The Art of Conversation
By Fasia Hardy
Going to parties has never been a problem for me, but engaging in conversation has. Recently I was invited to a friend’s birthday party. The party was cool, good vibes and a good mix of people. There were musicians, models and college students. I was enjoying myself until I was cornered into a conversation. Once I opened my mouth only “I” and “me” came out. I couldn’t stop it. I really wanted to look cool, interesting and well rounded, but it was like my brain’s search engine kept failing. I was stuck on myself and had nothing else to talk about. This verbal vomiting left me embarrassed.
Am I really this vapid? Could I really be this self-centered? The answer was yes, but I took comfort in knowing I’m not alone. All of my friends have committed acts of conversational narcissism. This is a generational issue amongst millennials. So many people born between 1980 and 2000 are more involved in pictures they have taken of themselves than the lives and thoughts of others. We have mastered text messages but have lost our social intelligence. The holidays, more than any other time of the year present the best time to learn the art of conversation.
The best way to avoid an awkward conversation is to have something to say. The best way to have something to say is to read a book. Everyone knows that person who reads books in their spare time, and they always automatically look like the smartest person in the room. Catch up on current events through watching the news or following sites such as BuzzFeed online. We have so many news outlets available to us that there is no excuse for getting it second hand. Twitter and Instagram are not news sites. People on social media not only can be wrong, but are usually wrong. It only takes 15 minutes to catch up on credible world news.
During conversation, relax and forget about you! Do more listening than talking. Avoid starting a sentence with “I”. Phillosphy.com has a funny quote from Oscar Wilde’s The Remarkable Rocket:
“I was saying,” continued the Rocket, “I was saying --- what was I saying?”
“You were talking about yourself,” replied the Roman Candle.
“Of course; I knew I was discussing some interesting subject when I was so rudely interrupted...”
This depicts how crazy and egotistical we can sound in conversation. If you really are as awesome as you believe yourself to be, and then relax in knowing that and your confidence will show it. People will know how cool you are by the end of the conversation. Try asking questions like “What about yourself?” “What do you think?” “Have you had the same experience?” People love being the star of a conversation, and if you are really listening to a person then it is easy to have question or input.
After that holiday party I learned that not only can I be a conversational narcissist, but also I tend to be a drag racer when I get excited on a subject. I also get louder as my words fly out faster. My next words of wisdom are to slow down. It is so easy to get so caught up in your point that no one understands you because of your delivery. Another important rule is to avoid confrontation. It is best to counter a statement with “and” or “also” instead of “but.” Even if you feel you are right, choose your battles wisely. Frustration, smugness, and arrogance are not vibes you want to give off.
The most awkward moment in a conversation can be its ending. Should I just walk away? Should we have a staring contest? What if I just ask where the restroom is? The answer is simple: Say “it was nice meeting you,” smile and walk away like a boss. You win. You have had a successful human interaction, and the person you had a conversation with will hopefully feel as though they just met an interesting and thoughtful person. If everything goes well, then the two of you can take selfies for Instagram and tag each other in them. After all, that would be the best possible outcome for any conversation, wouldn’t it?