Yesterday at dinner I noticed that my daughter had been talking for like ten minutes straight. I, too, wanted to talk. So I said:
“Hey, Vija. Vija. Vija! I’m addressing you, can you stop for a sec?”
The V-meister finally wound down, reacting to my voice as though it were an insidious fly buzzing around her head.
“Let me tell you a little something about the art of conversation. The deal is that you say something. Three to five sentences, tops. Then, you pause for air and to give another person a chance to talk.”
“Yeah,” my husband the P-Dawg agreed. “And–”
“–You don’t just plow forward without assessing the subtle messages contained in other people’s body language. Messages that may be telling you it’s time for a pause.”
“Right,” said my husband, “For example–”
“It’s called, ‘discourse,’” I continued. “One person says something, then another person says something while the first person shuts up. After the second person has said something, then the first person can say another thing, preferably something having to do with the subject at hand.”
The V-meister seemed genuinely flummoxed.
“It’s just good manners” I told her. “You don’t want to annoy people or cause them to get bored. The art of conversation is very important,” I continued. “And it’s a dying art. I can’t tell you how many times I talk to people who never ask me a single pointed question about my life. You should always ask a few thoughtful questions. And be sure to act interested in the answers, of course. Try to follow up with something that pertains to the person’s last statement and whatever you do, don’t go on and on about your kids. Or your grand kids. Or anything medically related, especially your prostate or your gall bladder surgery. I don’t want to know how many times a day you go to the bathroom or what you did with your kidney stones.”
After that, I turned it over to my family. “Okay! Let’s try it! Jonas, it’s your turn.”
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