on the characteristics of interesting conversation.
- Every participant brings (literally) a lifetime of disparate backgrounds, experiences, ideas, convictions and intellectual training to the table. The key to interesting conversation is being able to relevantly negotiate — adapt? — all of it into a common topic of conversation,
- with flow, and some eloquence. Humour. Perhaps even an iota of wit.
- The chosen topic is likely to be interesting. But I’m often of the opinion that many topics that don’t seem interesting can be made interesting with willing & able constituents.
- Questions. Some of the best conversations I’ve had have been so much about asking well-placed questions that make some headway in filling in my ignorance, which is vast and greedy and bottomless.
- Answers. Some of the best conversations I’ve had have been equally about imparting information to others, which brings about a certain pleasure of one’s own, and certainly (one would hope) pleasure to one’s interlocutor. But imparting information means enunciating — & so consolidating — my own views. Sometimes one realizes, in the course of conversation, that one had views one didn’t previously know about, or had previously been unable to express in just that way. Conversation has made both possible. Isolation = stasis.
- Disagreement, or concord. Good things can be made out of both. The common denominator is respect.
- Repertoire, or history. With regular interlocutors one builds up a familiar terrain — each person is staked out on grounds you may not share, but whose contours and landmarks you have certainly come to see. Three possibilities are fascinating, from this. One, to see how your interlocutors’ subsequent remarks or arguments build up from that terrain, or unfold the terrain itself out endlessly as you conquer new topics of conversation. Two, to see how your interlocutors’ terrain itself changes over time, shifts subtly or undergoes titanic changes. And three, to see how your interlocutors’ terrain might move (expand), over time, closer towards your own — and to know that yours, too, might also be shifting (expanding) towards theirs.
is that all? or rather … is that too much?