“I fell in love not with his looks or car, but his amazing ability to carry on a conversation. Not once did I look at my watch. I mean, he just floored me with the range of topics he could talk about, and I too got inspired to share what I knew. We talked till 4:00 in the morning, I noticed the sun’s first rays appearing in the sky, but I didn’t want our conversation to stop!”
As we said once before, you don’t need champagne if the conversation sparkles and scintillates. Skilled lovers are readily available, what with all the how-to manuals and Kamasutra instructions that have sprung up, but good conversationalists are hard to come by – especially the kind that can keep your interest until 4:00 in the morning.
Blessed are those who can converse, for they shall inherit a kingdom of listeners. Count us into that kingdom because we’re all for top shelf conversationalists!
That’s one of the reasons why it pays to be a jack-of-all trades and a master of none. Given the knowledge base of a generalist, succeeding at conversation is easier. Imagine getting a highly specialized brain surgeon to contribute anything to a conversation about Ghulghuleh (hint: it was destroyed by Genghis Khan). A brain surgeon could spew out a mouthful about the hippocampus, parietal lobes, cerebellum and the right hemisphere. If you’re into that, congratulations, you’ve met your match. Sure our brains are important, they define who we are and what we do, but the reason we were given a brain in the first place is not so much to talk about it, but to help us absorb data about a thousand and one things and hopefully have something sensible to say.
And this is where a genuine interest in life keeps our brains alive and kicking. If we develop a healthy curiosity in a gamut of subjects, we learn and by deduction, a consistent learning pattern turns us into talkers able to hook the attention of even the most indifferent of souls.
Debra Fine is an author and conference speaker who wrote the book The Fine Art of Small Talk (Hyperion). She believes conversational skills are an essential component of business and professional networking. She mentions some rules we ought to remember when we’re in public and trying to connect with others:
First rule: don’t do all the talking, be a listener first!
Ironically, the less you talk and the more you listen, the better your chances at success. Non-stop talkers, no matter how smart they sound, can overwhelm and wear anyone down. Being a listener, however, does not mean playing a passive role in the conversation. By listening, we show an interest in others – this in turn generates goodwill and fellowship.
Second rule: Use the person’s first name
It’s “la politesse” as the French call it. By saying the person’s name as we speak, we personalize and humanize the exercise.
Third rule: Dig deeper
Debra Fine encourages follow-up questions. She says that if your friend or business associate mentions vacation, don’t just nod your head and go on to the next topic. Ask questions about what he did, where he went to and if the locals were friendly.
Fourth rule: Stop giving unsolicited advice, no matter how tempting
People are only human and they may not be aware that they are annoying others when they offer advice. The point to remember is if it’s requested, give it. If it’s not requested, refrain from even giving an opinion. You have to work on the premise that people you talk to are intelligent and can handle things on their own.
Fifth rule: Don’t melt from the conversation
Debra Fine calls these “exit lines.” If you need to circulate and meet others, be courteous and shake their hands so you leave a favorable impression.
Now that we’ve said our piece about the art of conversation, we’re ready to move to the next level – arguing! We’re not referring to heated and confrontational arguments. What we had in mind were arguments of the friendly kind – the ones that stimulate and enlighten, making our listener beg for more.
Fun Things to Argue About – Any Suggestions?
Yes, let’s start with the most common:
Books, Movies and Tunes
One of the reasons you married your spouse was because of the law of opposites. Opposites attract. The two of you had such disparate views about every conceivable subject that your conversations were fun and idyllic.
Comparing the books, movies and tunes of the bygone era with the ones of today makes a good starting point for a friendly argument.
For instance, is the present crop of Hollywood artists less talented than the likes of Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Sir Lawrence Olivier? Considering that in the old days there were fewer camera tricks available, actors of that era had to try harder to be convincing.
Or how does the craze for Harry Potter books compare to the interest generated by the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series when we were three – four decades younger?
Are hip hop, reggae, R&B and Indy music more soul and more metal? Do you think this genre of music will last ten more years before audiences start clamoring for more traditional songs?
Global WarmingOh, you better believe it. There are increasing numbers of environmentalists that are passionate about issues like global warming and acid rain and greenhouse emissions. The environment has become a major area of concern because today’s citizens want to leave a safer and healthier planet for their children and their children. The environment is a multi-pronged topic where one argument could lead to another. Thanks to the warnings of David Suzuki and Al Gore, our awareness has been sharpened and we’re looking at household garbage and its impact on the environment from a much more enlightened perspective!
Gadgets and Gizmos
Here’s a real fun topic to argue about. If you’ve been listening to the media of late, Steve Jobs scored again! Apple announced that it is launching its iPhone this summer which, according to critics and reviewers, is a very user-friendly piece of device that will give Blackberry and Treo a run for their money. If you and your spouse can’t live without your cell phones, you two might argue about whether or not you should be switching to iPhone. But perhaps, not just yet. It’s just a question of time before Bill Gates comes up with his own version, calling it “windowphone.”
Health and Fitness
Is it really necessary to go to the gym five times a week? Of course not, you say. What matters is intensity, not frequency. This point has been known to spark arguments – again friendly – between couples who are fitness freaks.
Taboo Topics: Religion, Politics, Sex and Money
As custom and propriety would have it, one never discusses these in a public gathering, but they are certainly allowed in the bedroom. You’ll be surprised how these topics can elicit raw emotions and oodles of zeal among spouses. When was the last time you worshipped, when was the last time you voted and when was the last time you had you-know-what can definitely be raised among two people who are intimate with each other or just beginning to be intimate.
By-products of Capitalism: Real Estate, Non-Traditional Investments and Google AdwordsThese are fun topics to argue about, especially if both spouses are looking for ways to build a nest egg for their golden years. People who’ve made untold fortunes in real estate can talk non-stop about the dynamics of property ownership and the windfalls from commercial land and building. And then there are those who have bid adieu to the TSE and the Dow Jones to venture into more non-traditional forms of investing because greener pastures are beckoning. Would you like to own part of an oil rig for instance?
For partners who are cyberspace fiends, building web sites and turning them into passive income streams via Google adwords are another fun topic to argue about. “This should be the landing page”. Or “that flash movie is irritating me no end. Can you change that into a still frame?”
Other “Fun” Topics to Argue About
We’re not sure if these topics are really fun to argue about, but once you’ve exhausted your arsenal of topics, both of you can come down to earth and argue about the mortgage, dental braces for kid # 3, expiring insurance policies, credit card spending and a leaking basement.
As long as the arguments don’t lead to fights, we don’t see why the marriage can’t flourish. Conversation and argumentation add special spice to a promising union!