If asked to define the term, “interactive conversation,” we might well describe it as an exchange where both participants are active and have an effect by their words upon the other. The term encompasses and describes a dynamic flow of information.
Our writings on the dynamics or functioning of man in society have consistently stressed the existential importance of inter-active societal communication. From the era of Early Man to our present time, analogous needs for mutual defense, food, transmission of skills and cultural folkways, societal structure and governance, matters of love and marriage, family and inheritance, trade and other phenomena of societal significance, are voiced and made possible by the use of a shared language. We would go so far as to declare that the development of a common language constituted the cultural mortar and cement in the early construction and development of society.
A Nation or a distinct ethnos is, in significant part, identified and described by its nuanced language. In the late 19th Century a movement of peace-seeking intellectuals attempted to promote the use of an international (common) language for all mankind, (“Esperanto”) in the hope that a world where all mankind spoke the same language, differences would be less prevalent and the possibility of war, thereby abated. Unfortunately, the “Esperanto” movement failed. The principal motivation for the same, however, was commendable and empirically based, if Pollyannaish. However, we have said enough about the importance of language and must get back to our principal theme, viz., the nature and quality of interactive conversation between members of society.
As we see it, the nature of the individual persona is the most significant determinant as to the degree of successful quality of interpersonal interaction. Effective success is accomplished by those who have the willingness and ability to put aside their own personal thoughts and concerns, in order to consider and possibly empathize with, the expressed thoughts and concerns of others. This mature capability is essential in the attainment of the societal skill of an effective conversationalist. Others may be so consumed by their incessant ruminative introspections, that they cannot put them aside, even for the moment required for another’s opportunity to express his personal thoughts. We think of the subject, generally, as the presence or absence of the generosity of spirit.
The following is a (fictional) illustration of the latter described, failed conversation:
George: Hi Luther
Luther: Oh, hi George
George: Did you hear, my “Missus” is pregnant.
Luther: My sister just got back.
George: I don’t know how we can, possibly, afford a fifth child
She was in Florida for two weeks
George: I’m quite worried about her carrying a baby at her age
Luther: While she was gone, I managed to fix the carburetor on my Pontiac
George: Then there’s the concern about the expense of childbirth
Luther: Got to go now, George, time for lunch, Goodbye!
George: See you. Good talk!
Such exchanges occur far too often and parties to such failed interactions have only the limited benefit of the discharge of one’s personal thoughts in the presence of another human being, but no communication. It is as if a transparent piece of plastic wrap were inserted between the parties, blocking the thoughts expressed by from ever reaching the other party. It is our observation that many claimed, interactive conversations, in reality, never objectively take place. Any miniscule value to the conceivable feelings of relief, of having reliably discharged the energy of a perseverated anxiety, is completely eliminated by the objective realization that the speaker could equally have accomplished the identical result, by declaring his concerns to the family cat.
People who attain the bona fide relationship of true friendship, greatly value the ability and willingness to mutually share thoughts and concerns with each other. As indicated, other ostensible conversants are, in effect, merely talking to themselves.
The ability to express one’s thoughts fully and accurately is far from a universal skill. At various times, one may have the confident and sincere impression that he has fully and accurately expressed his intentions, but has, in reality, failed to employ the necessary or accurate vocabulary. Inadequately expressed, or mindlessly worded, communications can lead to friction, ranging from frustration and dispute, to, in an appropriate case, the costly and extreme matter of legal action. This common failing is the foundational legal basis for the underlying legal precedent, requiring agreements in certain transactions, to be expressed in writing and mutually signed, in order to constitute enforceable contracts.
The carefully considered and intentionally selected language of a personal letter, normally results in a minimum of misunderstanding, since its writer and the addressee, are familiar with each other and aware of the context and personal nuance of the writer’s carefully selected language. Letter writing also affords to the writer, the opportunity to adequately consider his chosen words prior to their communication. Unfortunately, today, in this era of popular electronic transmittal of inarticulate and impersonal, data-like symbols, letter writing, while possessing the least potential for a carelessly selected word, or misapprehended meaning, is considered a mere romantic antique.
During restive times such as the present, when society evinces a high degree of divisive and politically polarized character, frequent instances of spoken misunderstanding are more common; meaningful interaction, when attempted, is frequently misapprehended by those with subjectively biased perception and obdurately nuanced views.
In all instances and without exception, the vital mutual facility of transmitting thoughts and information, as well as the satisfaction at being understood, exist only when both parties to a conversation invest sufficient attention to the words of the other, as well as to their own.