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Learning How to Talk

I can’t remember the last time I was talking with someone. Talking to, sure, I remember that; being talked at, yes, but talking with, it’s been a while. William Shakespeare said, "conversation should be pleasant without scurrility, witty without affectation, free without indecency, learned without conceitedness, novel without falsehood." It sounds good, but I find people don’t talk like the way Mr. Shakespeare wrote. I find that conversation often involves some kind of pride or upset. Often both people leave unchanged and sure they are right. In some cases nothing happens at all.


There have been times when I’ve been speaking with someone and something they said left me dumbfounded. I had never thought of it that way, or I’ve just realized I’m completely wrong. I remember those conversations with more clarity than any where I came away unchanged in my opinion or belief.

On one occasion when I was just out of high school, I was arguing with man out of college; he had said Jesus Christ was in heaven in human form. This to me was absurd. I had never heard of such an idea, and I told him so. If I was with God and was God, I wouldn’t want to be a person, I’d want to be God. It was a very good point, in my opinion. So my competitor in the conversation responded by saying that Jesus was both God and man, and it was because of this that He could intercede for us with God, being both He could be a bridge from one to the other. I stopped in my thoughts. That made sense. I said so and I told this man I would have to look this up once I got home. I’ll never forget his face. He was completely caught off guard. He was ready for any response but “you know, you might be right.”

This has happened on smaller scales. I have learned why my friend doesn’t do something the way I do it, or doesn’t watch the movie I love. I have never learned these insights when I’m feeling attacked for my opinions, only when I stopped and inquired, instead of preparing my argument for the defense. I have also learned things about myself when someone has asked me why I do or don’t do something and I stopped to consider how to put my feelings into words. These conversations are the reason we were given time to talk with one another.

It says in James that everyone should be quick to listen, and we’ve all heard that, but when we really stop and think before we reply is when the real power in conversation happens.

I have felt put down and beat up after talking with a friend. Not just on those times when I’m the butt of a joke, which Mr. Shakespeare would say is a conversation no-no, but also when I say I like something and my friend says they don’t. I feel rejected and maybe even judged. However, there have been times when I sat down and talked about it. I’ve had really rich conversations about a movie or a game, trivial stuff, but because we put thought into it, the conversation took off into a far-reaching level of our consciousness that was as rich as if were we ancient philosophers discussing the meaning of life. It wasn’t what we were talking about; it was how we were talking.

I have had conversations when I figure it’s best to stop talking and simply nod, because the other person has made up their mind and all I will accomplish by stating my opinion is a fight. There are some people who I will never bring up certain subjects with. I am sure there are some people who won’t bring up certain subjects with me, because I reacted badly on occasion, perhaps in passion, but definitely hastily. How sad if someone had something wonderfully profound to tell me and I never heard it because I was too thick headed to talk to.

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Recently I had a conversation that was intelligent and clear, a conversation I showed up for instead of running out and feeling at once superior and rejected. When asked if I’d seen The Simpson’s Movie, I said "no" politely, because I have never liked The Simpson’s. I know that a lot of people find their combination of slapstick humor and underlining social commentary brilliant. But the body jokes just gross me out, I can’t get past it. My friend was not offended and understood when I explained this to him. I have felt so much better about The Simpson’s since that conversation. I no longer feel defensive about my view or attacked, I feel relieved and OK to be different from everyone else.

My Simpson’s experience taught me that if I am considerate of other’s feelings and clear in my message, they will be more willing to listen and consider my point of view.

I think all Mr. Shakespeare was trying to say was that conversation is honesty with consideration and respect, and when possible, affectionate humor. This kind of conversation is something to strive for. It’s easier said then done; just as most things are easier said then heard.

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