On boring vs entertaining conversation

The other day my brother Alex told me about an idea that changed my perspective on conversations. As these things usually are, it was very timely. I think this idea, if presented to me at a different time would not have switched on the light-bulb in the way it did, if it weren’t for the fact that I had been pondering the topic of conversation lately, trying to unravel how it is that my housemate Ian is such a good conversationalist. Anyway the idea is simple, and it is this:

Many people will choose to talk about logic, reasoning or logistics as a way of avoiding talking about emotions, feelings, beliefs or relationships.

Straight away after he had told me this, I asked him how he was getting back to Perth. I already knew how he was getting back to Perth. This is me doing exactly what he just told me people do. It is the worst type of conversation. It is meaningless. I’m going to call it logisticsYou use it because it fills the space, it is completely risk free in that you have zero chance of challenging someone’s beliefs, and sadly, it does build the relationship though extremely tenuously and at risk of becoming a boor if you do just the slightest bit too much of it.

I do a lot of it. I use logistics all the time. Just to fill the hole, to have something to talk about and because I’m being a pussy.

Now, that’s the bad. How bout the good.

Open ended questions like “so what are your thoughts on the whether it is moral to eat other living things?”. Great open-ended question, very broad and fairly non-threatening by being so broad. If they want they can give a one sentence dismissive answer “I’m a carnivore, I eat animals.” or if I get lucky and hit on something that they are passionate about I could get a thesis, and a very lively conversation.

So that seems to be how to get the conversation up and running. And be fairly persistent with these.

A good conversation seems to come about when both parties are talking about something that they have thought hard about. They’ll have a very well articulated position and on top of that some very entertaining anecdotes and analogies to back it up.

It is also useful contradictory fairly often. This is great tinder for a fiery conversation. If someone poses a thesis and everyone simply nods their heads and agrees then the conversation goes nowhere. If one person were to articulate a devils advocate position however, then the participants will be forced to define their position further and give some supporting evidence.

Some general rules:

  • Try to avoid making large assumptions.
  • “But thats me, how about you?”
  • Get others to challenge their beliefs by themselves, with leading questions. Stops you looking like the asshole if they came to the conclusion themselves.
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