yes, change happens.  But I would argue that no generation has been better prepared for change than our own (I include most of us out of college and professionally active in this demographic.)   So that might explain why we have stopped questioning the fact that certain matters seem to have taken a bizarre turn in our lives.  What seems to linger though is that uneasy feeling, our conscience perhaps, nagging us to find out if it's a turn for better or worse.  The easy way out of the nag?  Pick a side, and stick to it.  But be forewarned: if you choose to leave behind the eye-to-eye-contact option, in favor of the eye-to-screen one, you may want to wear a helmet when you leave the padded comfort of your digital zone.  It's tough out there in the real world, where "undo" or "save" do not stop an oncoming bus from mowing you down as you attempt to text and cross the street.

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