What Makes a Good Conversation?

As social beings, we’re constantly communicating with others. Whether it is to ask someone a question when we have a doubt, talking to friends, or asking an employee to help us at a store. These are forms of verbal communication, but they often do not dig beneath the surface. This means that they can be considered to be superficial conversations. By superficial, I am referring to the fact that, often, these conversations have no permanent value to us and we likely will not remember them nor will they have an impact on our lives. 

So, what makes a conversation not superficial? 

Think about your last great and impactful conversation. Whether it was with a family member, friends, a classmate, a professor, or a stranger. How did you feel after it was over? Maybe it was thought-provoking, funny, or deep. Perhaps you felt a sense of responsibility, or you felt comfortable, intrigued, challenged, and satisfied. Maybe you learnt something new or were persuaded into a new way of thinking. It likely felt natural and it went smoothly. 

That’s what a great conversation is. An exchange of ideas that are thought-provoking, challenging, and stimulating. Great conversations occur when the people participating in them are interested and knowledgeable about what they are talking about. They continuously add to what the other has to say while making relevant points that, depending on the topic, might persuade or even inform the other person. 

Although, they do not happen with just anybody. Often, there needs to be a shared interest or a certain chemistry between people in order to have a conversation about certain topics. The quality of a conversation is often about someone’s conversational skills and about how well someone’s values and opinions are compatible with someone else’s. 

For example, someone who is disinterested in current political issues, will likely not be interested in having a conversation with someone who is interested in them. If they do talk, it will be more on the surface; as opposed to them being able to have a thought-provoking conversation on a current political issue. The opposite occurs when two, or more people are aware and want to share their thoughts of those political issues. In a conversation, they will be able to argue for and against something while being informative. The participants of the conversation, with prior knowledge, will be able to share something from a different perspective to the others; thus, it will be more stimulating and thought-provoking. 

In short, a good conversation not only depends on the topic of choice but on the person we have these conversations with and how compatible our set of values are. It is important to remember than even when someone's opinions differ from ours, we should keep an open mind in order to have a fulfilling, good conversation where both parties are being respectful with each other.