The Lost Art of Conversation (and Why We Need to Get It Back)

We’re so impatient nowadays. I think our ‘always online’ culture is to blame. We want everything, if not yesterday, then, at the very least, right now. This attitude is carried over into our relationships and everyday interactions. Here’s why we need to re-learn the lost art of conversation and how to get started.

Conversations are often more about two people volleying their opinions over and at one another than they are about sharing ideas. We don’t listen to one another anymore. We can’t, because we’re too busy formulating the next thing we want to say.

When our impatience gets the better of us we’ll even finish each other’s sentences in an effort to get the conversation back to us. Sometimes we’ll just flat out interrupt the person we’re speaking with. We don’t even notice we’re doing this, it’s just how we’ve evolved over time.

Mastering the Art of Listening

active listening

Building good relationships begins with mastering the art of effective listening. Listening is about more than just hearing, it’s about being fully present and really taking on-board what the other person is saying. You need to pay attention, maintain eye contact, keep an open mind and ask questions that are on topic.

How to Speak So That People Want to Listen

Along with listening well, you also need to focus on honing your conversation skills. In his TEDx talk How to Speak So That People Want to Listen, Julian Treasure offers tips on how to speak in a way that captures and holds people’s attention.

Julian says there are some habits you need to move away from if you’re to have any hope of being heard. He calls them the seven deadly sins of speaking. Avoid those and you’re already ahead of the game.

  1. Gossip
  2. Judging
  3. Negativity
  4. Complaining
  5. Excuses
  6. Lying
  7. Dogmatism

However, if you really want to knock it out the park the next time you’re having a conversation, Julian offers four ways you can make your speech powerful and inspire change in the world at the same time. (They spell out the word ‘HAIL’ so they’re also easy to remember.)

  1. Honesty: be clear and straight
  2. Authenticity: be yourself
  3. Integrity: be your word
  4. Love: wish them well

It’s Not Just What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Finally, Julian ends off with some really useful advice for using your voice to ensure your words land. It’s doesn’t matter how valuable the message is, if it’s delivered in a way that’s hard to hear or understand, people aren’t going to listen.

From register and timbre to prosody and pace, the different aspects of delivery will either draw people closer or have them running for the hills. Fortunately, as Julian points out, all of these can be learned and improved upon through posture, exercises and voice coaching.

“What would the world be like if we were creating sound consciously and consuming sound consciously and designing all our environments consciously for sound? That would be a world that does sound beautiful and one where understanding would be the norm.” —Julian Treasure

Imagine if we all committed to taking a minimalist approach to conversation and only shared information that was useful and uplifting, people would be naturally inclined to listen more.

Related at Care2

Photo Credits: Thinkstock


Lesa D
Lesa Dyesterday

for Pete's sakes!!! put down the cell phone, iPhone, ipad, tablet... whatever the electronic device is & plug back into reality (it's where the people are!) try it ~ you might like it!

Summerannie M
Summerannie M20 days ago

Yes Ann, its all about manners and also its not about me me me so thats when people walk away because they always want to be the centre of their own universe. I am sure without a doubt that its all to do with 'fubbing or phubbing' which is using your phone constantly to check social media and all the rest of it and bang there goes the art of conversation and that can be from any age who can hold a mobile/cell phone. Anyone. Then those people are so self engrossed that they just cant hold attention to hearing others speak or indeed interacting like most er.. most do.... these days. Its tricky isnt it. I know when someone has glazed over and arent listening and its also because they have their heads in some other cloud rather than being in that precise present.. now time.
The other side of it is, that I bump into a myriad of people who are strangers of all ages and my philosophy is that people who do that are usually lonely, or live alone or isolated (and Im not speaking about people you know or at work...) but general people and they will start talking to me about things and I will listen and answer as well if asked questions or they need some kind of interaction. It is quite amazing and I am telling the truth here, is that 99% of the time I will have people crying in front of me. Why? they are so relieved that someone finally is listening to them and they need just to express,... just something. Then after we stop chatting and usually I dont know their name%2

Ann B
Ann B21 days ago

Manners in general are GONE....i can be speaking to a person at work and they just walk off to chat with another co worker....this is offensive... not even so much as a PARDON ME ...and i know some people go on and on---but it is still rude to walk away--and it is NOT the older workers that do this

Jim V
Jim Ven21 days ago


Jim V
Jim Ven21 days ago


Deborah W
Deborah Wabout a month ago

To talk AND listen, honestly, seems a faraway possibility these days, what with all the devious motives to one's REAL feelings and beliefs. Eye to eye, tone, even posture, can all be telling signs of what is, really. A LOST ART INDEED ...

Seems we all want, feel AND NEED the same things -- just having a hard time making it through all the rock-throwing without injury.

Carl R
Carl Rabout a month ago


Liza M
Liza Mabout a month ago

Mmmmmmmm thanks.

Bill Eagle
Bill Eagleabout a month ago

Good article. The key to good conversation is being able to listen.

Leanne K
Leanne Kabout a month ago

Its not only conversation. Has anybody else noticed how lazy more and more people are? Their houses are a damn mess, their yards are worse. They never recycle. Their recycling bin is just another bin but some will hide the evidence..under recycling. They treat the world like they do their homes. Theres definately huge pockets of society that are only comfortable when the place is horrid. Well I think so, its something I notice.