Monday, 6 March 2017

Bring back the art of dialogue. It’s National Conversation Week

Did you know that this week is the first ever National Conversation Week? 

I certainly didn’t and I say – Hooray!  What a great idea to encourage people to have actual conversations with each other at work, with friends, at home.

Well most of us need to raise our awareness of how dependent we’ve become on technology to do our communicating for us and how quickly the habit of making time to converse is diminishing. 

But for me it’s not just technology that gets in the way of conversations; it’s the speed with which we run our lives, run being the operative word – we run from one task to another, from one engagement to another. 

We over-pack our lives with lots of doing, me included, so this week my personal resolution is to slow down and talk to people.  I love that there’s a National Conversation Week because already it’s made me think about times I’ve sent an email instead of picking up the phone, or even worse, all the letters I’ve written in my head whose words were never put to paper. 

There are consequences as well.  How many of us have either sent or been on the receiving end of an email or text that we or they completely misinterpreted?  And then that misinterpretation caused a whole lot of difficulty.  I can raise my hand to that one - I recently sent an email to a friend where she read all sorts into it that I hadn’t intended.  If we’d been face to face or even talking on the phone I would definitely have picked up those signals that tell us all is not well and could have pre-empted all those misunderstandings.

Avoiding conversations we’d rather not have is quite common as well.  Our tummies churn and chests get tight (well mine do at any rate) when we think about saying what’s going on for us.  We also make up in our heads what the other person is going to say (well I often do at any rate) so having had the conversations in our minds, we often don’t have them in real life.

The less we have those difficult conversations, the more they build up; the more they build up, the greater our anxiety about having them. So we don’t and the cycle continues.  Something quite small can grow into something huge that feels often impossible to tackle.  I think back embarrassingly to a friend I cut off decades ago when I was in my twenties because I simply didn’t have the courage or the skills to have that difficult conversation.

During National Conversation Week we could all take some small steps:  if you are writing stuff in your head, send a letter or email instead; if you are about to send an email, pick up the phone, and when you do pick up the phone, make a date to have a face to face conversation.

Conversation used to be considered an art and I agree that it is a skill well worth honing for the sheer pleasure of using words to connect to others. 



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