Reviving the Art of Conversation in Our Digital Era

Lately I’ve been pining for times spent sitting with friends just chatting – without a clock in sight or a mobile phone to bring us out of our moment.With each person bringing only a memory – be it a piece of advice, words of encouragement or thanks, an anecdote, travel story, relationship advice or energy exchange. Our conversations could go on until the moon rises…

By conversation, I mean being deeply engaged in from the heart and grateful for the exchange of ideas.

I feel the art of conversation is becoming more elusive. We’re losing our ability to have traditional face-to-face conversations that are so vital in keeping our personal relationships. It’s not just the young who are losing eye contact and constantly checking text messages; many adults are also lost in a torrent of emails, social media and mobile phones. A sign of the digital times I didn’t see coming.

I’m no Luddite though. We can email, Skype and text message without losing our ability to connect on an engaging conversation about something we’re passionate about. I feel however we need to carry the torch of civilised communication and revive the art of conversation.

We can learn from Roman statesman and orator Cicero, himself a great communicator:

speak clearly and easily

listen and do not interrupt others when they are talking

be courteous and do not speak too much

don’t overly talk about yourself

don’t criticise others behind their backs

be serious with serious matters and lighthearted with lighter ones

never ever lose your temper

A conversation is an art that’s composed of more than one creator. Think of it as a synergy where each party has the dual role of listening and speaking.

Let’s be mindful during conversation. Unless you’re waiting for an important call, give your full attention to your friend. Turn your phone silent if you can – it will help you learn to be in the moment.

We can go back to conversing in ways that help ourselves and others realise the divine gift of speech. Imagine if we can make our friends feel valued for their stories and their words appreciated. Isn’t that part of what we’re here for?

“Only connect,” writes E.M. Forster in his novel Howards End to emphasise the value of personal relationships. He did the same in his novella ‘The Machine Stops’, a science fiction that uncannily predicted the digital era. Now the technology of connectivity is here before, let us heed Forster’s advice. “Only connect!” – and in connecting, he means from the heart – in person.

I love taking time away at a retreat to really get back to basics and have engaging conversations with people around me, leaving the digital era behind.

What keeps your conversations alive?

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