The Art of Conversation (a/k/a When to Stop and Listen)

Sometimes you strike a nerve.  It is easy to spot when this happens because the reaction is swift, defensive, and (often) dripping with vitriol.  I found that out when I dared to talk about The Objectification of Sam Heughan.  I was just thinking aloud…or on the screen…or, well, you know what I mean.  But apparently some took it as a personal attack…and they attacked in kind.  *insert catty snarl*

Fortunately, I am 42 years old.  And while my skin may be the approximate color of paper, it is not nearly so thin.  I can handle snark.  But not everyone can.

Since that post, many have shared their thoughts and opinions (Yay!  Discussion!), and some have forwarded me links to other blogs that have explored the topic (Yay!  More discussion!).  A few have warned me about some seriously snarky blog posts, FB comments, tweets, etc.  (Ya–  Oh, wait…)  *Shrugs*  Just another day on the internet.  Right?

But it also made me think long and hard about the fact that, despite the fact that I can instantly talk with people all over the world (Thank you, Twitter!), it has become harder and harder to have an “actual conversation.”  Discussions have grown less civilized.  Perhaps it is the anonymity of the internet (you know, the fact that you don’t have to look someone in the face while you stick a knife in their heart).  But whatever the cause, the effect is the same–the give and take of conversation seems to be breaking down.

The idea of “agreeing to disagree” is seen as selling-out rather than respecting another’s point of view.  It appears that the endgame is to make your opponent agree with you.  Discussion is a lost art, long forgotten, and has been replaced with an increasingly loud discourse in which the only way to “win” is to out-shout the other.  The concept that someone else might have legitimate points and that, even if you don’t agree, you can both still take something away from the discussion seems to be lost somehow.

Newsflash:  Conversations do not have “winners” and “losers.”  Conversations have participants.  And the participants do not, at any time, have to agree with one another.  They can disagree ad nauseam–and they can do so with courtesy, and respect, and without threats or name-calling.

You can be heard without silencing others.  

But not everyone understands this.  As a result, sometimes an unguarded comment can awaken The Trolls…

Every morning, I drive my kiddos to the school bus stop and I tell them stories while we wait.  Over time, more and more of their friends have started joining us.  The kids get out of the cold, and they get a story in the bargain.  Win!

Last week, while we waited for the rest of the reading posse to arrive before getting starting the story, one of the girls mentioned that she had posted on social media that she felt depressed.  (My “mom ears” immediately perked up.)  Maybe she hoped that someone online would offer her sympathy or consolation.  Instead, she was told “Yeah, because you’re a piece of shit” and “Then why not go ahead and kill yourself?”  My heart sank.

We didn’t read that day.

Instead, we all talked.  And we listened.  We listened a lot.  Because part of having a real conversation is to know when to stop planning what you’re going to say next and to actually listen to what is being said.

It sounds so simple.

Just listen.

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4 thoughts on “The Art of Conversation (a/k/a When to Stop and Listen)

  1. Great as always. I love discussion and sharing ideas. I also tend to play devil’s advocate a lot to stimulate things, get people to think. Seems lately…people don’t want to think or apply common sense to situations. Very sad. I hope the girl is doing better – so sad that she had such responses.

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    • Thank you! I love discussions, too. Some of the best discussions I have ever had were with people who did not agree with me at all, but they were passionate about their views, and they listened to mine as well, and there was mutual regard for one another.

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  2. I am so happy to have found your blog recently. Came to you because of Outlander, stayed because of your thoughtful, respectful, and well written views. I love discussion and agree we do not all need to agree, just to listen and respect our differences. I do agree with you here. And I hear you about Mother’s ear – aways got to listen to that – hope she found a supportive group to help her work it all out.

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    • Thank you so much! Funny thing, the Mother’s Ear. Even now, when I hear a tiny child cry out “Mama!” in the store, I turn towards it…even if I went to the store alone.

      My heart felt pummeled when I heard our daughter’s friend read the replies she received, but she is getting some help now and that is what matters. (And I really, really appreciate you asking.)

      .

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