Building up the conversation ( part 8)

Diversity of Situations

Conversation between two People

When two people are talking to each other, there is apt to be a personal tone in the conversation. It would be difficult for any two persons to talk for any length of time and be indifferent to or detached from each other. Firstly, if there is animosity or any kind of attempt to avoid each other, the said conversation between these two persons cannot take place. It has therefore to be admitted that the two persons talking to each other are motivated by some kindred feeling and mutual interest- whether it be business, common good or common danger. To make a conversation successful on such occasions, one has first of all to show all the sincerity one is capable of. And this sincerity has to be followed up by subsequent actions, otherwise the party concerned may be hurt and may shrink from developing any further relationship.

 

In a Group

There is a different set of norms to be followed in group conversation. It may be mentioned at the same time that this type of conversation is the essence of the art of conversation. Unless a person becomes an adept in the ways of group conversation he will not be recognized as a true conversationalist. A two-way conversation, even a very shy person can manage, but bring that same person into a group and we may, more often than not, find him tongue-tied and silent!

When, however, the members of the group are unknown to one another, a different kind of behavior will naturally be required. The first few rounds in such conversation are generally spent in establishing contact or rapport. People can speak on general topics politely for some time to find out, without giving offense, the standing, inclination, and tastes of the others. As and when the curiosity of the group in general is satisfied- here also direct questions are to be avoided-the group will gradually settle down and the talk will move along on common, general and accepted topics.

At Parties

Party conversation is primarily for the sake of employment. The members attending a party, therefore, should do well to leave all their worries behind and give themselves up to merry-making that a party is meant for. No particular rule of conversation, in fact, is applicable in a party where the motto is to take and give pleasure. a general rule of party conversation is that it should not be too personal or one-sided, else it will become boring and lifeless.

At a party, it is natural and reasonable to ask general preliminary questions from all those who are known to a person and also from those to whom one is introduced. But beyond that one should not persist in personal subjects which may cause groups to be dragged into corners. even if there is business or the personal matters to be discussed,they should be postponed to keep alive the party spirit. 

 

In Business

The business world is different from the safe grounds of our personal acquaintance. The competition in the business world naturally makes one person suspicious of another. The slogan in the business world sometimes is 'cheat or be cheated'. This is by no means always true and is certainly not justified, but the fear persists and this fear inhibits the talk which becomes guarded, cautious even formal. there are however, frank and sincere conversation as well, which are the best because in business, genuineness and goodwill of the businessman will always stand him in good stead. Most of the trade the world over is carried on with credit and good faith as the base. It is therefore, always better to be frank and sincere- for goodwill and a good reputation are far more valuable assets than one's bank balance.

In business, time is more precious than money and so business conversations should be brief and to the point. There should be no beating about the bush, no formalities other than those are required. This does not mean that the conversation should be bereft of any normal softness or civility. If the conversation is too short and precise, it may look like orders being given by one side to the other.

In easy and difficult situations

Difficult situations refer to obstacles that lie in the free flow of discourse between two persons or among a group. One may think that easy situations presents no problems. Actually the easy situation may require more tact than the difficult one. A person should be more careful in company where there are not many restraints and where people use whatever language or words they feel like using. The disadvantage of such a free situation is that a person may say something without thinking and offend somebody unwittingly.

In contrast to this, a difficult situation would mean that the persons who are engaged in talking are cautious and careful because the others in the group are non,co-operative. The conversationalists do not share the common purpose of building up the conversation.

Among Friends

Even among friends, there should be some reserve and purpose in conversation. There is nothing like the imparting and receiving of knowledge and this is especially so in the case of young men and growing youths. If the rising curiosity of young people is met, there is every possibility that they will be more interested in this type of tail than any vulgar display of words merely to gratify their senses. Also, it is true that people with ambition and purpose in life will seldom give themselves up to idle or loose talk. Their conversation will usually be on the lines of probing into the unknown.

Among Acquaintances

There is some pattern or conversational etiquette that is to be followed among these acquaintances. Needless to say that day-to-day worries and anxieties should not be confided to mere acquaintances. One should be pleasant and open in these situations without being confidential. Though there is no bar on the number or kinds of topics that can be discussed, there are, however, some constraints to be observed. Thus, while a person can talk with an acquaintance about the problem of the day, the daily hardships of the common man, the state of country's economy and so on, he should not delve into subjects like his son's education or daughter's marriage or father's ill health or his own body ailment.

The main idea of conversation among acquaintances is to carry on some discussion on general topics and to disseminate or gain knowledge. Thus, a person may go into the details of the robbery in his area or how land auctions are held at spiraling prices or what  the principal of the best school in town, who lives in his locality, has to say on education and on the building up of student-careers, but not how much his wife spends on her clothes, or how interesting his mother-in-law is and so on. It has mostly been found that talk among acquaintances is quite interesting because by common consent such conversation is without personal touches, involvements or complaints.

Among Strangers

There is no doubt about the fact that strangers can become acquaintances in time, provided two or more personalities have something in common. there have been instances of such 'pick-up' acquaintances sustained for long periods and ripening into real friendship. It is also true that people feel freer to talk to strangers than to those who are known to them or are from the same town. When they go to foreign lands, they lose many of their inhibitions and behave more in the spirit of; when in Rome, do as the Romans do.'

The code of conduct in speaking to strangers who one may meet here and there forbids a man to ask personal questions, no matter what these may refer to. Talk with a stranger is generally casual and is prompted on the occasion by force of circumstances. Thus he may complain about the delay of the bus, the train or the plane, and when he speaks aloud, unable to keep his thoughts to himself any more, he may get the support of a fellow-sufferer, who may say something more about the general situation.

Among hosts and guests

In our ordinary and normal social disclosure, we are either acting the part of a host or a guest. It is for the host to keep in mind that he is in the center of attention by common consent of the guests who have come to the host of their own free will and that in itself should be taken as a compliment. If there were no guests, the host would not have had this part to play.

Guests should also not forget that today they are guests here in this house and it may be that tomorrow the position may be reversed. If this is an admitted fact, it is also true that guests have an etiquette to observe. They must not behave irresponsibly, cut impolite or uncouth jokes or belittle any fellow-guests in any way. Moreover, it is the host's privilege to take the dominant part in the conversation, and to come forward and lead.

Among Males and Females

A certain discipline in language and behavior and a code of conduct have to be maintained when the two parties happen to belong to the opposite sexes. The boisterous gestures, postures and thinking aloud that are permissible among friends and acquaintances of the same sex, particularly the male should be avoided, in the first place, when a man is talking to a woman and vice-versa. It may be said that this type of restraint is rather old-fashioned and should be discarded in the modern age when there is so much talk of women's 'lib'. This may be true up to a point. in western countries today, the idea is gradually developing that the two sexes have two distinct patterns of life to follow and are equals though on different planes. It is, therefore, seen that restraints that were formerly exercised when conversing have been, to a large extent, removed.

It is also true that in this age of many youth movements and sports and cultural activities, young men and women of today are thrown together much more than those of the previous generation. Therefore, these young men and women have developed a great understanding and tolerance of each other than their parents or grandparents. 

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Written by
Rohit Gupta
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