real life

I'm calling it: No one knows how to have a conversation anymore.

It was probably by the fifth conversation that my eyes starting rolling into the back of my head and I had sudden and uncharacteristic urge to throw my wine on the floor and go home.

I had found myself at a party where I knew a few people, and of the few I did, I hadn’t seen in quite a while. Small talk, I soon realised with a sense of foreboding dread, would be the theme of the night.

It’s not that small talk and I don’t get along. We usually get along just fine, actually. Our relationship is helped by the fact I’m rarely feigning interest in conversation; most of the time because I feel the person I’m talking to is exponentially more interesting than myself. (“What have you been doing with yourself?” is always a fun question to answer when the only thing you have been doing with yourself is going out for coffee a lot.)

The sense of dread was born from a sense of familiarity: so often in the last few months I have been caught in conversation where, after half an hour of talking, I’ve felt stumped.

I’ve literally asked you every question I have in my bank, I think. And if you don’t actually ask me a question soon, this conversation is going to die and my soul might go along with it.

Listen: The new small talk question you should ask. (Post continues…)

You see, I had navigated myself through five different conversations with five different people. I had made my way from travel to work to spearfishing and all the way back to travel, skirting around the edges of relationships and hobbies and plans and realised over a period of three hours, not a single person had asked me a question.

Not one.

It’s not that I relish talking about myself or that I think I have things to say that are worthy of their attention and their thought. (Just ask my friends and family – I rarely shed insight. Just a lot of bullshit.)

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Instead, I just want help. I want help to ensure this conversation that I have carefully kept afloat will not find itself falling victim to an awkward silence. Because if there’s one thing more painful than actually listening to me answer a question, it’s watching me sweat in a moment of silence.

It shouldn’t be an acquired skill, the art of asking someone a question. We should be naturally interested in asking people what makes them tick, what they like doing, who they like being.

"We should be naturally interested in asking people what makes them tick, what they like doing, who they like being."

And yet, I'm realising more and more that so few people in this world know how to have a conversation. So few people in this world know how to converse because all our conversations are spoken with our fingers. Online. On our phones.

It feels like one of a few things have happened here:

For one, we've spent so little time conversing face-to-face that we've forgotten that, you know, it's both nice and polite to ask someone something once in a while. Or perhaps instead, we've spent so much time on social media we're only ever seeing the world through the lens of ourselves. And then because of that, we already think we know what's news with someone else. No questions needed.

Conversations shouldn't often be hard. They should be interesting and fun.

There's something inherently rude - and yes, a little selfish - if you don't see the need to ask anyone anything ever. As if the world revolves around you, you revolve around it.

And if you leave an event not armed with new information about every person you had a conversation with - you need to address the way you engage in a conversation.

Because I'm standing in front of you, thrilled about your European holiday, new dog, and birthday lunch - wondering if you're in a conversation with me... or one with yourself.

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