The Art of Conversation Revived

by Mary K. Clark.

Imagine having a conversation without someone glancing down at their smartphone – repeatedly.  The ancient art of conversation was revived in lower Manhattan this week; people talking with people, sharing and telling stories, in real time – no filters or interruptions.  Bianca Bosker writes in New York Blackout Kills Phones, Revives Ancient Art of Actually Speaking To People:

When her dorm in Union Square lost power on Monday night, Elise Michael, a first-year student at the Cardozo School of Law, joined more than a dozen others in the cramped, candle-lit quarters of her friend’s room. There, they practiced the analog art of telling stories and paying attention.

“It was really nice to walk in and see a big group of people in a small space not looking at phones, not watching things,” said Michael. “I was close to most of the people there, but it was different. We shared more stories and more intimate stories than we would have otherwise.”

There is such strength in the present:  the sound of the human voice, the light in the eye of another, the tilt of a head, the nod of agreement or disagreement.  The senses liven and connections are made in a less filtered, perhaps less distraction filled environment. The art of conversation and storytelling can be so unexpectedly impactful.

I have a delightful friend I met online quite a few years back.  We met on the Storytell listserv and began to have written word conversations via email.  We came to know each other letter by letter, word by word, email by email over months and years.  We became friends without ever meeting or setting eyes on each other.  There were many things, however,  I didn’t know.  For example, I didn’t know how to pronounce my friend’s name for I had inadvertently and unknowingly mispronounced it (in my head) from our very first email exchange.

When we finally met, I felt awkward.  It felt different being in her presence – it was a different kind of knowing. I had no idea what she looked or sounded like.  Human beings are built for sensory experiences and when we don’t have them we assume them.  We picture people as we believe they might be. We fill in the color of their hair and imagine where and how they live.  We do  these things without even trying, it is as natural to us as breathing.

When our  attention is not diverted by a glance at the phone, or by the thousand and one other distractions that exist, we have the opportunity to more fully understand each other.

A big thank you to Laura Simms who brought this article to my attention on the Healingstory Listserv this morning.

– Mary

©Copyright 11/4/2012  by Mary K. Clark.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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