Picture of three friends conversing by Mickalene Thomas. Photo ©2012 Deborah J. Wunder
Barrie Davenport, of Live Bold and Bloom, has an excellent article on the art of conversation. What caught my attention wasn’t so much the tips on conversation, but the assertion that we are increasingly becoming convinced that conversation doesn’t matter:
“We’ve forgotten the power the spoken word has both for good and ill. And we’ve been duped into believing it doesn’t matter that much.
But it does matter. It matters because in spite of the accessibility of cyber-communication and our reliance upon it, we still need real interaction. We crave it — it’s genetically coded in our DNA. Humans are social beings who want to connect and engage with others.”
I think she is correct on several levels. First, I do think that many of us are relying more and more on our electronic devices to do our communicating. Heck, I note that I am a phone freak – mostly because it’s often just easier to reach out to someone by phone than for both me and the person I want to talk with to find time in our schedules to actually – you know – get together, especially since doing so often involves an hour or mor each way on public transit for us to be able to do so.
But, yeah, no matter how well I know my friends it is often harder to pick up conversational nuances over the phone. The body language just isn’t visible to me.
Mind, I have no problem with using texts and email to get information to someone quickly. I just used it yesterday, in fact, to get information about software for converting 78 rpm records into files that can be put on a cd or a computer, and then to let a different friend know that I had that information, and have someone who can walk me through the process if/when he wants to leave the old 78s he found at my house for a few weeks. In this case, email was the optimal solution — I was able to get the information to my friend without a long, drawn-out conversation about his current situation. (It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to his predicament, but I had a lot of work to accomplish, and couldn’t really spare the time to hear the whole story rehashed.) On the whole, though, I enjoy a good phone chat.
However, I do prefer getting together with someone for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it gets me away from my computer and phone for a bit. Besides, I never know what interesting things will occur when I am hanging out with friends, and that’s generally fun to discover. An acquaintance of mine mentioned liking tea of Facebook recently, and I messaged him back that we should have lunch at my favorite tea shop. We set up the lunch, and it turns out that he is inviting a third person — the owner of the shop, who is a friend of his! So my world will get a little bigger because my acquaintance and I decided that some real life conversation over a cup of tea (and one of their excellent salads, maybe) was a good idea.
And that’s what conversation is really about — reinforcing the connection between us. And no matter how good our webcams are, no matter how personal our blog posts, there are few things better than a long, thoughtful conversation between friends (with all the body language, facial expressions, vocal cues, and – if we are lucky – hugs and physical contact) for reaffirming our humanity, and our joy in connecting with another person.