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The Art of Conversation

Jared Lin | jlin19@dtechhs.org | June 7, 2018
Art made by Jared Lin

What makes for a good conversation? Is it a common interest? Is it talking with your friends? Indeed, those are two factors that can definitely get you interested in a conversation, but they are not the entire picture. Here are some tricks to keep in mind in order to have a solid conversation.

d.tech students said conversation depends upon good listening skills, some understanding of the topic, engagement, and open-mindedness. Junior Alyssa Shirman says she thinks that the comfort level of each individual involved in the conversation has to be high enough for everyone to open up: “There needs to be a certain comfort to get into the discussion beyond surface level, so that it can be meaningful and much more interesting.” This gives everyone the opportunity to do the “all natural; be yourself,” as sophomore Marek Garbaczonek puts it.

Social cues and assessing the environment play a significant role as well. Sometimes, you happen on a conversation occuring that sparks your interest. How might you join in with people you’re not familiar with? To avoid feeling awkward and worrying if the other individuals want you to join or not, senior Jacob Fisher says he tries listening to the conversation and trying to “interject when I have a chance with something meaningful.” Fisher considers someone hovering over a conversation to be annoying, so he recommends joining in.

When might you consider leaving or redirecting a conversation? Fisher says “if people aren’t willing to listen to what you have to say so they shut you down, or if they’re domineering and trying to control the discussion,” it is a good cue to leave. Shirman also notes that “topics that one person can’t relate [to] can be isolating,” with inside jokes being the most common offense.

Sometimes a conversation may make someone uncomfortable. This is where those social cues and body language observation skills come in, especially when others in the conversation don’t seem to notice. Fisher recommends redirection, or outright putting the brakes on that topic. “Steer the discussion somewhere else. Or [say] ‘Hey that’s not funny,’” Fisher recommends. Politics can often be one of those sensitive topics, especially when only one person doesn’t share the views of the others. Shirman would “try to steer the conversation away from that, or make sure that other people are willing to listen [to the other side].” This helps everyone feel engaged and comfortable, allowing everyone to reach the depths of a more engaging, meaningful conversation.

Occasionally, a topic comes up that might not interest or concern you. Garbaczonek “tries to seem interested, but walks away if it is not interesting,” likely a choice that many have made. Fisher said he “tunes out, or try to steer it in a direction that I’m interested in.” Shirman recommends “trying to understand the topic,” to get more interested and keep engaged or “trying to change the topic,” when it just isn’t something that she can find interesting.

See if you can notice yourself or others using these tricks next time you have a conversation!

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