What is the Art of Conversation?
In my opinion there are differences between conversation, discussion and debate.In my opinion -to have a conversation you should probably choose a fairly neutral topic to keep a calm setting. Discussions and debates can result in heated exchanges and high emotions.
I looked around the internet to find some ‘conversation etiquette’ and found some very interesting ideas:
10. It is as great an accomplishment to listen with an air of interest and attention, as it is to speak well. To be a good listener is as indispensable as to be a good talker, and it is in the character of listener that you can most readily detect the man who is accustomed to good society.
It is the first sentence of that quote that caught my eye – to listen with an air of interest and attention. It reminded me that nowadays people are often distracted by their ‘gadgets’. When you look around public places (the Shetland College canteen for example) most groups are engaged with their mobile phones and/or ipads. They are not fully engaging in conversation with each other: rather they are groups of individuals chatting and sharing media from their gadgets.
It was with this in mind that I orchestrated my assignment; talk for 15 mins then remove all mobile phones.
The initial conversation (with 3 other people) was interrupted by 7 beeping text messages and 1 ringing phone.Two text messages were photos which were shown to the group (unrelated to the topic)
Points made during this period were often punctuated by statistics and quotes from the internet (we were talking about the reduction in the ferry service for our isle).
After a while (longer than the 15 minutes I anticipated) I asked everyone to switch off their phones and I collected them in a basket which I put in a different room. The mood changed immediately – after the initial laughter – there was some anxiety (how will people contact me if I am needed urgently?) some light-hearted disbelief (you’re not seriously taking my phone..?)
The conversation continued but some participants were distracted and not as ‘at-ease’ as they were previously. One person was desperate to prove her statement with internet ‘validation’.
The conversation lasted a further 10 minutes.
I found it interesting that we have all become so reliant on our mobile phones – they can almost seem like an ‘extension of ourselves’.
If I was doing it again I would probably do it in reverse – take the mobiles away immediately and return them after 10 minutes. It would be interesting to see how this changed the dynamic.
I am not sure if I have tackled this assignment in the manner that was intended, but it has made me more aware of my own relationship to conversation and dialogue.