The art of conversation (HLD 172)

10 Sept 2020

Today is RUOK day, when we are encouraged to make contact with people we may have concerns about, asking initially of course, “Are you OK?”, but then delving deeper into conversation.

Asking someone RUOK is something that is comfortable enough for us all to do, but the challenge to us all is what do we do when then answer comes back “Actually, no”???

I’d like to think I could engage someone in conversation if this was to happen, but the challenge for me and for a lot of others I would imagine, would be to listen and not talk.

But engaging someone in that talk is the challenging part. I guess if someone has answered “Actually No” they have made that initial step, and the listener needs to ask the person to “Tell me” to start the conversation.

I had a discussion a couple of weeks ago about engaging teenage boys in conversation. The conversation started with me relating the story about how one of my sons talks very little face to face, but when you are sitting side by side in the car, talking happens. It’s a phenomenon noted by both his parents over the past 15 years or so and has survived the teenage years when a grunt was the only recognisable form of communication otherwise.

The person I was talking with related how she engaged in conversations with high school aged boys through her course of work, and said that conversations often happened while playing table tennis, not across a desk or table.

My go-to for conversations would likely be an automatic coffee catchup, but maybe some conversations happen best on a walk by the beach or in the bush or in a car, side by side rather than face to face.

However we’ve managed to engage a person in conversation in the location that works for them, the ‘how’ of going about the conversation is the next step.

I guess the whole point of RUOK day is to realise that asking the question is the vital step.

After the asking comes the listening.

If anyone wants to come for a walk with me for a talk, let me know. Or a coffee. Table tennis only if it’s absolutely necessary.

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