Improving Conversation

Sasha Chapin

But many conversations can be nudged in the direction of openness, spontaneous complexity, and shared emotionality. And a surprising number of conversations, thus encouraged, can become quite connective. These are the conversations where you’re likely to find yourself laughing, rambling excitedly, engaging in extended weird riffs, crystallizing old knowledge in new patterns, feeling comprehended, feeling loved, and, generally, having the sensation that you’ve temporarily stepped outside the walls around your being.

Good conversations can heal you effortlessly sometimes, too. I think this is at least 50% of the mechanism of action of talk therapy. So you can go around doing that whenever.

I’ve tried hard to figure out how this can be cultivated. It took effort since I’m naturally untalented in this respect. The method of conversation I had for a bunch of my life was babbling about whatever I was interested in until my interlocutor wandered away. That’s how I did things, until I noticed, after a decade, that people don’t like this, and, what’s more, didn’t like it. When, occasionally, I met people who managed to induce me to have a more connective conversation, I enjoyed myself much more than I would have if I’d set the tone. 

Eventually I realized that human connection is one of my favorite things, and thus I’ve tried really hard to override my prior instincts. And I think I’ve done a reasonably good job. I think I’ve gone from “terrible” to “at least better than average,” and my job depends on being able to induce conversational depth with reliability.