The Great Conversationalist

Installation by Matteo Pugliese at Cafe Florian in Venice, Italy.


Entrée: Tête-à-tête

Conversation. One of the key tools we hold to learn so much about so much. To listen, to question, to accept or refuse, and to share. Ah! Repeat.

Repeat, good persons, repeat. With the diverse methods of conversation, we often find we’ve navigated across the spectrum by the end of the day. How beautiful is it to recognize that not only do we speak to be heard, but we speak to trade pieces of ourselves and life as we know it? Cliché, yes. We seek to change minds and have our own minds changed; we can discuss with zero sum, explore many a topic, build social connections, and build affection.

Conversations have changed history, re-directed cultures, are attributed to some of the world’s most influential religions and have shaped our teaching and learning methods. Just as they have created chaos, instigated wars, hindered development and broken men. The tool is real and it’s beautifully powerful.

Plat Principal: Didacticism

We can’t accept mundane dialogue that adds no value to ourselves and those around us. Of course, not all have to be diligently curated, it’s an art after all and something anyone can master by understanding the key component of what makes a good conversationalist.

  1. Be curious. A behavior present in humans since birth, and the reason to where we are today as a species. Get curious about who you’re talking to and what they’re saying. Humans naturally hold the motivational desire to gain and understand information, so dig deep, ask why and how, and know there is something to learn in everything.
  1. Read everything. Read about lifestyle, sciences, business and arts. Read about current events, read about religion, read deep and dense, and read fun and light. Read about what you agree with and read about what you don’t agree with. Understand different perspectives, expand your thoughts, and don’t forget to follow up on previous conversations by researching the subject matter. You won’t get further reading about what you already know.
  1. Ask questions. Don’t have a conversation just to echo general dialogue; your time and intellect is too important for that. The bases of a conversation depends on good open-ended questions that nourish the topic and expand it into further topics. This means encouraging critical thinking and sometimes playing devil’s advocate. Once learned, you can apply it to the lightest of conversations with high level acquaintances.
  1. Listen and appreciate silence. Listening is more than hearing the words being said while preparing the adequate response. It’s observing the tone the words come with, the body language that delivers them, and the emotions they convey. You listen, have a moment to digest if needed, and breakdown what the speaker really means. Don’t be afraid of those silent moments every now and then; use them with intention. Reflect on what has just been said; take a breather, process the information, collect your thoughts and carry on.
  1. Speak their language. When having a conversation, be relatable. The key to being a good conversationalists is how you deliver the information. Don’t assume others will have the same perspective or level of knowledge as you (just as equally don’t fret on whether they have a higher level of knowledge). Learn to understand the other person’s outlook and how you can engage with them; keep it simple at first, try different methods of delivery, and use a variety of examples.
  1. Understand there are different types of intelligence. This is a beautifully big one which I intend to write about on its own. Intelligence is diverse and extensive, and anyone seeking knowledge knows how important it is to not only understand this but to also meet and converse with those who present this. People can demonstrate for example emotional intelligence, or musical intelligence, or they can be people smart, or word smart etc. Google it. Enjoy.
  1. The bigger picture. When you’re in a conversation, you need to consider and appreciate the subject matter as a whole. It is important to take something apart to understand it better, however don’t mutilate it and lose it in the process of dissection. Remember – the sum of the parts is equal to the whole. You’ll find a lot more makes sense when you observe with this mind-set.
  1. Engage to learn. You’re having a conversation to exchange information, this means taking and giving. Emphasis on the taking. Whether it’s a debate, a discussion or casual conversation, ensure your intentions are to learn. Make sure you have a diverse group of friends, mentors, acquaintances to exercise this. At the end of the day, this not only helps you but it also helps those around you too.

Dessert: But of course!

What a delightful thing is the conversation of specialists! One understands absolutely nothing and it’s charming.

– Edgar Degas


In Conversation

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