A beginner’s guide to conversing

What makes a conversation come alive and what makes it worthwhile? Is it the quality of the conversation that makes the time invested in it worthwhile, or is the time we invest in the conversation that makes it worth having? I have tried to come up with my top five recommendations for having great conversations, or, as it turned out, one recommendation and three explanations of it.

a. Shut up and listen

Talking to people is great, but listening is even greater. For conversations to even be possible, the condition of possibility for conversing needs to be fulfilled:in order to talk you need to listen. Only then can the conversation start, because really talking to each other means answering the other. It means recognizing the worth of the other by answering the humanity revealed in her face with a response. Listening means putting the other at the center of your universe, it means making the other the end of the conversation instead of a means by which other ends are attained.

b. Know that the conversation you are having is more important than you are

This does not mean that you are not important, only that your engagement with other people is worth much more than being right or being admired or any other egoistic goal one might wish to attain through conversing. Conversations are about growing from the interaction with other people not about looking good in the eyes of your interlocutors. Coincidentally, wanting to come out of the conversation looking good might come in the way of you having a conversation and thus the possibility of being anything to anyone at all. Vain people don’t make good interlocutors, and really vain people don’t make interlocutors at all.

c. Know that there is no one inthe world who can’t teach you anything

Everyone in the world is an expert on something, if nothing else, then on themselves. This means that there is no conversation from which you don’t have the opportunity to learn and grow. It is your responsibility to do so whenever possible. Think of any other person you meet as a teacher. Treat them with the respect and attention that this position requires.

d. Have arguments but don’t quarrel

Conversations where everyone agrees about everything all the time are not really conversations, they are just mutual verbal reassurance, and they are boring… unless you are drunk, agreeing about the same stuff over and over is awesome when you’re drunk. So in general, have the courage and confidence in your conversation to disagree about stuff. But remember that disagreeing is not an invitation to quarrel and enter a contest of ‘who can make the other one admit that they are wrong’, but a chance for everyone to test arguments and positions on the topic in order for everyone to get closer to the truth.

Stefan

 

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