The art of conversation and how to leave a positive impression

We need to be conscious that the others are participants too. Let it not be a sermon, but invite others to comment

By Shilpa Bhasin Mehra

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Published: Mon 18 Jul 2022, 10:55 PM

Last updated: Mon 18 Jul 2022, 11:07 PM

I recently finished an exam to become an arbitrator. I enjoyed studying for it, because besides the legal provisions, there was so much to learn that we can apply in our daily lives. Almost every clause, started with the words “Except as agreed by the parties”. That means nothing was possible unless the parties have agreed to the same.

Consent is so important in our relationships and life. The “I do” in a marriage is what formalizes it. Disagreements and conflicts occur when we don’t agree, or when something is being forced on us. Last week, I was in a meeting that was totally monopolized by one person. Manners prevented the others not to interrupt, but we all needed respite from that barrage of a conversation. It struck me how a conversation can also be forced upon us. I consented to be in the meeting, but I did not consent to that verbal onslaught (most of it was of little relevance anyway). That was a professional meeting, so protocol had to be maintained.

But I have noticed how in our lives, we are subjected to such conversations (mostly a monologue) quite often. You can nod a few times after which your senses feel bombarded and need some rest. If a person has a habit of doing this (of going on and on), we look to escapes from this person. We are not in school or colleges, where the teacher and professor is giving a lecture. Neither are we in a conference, where the speaker is giving his speech. I did not consent to be in a situation, where I must hear you non-stop on some topics that are of little interest to me. Politeness also has its threshold, so let’s not push it.

When I was 10 years old, in the bookshelf in my room along with the encyclopaedias, there was a book titled ‘The Art of Conversation’. At that age, art for me meant drawing and painting, because in our art class in school we did just that. Now I know that having a good conversation is an art. Let’s not monopolize it. Even in football you have to pass the ball. We need to be conscious that the others are participants too. Let it not be a sermon, but invite others for their comments, like ‘what do you think`? Everyone has their thoughts and opinions which are important to them. Make others feel important and cared for, like we want to know their view point. Being involved in a conversation is the first step to make it meaninful.

As we grow older, we value the people around us more and more. We want to spend valuable time with them and make memories that will last us a lifetime. My grandmother would go to the temple and get me prasad during my exams in school. Her dialogue, “See I prayed for you”, when my results would come out, are etched in my mind. When I gave my recent exam, I really missed her presence, her words and blessings. I have had such beautiful conversations with my her, that I remember ever so often. I know how enriched my life is because of these beautiful exchanges.

When we are interacting with people, let us leave an impression. Its lovely when a person says, “can’t wait for our next catch-up”. While there are no rules as such for a good conversation, there is common sense. When you find the other person looking away, you have lost his attention clearly. Pause and change the topic. Try topics of common interests. We have all heard this line, “It was a good chat, it was conversational”. What does that mean? I think it implies an easy flow of words, and something that the people involved enjoyed.

Life is most unpredictable, let us have meaningful conversations that last beyond our lives. Time is precious, so please don’t deprive me of mine with conversations I have least interest in. Make it count, every day, and every talk. My feelings are echoed in the words of Nancy Reagan. “You learn something out of everything, and you come to realize more than ever that we’re all here for a certain space of time, and, and then it’s going to be over, and you better make this count”.

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra is an independent legal consultant based in Dubai

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