Money Matters

Art of conversation

By Sirajuddin Aziz
Mon, 04, 24

Because, I choose mostly, not to speak at all or at best, speak only infrequently, friends look at me as a “great conversationalist”!! My listening skills get misconstrued as conversation.

Art of conversation

Because, I choose mostly, not to speak at all or at best, speak only infrequently, friends look at me as a “great conversationalist”!! My listening skills get misconstrued as conversation.

The prelude to the development of any sound and stable relationship between people, is the manner and method, in which the initial or the first conversation takes place. The first conversations either go towards the development of a healthy relationship or these can completely ruin the hope of any future conversation.

“Good nature is more agreeable in conversation than wit, and gives a certain air to the countenance which is more amiable than beauty”( Joseph Addison). The edifice upon which conversation must take place as a fundamental requirement is honesty. If it is absent or at worse is housed in ill will, then the negative vibes start to emit naturally, and convey without expression, to the counterparty. Mark Twain wrote: “The difference between the right word and almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug”. In speaking the truth, there is, in my personal view, no need to be moderate in expression… One can afford to be straight and if need be, can also be hard and belligerent.

The vagueness and generality is always a handy tool in any conversation. If you cannot be kind, at least choose to be vague . The existence of shallow knowledge, on any subject that is part of the conversation or otherwise too, leads to bludgeoning each other in conversation.

If in speech the intent is to remain compliant to the views of the chairperson in a Board meeting or even other situations , the speaker will be well pleased and without an iota of doubt, the chairperson will be more than pleased with such a person. People with appellation such as, ‘his master’s voice’ are extremely popular with the leadership.

For conversations to remain pleasant and meaningful these do not have to necessarily be in agreement only. The diversity of thought must be allowed. It must hence be seen as a positive contribution to any discussion, rather than viewing a dissenting opinion as an act of impudence, towards the chair.

The focus during conversation must not be anchored in the quality of eloquence,but more so it must remain confined within the boundaries of decent discretion.

Another common folly of direct communication is the mixing up of hearing and listening. The two aren’t synonymous in either meaning or import. Both are diverse and distinct. Hearing is a faculty to hear sounds by the naturally gifted auditory nerves; listening is beyond the hearing ability, it involves the ability to process the sounds received by the auditory nerves, through the use and filter of understanding that is facilitated by the human brain.

Listening is grasping the meaning of the sounds. Most spend an entire day at work in only hearing, the listening faculty is consigned to the backyard of the mind. “Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice”, wrote William Shakespeare in Hamlet. A few of us by nature are so secretive that we don’t talk to our own selves, if that attitude is a good practice or standard to follow, it must surely be a great mistake to keep listening to our own self in the company of others. “The necessity of saying something, the embarrassment produced by the consciousness of having nothing to say, and the desire to exhibit ability, are three things sufficient to render even a great man ridiculous.” ( Voltaire).

The pleasure and charm of conversation resides more in substance than merely in wit and sundry. The substance must reflect absolute truth. Conversations devoid of it are a burdensome task for the listeners. Insincerity is the biggest foe of clean and clear speech. Conversations can be collaborative, only where you lend your ears with focus to listening and be not one who is lost in the maze of thoughts trying to conjure an answer or a response. Rapt attention must be visible for real conversation to take place.

The eye plays a critical role in effective communication. There is no wonder that in literature, particularly poetic literature, there is abundant reference to the eyes of the beloved, who shies and says nothing, yet the eyes become the source of betrayal in conveying what the heart of the beloved conceals. The unsaid conversation is many times more powerful than the expressed one.

A good manager is one who knows the art of conveying his feelings/feedback, both negative and positive without uttering a single word. Appreciation does not have to have a vehemence of raised decibel level, neither should reprimand be an act from the circus. A confident manager through the use of the unspoken words lends strength to the conversations he/she has with teammates.

Gesticulation in conversation adds value to the thought expressed; this is a positive use of hands, facial expressions, etc. We mostly remain in constant conversations with the world outside us; in silence and in speech, we are in a mode of communication… our eyes, lips, movements of the brows, and all such features do the talking for us. The inability to recognise the power of this aspect of communication can inflict a costly damage to the existing or to the potential growth of relationships. Clenched teeth or fist, accompanied by the banging on the table for emphasis reflect poor corporate training. I have seen so many managers do just that… thumb the table to assert authority. Little do they realise that uncouth behaviour depreciates with speed their self respect and esteem. Followers dislike such qualities in a leader.

Conversations with the opposite gender has its own unique characteristics, challenges and nuances. The sensitivity of the perception that gets created when in conversation with a female colleague must remain supreme on the mind, whilst communicating. No liberties should be taken. The demand for being treated equally as professionals by the women workforce is not to be viewed as an issuance of uninhibited licence to converse with them in a manner that represents conduct unbecoming. No loss of respect in the choice of words or gestures can be made acceptable by the supervisor.

While it is relatively easier to follow basic protocols of conversation in a face to face engagement, the conversations on mediums like email, video calls, video conferences, etc become increasingly complex and difficult. To the recipient of an instruction by the supervisor over a text message or tele lines doesn’t bring home the impact and severity of what is talked. Face lends strength to conversations. The mismatch between words and vibes gets eclipsed, leading to miscommunication and misunderstandings.

Unfiltered and unprocessed conversation can lethally destroy a sound and stable relationship. One cannot speak, and must not speak, everything that comes to the mind. With speed a manager must evaluate the impact his words would have upon the recipient. Learning of damage done post the spoken word is akin to having shot and killed one's own self. Retraction of expression is not possible. Inattention to the basics of conversation can lead to spiteful consequences.

A journalist writing in New York Journal American classified “talkers” very aptly: “A gossip is one who talks to you about others; a bore is one who talks to you about himself; and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself”. Saadi, the poet in his works, titled Gulistan says, “whoever interrupts the conversation of others, to make a display of his fund of knowledge makes notorious for his own stock of ignorance”. If the body of knowledge known is confined from A to C, it is best to remain within the limits of the known, when conversing; it is a folly to penetrate into the area of the unknown.

Generally, while conversing the language used must be within the limits of respect, and not be affected. Speech must be simple and honest. Civility and humility in conversation is no sign of any meekness or weakness. The two can only come together when glued by the element of honesty. Any sincerity that requires proof and evidence ceases immediately to be one. Insincerity reeks with dishonesty.

“The art of conversation, or the qualification for good companion, is a certain self- control, which now holds the subject, now let’s it go, with a respect for the exigencies of the moment” (Emerson). The proverb learnt at kindergarten must always be recalled before churning out words from the mouth; speech is silver, but silence is gold. If we value good conversation we must keep our foot away from our mouth; failure to do so will land the foot into the mouth. And that is disgraceful.

The writer is a senior banker & a freelancer columnist.