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Real-Life Conversations:

A Lost Art? Part 2


Co-Author of "Conflict The Unexpected Gift"

In Part 1 of this post, I wrote that despite the ease of communicating via digital online systems, conversing with people face-to-face is still essential for close personal relationships. But Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Twitter, and time-honored email are clearly taking precedent over talking to each other in person.


I also noted that 10 years ago, clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle came up with the phrase “alone together” in her book by the same title. She was referring to our tendency to communicate compulsively via social networks, and to ignore our friends when we are out with them in favor of interacting with our smartphones.

Yvonne Boxerman, a recently retired human resources manager, writes in the Nov. 22nd issue of the Palo Alto Weekly newspaper: “Lately…it’s becoming much more difficult to talk to people when we’re out and about. Either everyone is in a rush or more likely they’re otherwise engaged―engaged with their handheld device that allows only the user and whomever he or she is communicating with to talk to each other. Haven’t we all seen groups at a restaurant having dinner, each in his or her own world? Heads down and thumbs flying, each is holding a device, finding what they’re reading or texting to be so much more interesting than the group they are sitting with. And that seems to be true whether it’s a family or a group of coworkers.”

“Nothing will ever beat in-person communication,” says Rebecca Eaves, director of Advertising Week Europe. “Humor, empathy, listening to the unspoken as well as spoken are all so much more powerful in real life…nothing can replace the phone call, the chat over coffee, a face-to-face conversation in building relationships, networks and businesses.”

Sherry Turkle provides us additional insights in her 2015 book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. “Torn between our desire to express an authentic self and the pressure to show our best selves online, it is not surprising that frequent use of social media leads to feelings of depression and social anxiety. And trouble with empathy. Research shows that those who use social media the most have difficulty reading human emotions, including their own.”

Mark Brady’s words from the introduction to his 2003 book, The Wisdom of Listening, align closely with Turkle’s. “I assert that human maturation seems to significantly correlate with an increasing capacity for skillful listening…There is more room available for the words and thoughts of others, space that can accommodate perspectives different from our own…The world is large enough to hold conflicting viewpoints, spacious enough for all of us to peacefully grow, learn and mature.”

In Part 1 of this post, I included tips that I took from our book, Conflict―The Unexpected Gift, for how to conduct a positive conversation with someone. Here are some additional tips from the book―this time for how to avoid obstacles to such a conversation:

  • Talking interminably, giving the other person virtually no space or time to respond
  • Repeating ourselves over and over again to make sure that another person gets our point
  • Responding negatively right away to whatever the other person is saying to us
  • Disagreeing instantly with someone by justifying our own opinion as the “correct” one
  • Interrupting a person before they can finish their statement in order to give them our own views
  • Piggy-backing immediately on an experience another person states with one of our own accounts
  • Telling our side of an issue so strongly that we come across to the other person as defensive
  • Responding to someone who is challenging us by instantly confronting the person in like manner

Making it a daily practice to avoid these grating behaviors, whenever we catch ourselves about to use them, will enable us to make our face-to-face conversations with people much more meaningful and fulfilling. Communicating with others in person will also help us to build greater mutual understanding, deeper trust and stronger relationships with each other.

What do you think? We'd love to hear from you!

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