And when we use that spoken language in a conversation, our brains are also paying attention to body language, facial expression, tone of voice, social mores and etiquette. And we're both listening and formulating our own thoughts (both ones we express and ones we don’t) at the same time. There is a lot involved.
No wonder we fuck it up so often.
According to this article, humans have been writing about how to be a good conversationalist for thousands of years – and the tips from Cicero in 44 BC aren’t different from the tips in a how-to book written today.
That’s because it isn’t hard to know what you’re supposed to do. It’s just exceedingly difficult to do it.
You have to be quick.
You have to be confident to let the conversation go the way it will, something the author of this list of “conversation starters” clearly doesn’t get.
And you have to be confident enough to be more interested in the other person than in yourself. Many people simply boast. This is so common, there’s actually a term for it: “conversational narcissim.” I often talk to people who, even though you’re trying to ask them questions to let them talk about themselves, are so busy tooting their own horns, they mishear what you asked. And since their boasts are often of the “you suck, I’m great” variety, it’s really not fun, anyway.
Sad, really, because even the most boastful person is looking for the connection with another that conversation brings.