The Art of Dialogue

This may be a shocker to some of you, but I am not a big fan of the monologue (like an hour long sermon or classroom presentation). I definitely prefer dialogue…a conversation where two or more people chime in without any one person dominating the conversation.

Although it would be easy to point out that this blog is a form of monologue, I make an active effort to interact with people in social media or through WordPress, and I limit my posts to about 500 words.

I find it discouraging when I am with someone and they ramble on and on, being long-winded and changing subjects without giving anyone else a chance to interact. I recently told one of them, “You changed subjects so many times that I am not even sure how to respond.”

This sort of thing is somewhat common. I wish it weren’t, but I run into it fairly often. There are ways to become a better conversationalist.

  1. Ask questions. Don’t ramble about yourself or your opinions. Ask the other person(s) what they think, or where they grew up, went to school, religious background, etc.
  2. Limit responses to 4-5 sentences. If you are lucky enough to get asked a question or have the privilege of adding something to a discussion, limit your initial response to 4-5 sentences. If someone wants to unpack it more, let it be their idea. Don’t volunteer a lengthy explanation when they may understand where you are coming from, or they may be completely lost.
  3. Only change the subject when it’s warranted. Sometimes a subject change is what’s needed, or flows naturally. Other times, it can be abrupt and interrupt good dialogue. It takes time and skill to be sensitive to this, and you may not always get it right (I know I don’t), but it’s important to stay mindful of it.
  4. Most importantly, listen and remember what has been discussed. We all know the frustration of being asked the same question multiple times, especially in one sitting.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but I conversate by these rules, and can consequently “shut down” in the presence of a rambler or someone that has to be the center of attention. Such things make it difficult to develop a meaningful relationship, in my opinion.

So, don’t be that guy or gal that practices the art of monologue during a friendly lunch or some other sort of gathering. Get to know the people you are with. The things you learn, may just blow your mind.

Wagen, over and out.


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