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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Noisome natter

When did you last have a conversation? One that met the word's definition:

Informal verbal exchange of feelings, opinions, or ideas.

In my case it's been ages. Yet I list conversation on my blog profile as one of my enthusiasms. Have I been lying? I fear so.

The first stumbling block is "exchange". It implies open-mindedness, a willingness to listen (rare enough) and to take on board something someone else says (even rarer). When have I shown the necessary generosity of spirit to allow this to happen? I can't remember.

Then there's that trio of examples. When were feelings and ideas at the heart of what I said? Why am I gloomily convinced I mostly purveyed opinion.

The definition doesn't touch on motive and perhaps that's just as well. I doubt mine would withstand even glancing examination.

Am I overdoing the self-denigration? I think not, this is an important subject. We arrive first as a face, then as the sum of what we wear, then as a facial expression, then by what we say and how we say it. Afterwards that last bit tends to persist in our acquaintance's memory. This is often the only lesson politicians learn.

Can conversational bad habits be unlearned?  Reflective silence when in the company of others may help. As might less drink. A jaw brace?

6 comments:

Ellena said...

Not sure if "never too late" applies to unlearning.

The Crow said...

Embrace you pedantic inclinations. You never know when someone just might learn something of life-changing value from you.

Sir Hugh said...

It's fine to listen to the other's ideas, feelings etc. and to express your own in exchange, but the trouble starts when one challenges the other's points and unless you both have a double degree in philosophy and the articulacy to go with it the likely outcome is heated and at worst a shouting match. Is there some civilised way of agreeing to differ? A good tactic is to ask questions of one's interlocutor in relation to his subject, but which he has not thought of, thus requiring him to think and give a considered answer, and that can then be further developed hopefully without getting into confrontation, but as you say, above all, listen,listen,listen.

There are many notable cases of academics falling out with each other. I suppose diplomacy is a way of trying to maintain a dialogue with give and take aiming at a mutually acceptable conclusion, it is certainly acknowledged as a commendable skill.

Did you see John Prescott's highly charged, emotional outburst agains Ian Hislop on Have I got News for you last night?

mike M said...

First, I find it quite difficult to tease apart feelings and opinion. Feelings seem to me the building blocks of opinion. Second, I don't think a conversation requires a difference of opinion, and when it does I think healthy curiosity about WHY opinions differ, and the questioning Sir Hugh suggests, can bring satisfaction to all parties. Patience is key, surely, and it's a challenge to avoid being the first party to get angry or dismissive. People arrive in their frame of reference through history and circumstance, though, and often the conversation can be steered toward a telling exchange about personal history. Caution is always in order...pull up short of "glad suffering".

Roderick Robinson said...

Ellena: With age, the leopard's spots fade. Eventually they're no longer detectable as spots. No need for change.

Crow: Sounds like heavy irony to me. And I'm told the US doesn't do irony.

Sir Hugh: Put succinctly: am I capable of swallowing disagreement? The answer is probably no. The safe solution is only to talk to clones of myself.

Questions are good (the basis of my trade) but some believe them to be impolite. Others, the subtler ones, recognise them as diversions.

Twas JP's fault. He was challenging IH about the role of the press. Inevitably IH was bound to bring up the way the press handled JP's marital infidelity over a decade ago. I thought his bluster was simulated and didn't JP in any case end with an all's-forgiven joke?

MikeM: A conversation based on a difference of opinion is an argument waiting to happen. Ideally, a conversation should be an act of mutual exploration, with each side bringing what he or she can to the furtherance of understanding. Needless to say such Socratic processes are as rare as George Bush apophthegms.

An opinion only becomes potentially controversial when expressed. At that point two things may happen: the opinion holder rarely offers his view neutrally (ie, he utters it with self-evident feeling) and his audience, detecting the feeling, may well respond to the feeling itself rather than the opinion. Astonishingly, this can happen even when the audience agrees with the opinion. Thus we have the amusing spectacle of two people shouting at each other despite being in agreement.

I agree about patience but it may well depend on how often one is capable of "swallowing disagreement". Too often we see a differing opinion as some kind of assault, and this stirs up more primitive reactions.

Blonde Two said...

I have recently spent some time with someone for whom a conversation is 98% him speaking and 100% you listening. Nice chap but it was a tad frustrating when he was actually asking questions and not giving me time to answer them.