ART OF CONVERSATION

People who are eager to tell too much about themselves, also have similar eagerness to know about others. All professors seem to believe in the logic Oscar Wilde propounded, “I like to do all the talking myself. It saves time, and prevents arguments.” One likes to talk to beautiful minds. The beholder sees the beauty of the mind through two drives: ‘sense’ and ‘form’. The ‘sense’ drive seeks for immediate gratification. The ‘form’ drive looks for abstract understanding and rational order. These drives, however, are in conflict with each other, writes Friedrich Schiller. “Comfort and ease struggle against a sense of duty and responsibility. The allure of freedom clashes with the longing to be steadfast and rooted in existing commitments.” Though in conflict, we need both the drives to see the true beauty. The logic of seeing beauty perhaps applies to the art of conversation. Politeness is one of the main ingredients of the art of conversation. Good nature is natural politeness. It is also said, politeness is ‘artificial good nature’. Exuberant politeness, perhaps, is not a desirable attribute. Sycophancy is as despicable as rudeness is.

The guidelines, as given by Arthur Martine, on the art of conversation includes: know when not to speak (silences are often more flattering than compliments), mind the rudeness of laconic response (avoid giving sharp answers that look uncivil). Martine’s list of ill-mannered conversation includes the loud talkers who don’t allow anyone to utter a word. Among the list of bores, he gives the top slot to excessive life-sharers; they think what interests them interests others too. Then there are clever bores; they don’t like simple conversations to go on, they try to intercept it with ‘idle speech’ to show their wisdom. The apathetic bore yawns on your face deliberately, bad taste is the falling of these bores. The lingering bores overstay. The eternal bores talk about the same subject all the time. Some bores possess special gift for choosing the least appropriate topics of conversation, like to the blind they will speak of fine scenery. The egotistical bores are most revolting, as they are “ready to slime over every subject of discourse with the vile saliva of selfish vanity.”

What about conversations in the techno-bulged age? Sherry Turkle thinks, the world has become more talkative, but technology-based conversations are becoming less interesting. Everyone seems to be talking, but in fact, no one is talking.

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