The Art of Conversation

So you think that the art of conversation is dead and you blame it on the invention of emailing and the advent of SMS texting?

letter_writingWell, not really, what they killed was not so much the art of conversation as the art of writing a letter. When did you last receive a nice letter written on nice paper in a nice hand? I don’t know if they even teach children to write decent letters anymore, and I assume that no one actually cares.

There was a time when such writing was a literary art form, and not infrequently one sees letters from a bygone age coming up for auction because they provide such valuable insight into history and human endeavours. How sad then that such records will no longer be available for future generations to learn from as we have for several thousands years.

Which, I admit, has little to do with the art of conversation, but which like letter writing has always had some basic rules that have hardly changed over the years. I think it was Cicero who had penned some rules for conversation which [according to a summary by ‘The Economist’ in 2006] included: “Speak clearly; speak easily but not too much, especially when others want their turn; do not interrupt; be courteous; deal seriously with serious matters and gracefully with lighter ones; never criticise people behind their backs; stick to subjects of general interest; do not talk about yourself; and, above all, never lose your temper.” But Cicero was lucky: he never went on a first date with someone more interested in their iPhone than his company.

What we now call ‘conversation‘ is what amounts to comments on Facebook and in writer's blockour blogs, and that means 140 characters or less and does not leave much room for other than the trivia and rants that much of the internet social media sites communication consists of. Conversation on the other hand is an exchange of views and opinions, using a broader vocabulary than found in the apparently insatiable need for consulting the iphone or other device for visual stimuli and concocting short messages using the largest number of acronyms and abbreviation possible. This may have something to do with the increasing cases of attention deficient young people, either as a result of or because of.

You may argue that a good thing has come out of this change to our lives: that whilst the art of letter writing is dying, the art of composing pithy and precise short messages has never grown so fast.texting-while-the-cataclysm-burns