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I envy people who have an instinctive ease with conversations...who can start them, keep them going, make them interesting. Even though I can hold my own, I don't consider myself skilled at getting conversations rolling or keeping them afloat. My instincts are always to be the listener in any group, and not to be the one out there stating opinions or sharing anecdotes or telling secrets or even my side of things. Far too often, my conversation contributions are MENTAL: taking place in my head where only I can hear them.

What I think is interesting about this, is that I consider most of my friends as being on the other side of the conversation fence; in other words, having the abilities in the art of conversation that I feel I lack myself. I'm much better at the infrequent zinger interjections than I am at the steady flow. When it's one on one it's not as noticeable or even with a trio of talkers, but I find myself dropping silent in a group of 4 or more, being on the listening end instead. And often, regrettably, the dialogue becomes monologue because the one person in the bunch who has NO problem monopolizing or steering the conversation can quite easily take over completely.

In the course of my life, moving from place to place, I've learned to improve this quality in myself, to be able to initiate conversations with strangers, with acquaintances, and to keep them up even with people who are worse than me at the conversational arts, but I'm never really comfortable doing so. I'm much better at WRITING what I'm feeling and thinking than I am at verbalizing it...and quite honestly, most of the time, I simply don't share my opinions or thoughts on many subjects because 1) they're private and 2) I'm usually uninterested in starting a debate and often that is what conversations devolve into, depending upon the subject matter at hand and the various levels of extrovert and confidence in the participants.

Being the listener is fine with me, I'm quite okay with that position in a group of people. Pauses in the conversation don't NEED to be filled, in every instance. Sometimes it's nice to let the talk lapse completely and simply be comfortable in the presence of people.

Sometimes, however, it strikes me that most people have NO idea how opinionated I am about things because I DON'T speak out or interject my own thoughts and stances into conversations. I'm perfectly willing to listen to other people's opinions and thoughts and stories and anecdotes, but I simply don't consider it necessary in a great many instances to share my own, even though I may be THINKING about them at the same time. Listening to someone else's ideas may help form or re-form my own or give me perspective that I'm lacking, but often it seems that when you tell how YOU feel or think about something, others view it as permission to judge and reflect on your thoughts.

I might even come across as boring, I bet. Although I know that being a good listener is also an art, it would be nice to be able to balance it better and to be more comfortable with both sides of the give and take of verbal communication.

"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." — Dorothy Nevill

*Laurence Sterne
mood: thoughtful
music: Bad Company—All Right Now


Oddly, I have almost the opposite take. I'm very nervous in groups of people and so I sometimes end up monopolizing the conversation. It's like I'm pushed from within to find something to say that won't cause me any unintentional embarrassment. I always regret that I don't listen to others enough.

I wonder if there's a way to practice listening.

I'm sure there must be. Maybe you just have to slow yourself down. :)


Oh, another major "the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree" thing! I thought I could have written those exact words. Although the main difference is that you DO write about your thoughts. Mine are mostly still in my head! And, most people need listeners, so it is a valuable service. It can be learned as I found out in the class for Spiritual Care at the hospital. Love, Lizardmom

Another argument for you to start a journal, mom! :)


I've been thinking about this topic a lot for the last week or so, funnily enough. I'm worried that since I spend a lot of time with people who don't speak English as a first language, I've gotten out of practice conversationally. Now when I'm around fluent English speakers, I like to listen too, or tell practiced stories as a way of safely navigating conversational streams. One reason I like to blog is that, like you, it gives me the chance to air and develop my thoughts.

(Of course I could be out of practice because whenever I meet up with friends these days our sentences tend to be half their natural length and generally broken up by "No X, you don't hit the baby over the head, gentle gentle!")

Julia @ kolo

LOL! I remember those days...couldn't finish ANYTIHNG: thoughts, meals, sleep!

oh I'll take that bet

"I might even come across as boring, I bet."

um, seeing as cash is ALWAYS handy-- I'll take that bet for a cool million and WIN hands down as you are anything but boring . . ya numbnut


Re: oh I'll take that bet


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lizardek's obiter photos

Feeling generous? Be my guest!

I can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.

Abraham Lincoln

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