(Vinod Anand)

Is conversation a dying art? Texting is communication. The impersonal virtual space is best to argue and engage. If we don’t like someone’s views, we tune off But talking — or
Listening — is simply not an option anymore. Let us look at it briefly

The daily commute from home to work in Metropolitan cities in local trains or buses is a fascinating experience. People say the railway is the biggest leveler in this city.

But what caught my attention one fine day in the ladies compartment was that everyone — students, executives, housewives, even a 10-year-old girl accompanying her mother (including Yours Truly) — sat with earpieces on, plugged into their own world of music and private thoughts, consciously avoiding eye contact with anyone, lest a need should arise for small talk. Or worse, a conversation throughout the journey.
We all live in a ‘plugged-in’ world where communication is child’s play. But one of the biggest casualties of this connected world has been the art of conversation. We simply don’t have the patience to talk anymore. Or even listen to others. Says ad executive and scriptwriter Juhi Chaturvedi, “Conversation is a formality these days.

Even when friends meet and talk, their eyes are glued to their phones. I have heard people say, ‘make it quick, what do you have to say?’ It’s almost like they are waiting for the ‘talk’ part to get over so they can relax, go back to texting and checking their Facebook statuses.” We live in a self-absorbed world. We love talking, arguing, debating in our own heads. The moment it becomes real, we lose control.

Whether it’s a sociologist’s speech on the caste system, a superstar’s article on being a Muslim in India, or TV debates that sound more like slanging matches; our inability to listen and talk to people to understand their point of view, stands out. Spiritual guru BK Shivani asks, “Whether on social media- platforms, TV or in real life, why are conversations only about winning or proving a point these days? By choosing to fight a corner, aren’t we saying to the world that we would rather be right than happy? Winning an argument isn’t winning, it is the ego’s way of trying to convince us that we are victorious because we have avoided defeat.”
Sherry Turkle, professor of the social studies of science and technology at the MIT, wrote in her latest book Alone “Together”, one of the main reasons people don’t converse anymore is that “a conversation takes place in real time and you can’t control what you are going to say. We get to edit, and that means we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch the face, the voice, the flesh, the body”.

Texting is preferred to talking. Emails have made our conversations crisp, cool and to the point. Whether it’s an official mail or a personal text, we can type and retype till we see a sentence that satisfies our ego. There is no room left for mistakes, little room left for reaction. Communication is clinical.

Turkle explains why this strong need to control what comes out of our minds and mouths is making Gen Next wary of talking face to face. She says, ‘People can’t get enough of each other, but at the same time, they keep each other at a distance, in amounts they can control.

I call it the Goldilocks effect (ignoring information that’s too simple or too complex, focusing instead on situations that are just right), not too close, not too far, just right. But what might feel just right for a middle-aged executive can be a problem for an adolescent who needs to develop face-to-face relationships.”
Sociologist Shiv Visvanathan adds a new dimension to the issue.

“Indians have never been good with conversation. Traditionally, it’s older people who do the talking. Even in marriages till a few years ago, the husband did the talking and the wife listened. Where was the scope for a conversation?”

A dialogue between two people does not always amount to conversation. A dialogue can be crisp and to the point. A conversation is meant to include another person’s thoughts and views. It’s not always necessary for something more meaningful to come out of it.

Talking or freely exchanging what one really feels de-stresses people and gives vent to suppressed feelings. A conversation also means two- or more individuals- expose their thoughts, words even heart, at least to a certain degree. But that is not acceptable to us anymore.

Who wants to expose themselves and feel weak in front of others?
Media personality and columnist Pritish Nandy says, “The word ‘conversation’ will soon disappear from our lexicon. New means of engagement are taking over and redefining our lives. I speak to people through Twitter these days, when earlier I would have picked up the phone and talked to them. I speak by choice now, to people I actually want to. And I converse with even fewer.”

This discretion poses a huge crisis for the younger lot. Turkle feels the lack of conversation incapacitates us from knowing ourselves better. “What we understand by talking to other people, with time, shapes our own thoughts and feelings. ”In other words, conversation with others helps us to know ourselves better.

“So, the lack of conversation compromises our ability to self-reflect, which is the bedrock of development for the human species,” she says.

Script writer Sanjay Chauhan finds this almost- mute world- where best conversation happens within our own head — terrifying. “The silence of our world is deafening. Our hearts are desperately trying to reach out, but our minds are holding us back. We are hiding our true feelings under the mask of technology.”

A conversation means getting in touch with a part of ourselves that scares us, the part we keep pushing back because we don’t want to deal with inconvenient truths in our ‘perfect’ worlds. An earplug, in such a scenario, comes in handy to blank out the noise called ‘talk’.

In essence, conversation is a formality these days. Even when friends meet to talk, their eyes are glued to their phones. I have heard people say, ‘make it quick, what do you have to say?”

Gregory Dion, a Canadian blogger, began a unique attempt to talk to people through his blog one hundred His quest is to sit down for 100 separate cups of tea, with 100 complete strangers — all with the hope that he might learn a thing or two. He writes, “I’m Greg. I drink tea with strangers.

Then I tell you about it. I want to inspire people to be social again. We are social creatures by nature, are we not? So how did the world become so isolated — so full of ‘people who don’t want to talk to one another? I hope to encourage people to slow down. To share. To tell stories. To laugh. To inspire. Not just when it seems appropriate, but all the time. With anyone. Any place. Any time.”

It is said that
• “The word ‘conversation’ will soon disappear from our lexicon. New means of engagement are taking over and redefining our lives;
• “Our hearts are desperately trying to reach out, but our minds are holding us back. We are hiding our true feelings under the mask of technology;
• The lack of conversation compromises out ability to self-reflect, which is the bed rock of development for human species; and

• Listen more than you talk. The trick to a good conversation lies in lending a patient ear
• When in a group, don’t talk to just one person. Wait for your turn. The need to be heard loud kills conversations.
• Think before you speak, but not to the extent that you decide to keep your opinions to yourself because you think you know best.
• Staring at your cell phone while talking kills any scope of a half-decent conversation.
• Understand silence. They are just as important to develop conversation skills. Silence helps you gather your thoughts arid think and reflect better on any subject.

Author's Bio: 


Born in 1939, and holding Master’s Degree both in Mathematics (1959) and Economics (1961), and Doctorate Degree in Economics (1970), Dr. Vinod K.Anand has about forty five years of teaching, research, and project work experience in Economic Theory (both micro and macro), Quantitative Economics, Public Economics, New Political Economy, and Development Economics with a special focus on economic and social provisions revolving around poverty, inequality, and unemployment issues, and also on informal sector studies. His last assignment was at the National University of Lesotho (Southern Africa) from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that he was placed as Professor and Head of the Department of Economics at the University of North-West in the Republic of South Africa, and University of Allahabad in India, Professor at the National University of Lesotho, Associate Professor at the University of Botswana, Gaborone in Botswana, and at Gezira University in Wad Medani, Sudan, Head, Department of Arts and Social Sciences, Yola in Nigeria, Principal Lecturer in Economics at Maiduguri University in Nigeria, and as Lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Nigeria. Professor Anand has by now published more than 80 research papers in standard academic journals, authored 11 books, supervised a number of doctoral theses, was examiner for more than twenty Ph.D. theses, and has wide consultancy experience both in India and abroad, essentially in the African continent. This includes holding the position of Primary Researcher, Principal Consultant etc. in a number of Research Projects sponsored and funded by Universities, Governments, and International Bodies like, USAID, IDRC, and AERC. His publications include a variety of themes revolving around Economic Theory, New Political Economy, Quantitative Economics, Development Economics, and Informal Sector Studies. His consultancy assignments in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Botswana, and the Republic of South Africa include Non-Directory Enterprises in Allahabad, India, Small Scale Enterprises in the Northern States of Nigeria, The Absolute Poverty Line in Sudan, The Small Scale Enterprises in Wad Medani, Sudan, Micro and Small Scale Enterprises in Botswana, The Place of Non-Formal Micro-Enterprises in Botswana, Resettlement of a Squatter Community in the Vryburg District of North West Province in the Republic of South Africa, Trade and Investment Development Programme for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises: Support for NTSIKA in the Republic of South Africa, and Development of the Manufacturing Sector in the Republic of South Africa’s North West Province: An Approach Based on Firm Level Surveys. Professor Anand has also extensively participated in a number of conferences, offered many seminars, participated in a number of workshops, and delivered a variety of Refresher Lectures at different venues both in India and abroad. Dr. Anand was placed at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla in the State Himachal Pradesh, India as a Fellow from 2001 to 2003, and had completed a theoretical and qualitative research project/monograph on the Employment Profile of Micro Enterprises in the State of Himachal Pradseh, India.