How Can We Encourage Meaningful Conversation?

Sometimes it seems like conversation is a dying art.

We don’t talk much anymore. In-depth discussions have been replaced with small talk. Long, rambling phone calls are now five second Vine videos. A ten page, hand-written letter is now a text message.

Why is this?

Generally, there are many reasons for this change. Technology, in the form of smart phones and social media, encourages brevity. We are warned to avoid controversial topics as a way of keeping the peace. In addition, an entire generation of young adults have grown up online, where tone of voice and body language are non-existent.

As a result, we grow ever more isolated from those around us. People are not confronted with differing opinions. We don’t often talk to people with opposing views, and when we do it devolves to a shouting match. Violence is increasingly more common. Consequently, entire communities are dismissed and ignored.

Is it all bad?

And yet, we still crave conversation. We want to be intellectually stimulated. Ted Talks, for example, are wildly popular, and can be thought of as the first half of a conversation. The vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green, are YouTube celebrities based on their ongoing weekly video chats. So the desire exists in each of us for communication of ideas, and the act of sharing them with our friends and acquaintances.

So how can we revive the art of conversation? How do we overcome our dependency on the endless Facebook newsfeed scroll, and engage each other in an actual dialogue? Can we recapture the give and take, the challenge of ideas, the talk for sake of the talk? In short, to be exposed to new ideas and new points of view?

How can we encourage meaningful conversation?

Related questions: What do we have in common? How can we encourage debate? Are we too busy? How can we become better listeners? What do you get out of social media?

What Makes You Curious?

Maintaining a sense of curiosity can make your life more interesting. Being curious can help you maintain wonder. It can help you appreciate life. It can help you learn more.

In addition, there is a lot to learn. The world is a wonderfully complicated place. From human behavior to the natural world, from the microscopic to the cosmic. There is more in this world to be curious about than there are people to wonder about it.

However, what topics pique your interest can vary wildly. What you were exposed to at a young age may have helped determine your interest. Or perhaps your family’s interests may be yours as well. Thought leaders, like teachers or politicians, can help set a life course. For example, after President Kennedy challenged the U.S. to put a man on the moon, children all across the country went into science programs.

Thinking about and expressing those things that make you curious can help you to lead a more fulfilled life. In other words, choosing a career or even a hobby based on what fascinates you can make your life better.

There are seven to eight billion people on this planet, and each one has a unique set of interests.

What are yours? What makes you curious?

Related questions: Why are we fascinated with the unknown? How do you learn? What makes you the happiest? What is your favorite Intellectual Roundtable question?