Is English conversation something you can learn?
Is there an art of English conversation? Yes, I believe there are some rules for conversation.
Listening Give and Take
Empathy for others means listening to what they say, thinking about it and then responding. In fast paced modern life this is not always possible. But we should remember that ‘turn-taking’ is the basis of a good conversation. You can interrupt, but the basic rule is to let the other person have their say, then you may have yours.
We are looking to find common ground, not to win a battle. Even in negotiation this is an important basic rule. If you plan well ahead and think about your goals in the negotiation then compromises and concessions should come as no surprise. But this requires a different orientation: not towards winning but towards building relationships.
Am I Learning or Teaching the ‘Other’
Sometimes we are in the driving seat sometimes we are the passenger. In the conversation, am I learning something or teaching something.
When I know more about a subject I am helping the other: likewise, when I know less I am in a subordinate position.
Either way emotions must be controlled. As student, I have to trust, as teacher I have to bear responsibility for the conversation.
Responsibility means to direct the conversation in a constructive and logical direction.
We can all remember when we had to help another person: a child, an elderly person, or even an animal. The same principle is at work here.
We are guiding or being guided towards the truth of a situation.
Responsibility for the Truth
The truth can surprise us. When we find the truth in a conversation it may be something entirely new: – An ‘aha’ moment.
Sometimes it is facts that can enlighten us; sometimes it is new feelings; sometimes it is a provocative comment: at all times conversation is the basis for new ideas.
So why do conversations get stuck, and why are some conversations so tedious, i.e. so boring.
When we forget that we are in the process of learning, then things can get difficult. These are some problems that can arise
- the straw man argument – occurs when we use arguments in a conversation to fight a constructed image of an enemy. Straw Man Arguments
- the over emotional ‘rant’ – occurs when we lose ourselves in negative descriptions of situations and other people.
- the second hand argument – occurs when out of fear we would rather know nothing new, and then put together arguments we have heard others say.
- the scared ‘run away’ – occurs when we would rather stay in our comfort zone and not deal with anything new.
The ‘Know it all’ & the Careless
The know it all is the Dogmatist. He knows everything because he has become an expert in a certain field and hasn’t progressed.
He can’t learn anymore, but he could develop as a person.
Often there are no reasons to do this. The dogmatist / ‘know it all’ stays in the same position but seeks to bring everyone down to their level.
The ‘know it all’ defeats the new : he defeats enthusiasm.
On the other hand the careless person does not care about how things are done or about the future. Their interest is in the eternal now.
They want things to go on forever because they enjoy the situation they are in. The careless person always agrees with the ‘group’ consensus.
For the person wanting to do anything ‘new’, or even lead a team, the two examples of the ‘Dogmatist’ and the ‘Careless’ can be frustrating in different ways.
When nothing new is said in a situation we are behaving like machines. Corporate life often makes conversations into methods to control.
Appraisals and meetings go through points on the agenda and strategies for the future, while the truth may be very different.
It’s often political. With wit and intelligence a good conversation can get round these political problems.
That is why it is relationships that are often the most important thing in a business.
Relationships are built on conversation. English conversation has always been especially important for trade.
In business negotiations the bottom line is not always the price but the ongoing relationship.