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?

Why Do We Hate?

The Internet brings out the worst in some people. There seems to be an increased level of hate that is spread online, from vicious comments, to cyber-bullying, to harassment.

While the Internet is making it easy for people to give voice to their hatred, the negative emotion is not new. It has existed from the dawn of humanity.

In the real world, we see it across the globe. Wars rage on. Oppression of a group, whether it is ethnic, religious, or racial, is rampant.

But why should hatred be as common as it is? Much of the world’s population follows some religion, and most religions preach love. But people who claim they are religious can be — and sometimes are —  filled with hate.

“Hate” is a strong word, indicating a strong emotion. As with any strong emotion, thinking about and discussing it can be difficult. Have you ever hated someone or something? If so, what triggered it?

Of course, it is possible to experience hatred without realizing it. What you recognize as hatred in someone else they might deny or call a different emotion or expression. And the same is true in reverse: what you think is acceptable behavior, someone else might call hate.

Hate makes us behave in unpredictable or irrational ways, and it can cause a person to behave very cruelly to another. It would behoove us to love more and hate less in all aspects of our life. A good way to start is to understand what the roots are of this destructive emotion.

Why do we hate? And how can we stop?

Related questions: Why do we like what we like? How does your vocabulary influence how you think? What do you do that you shouldn’t? How can we encourage debate? What words have the most power?