Improving your conversation and why it’s important.

Introduction

Humans are social beings. We rely on conversations, interactions and healthy levels of connection and communication for multiply purposes. Maintaining good mental health requires incredible levels of patience, resilience and training, three states that seem unreachable for many in their current mental state. This is just one reason why even the briefest and most irrelevant conversations and interactions are important on a scale which is hard to comprehend. The smallest of interactions positive or negative can resonate exponentially between individuals. Your light can shine a thousand miles or your darkness can spread like a virus. How you compose yourself throughout every one of your actions will tip the scale towards the side of good or the side of evil. With all the human injustice that continues to exist; you should consider it your duty to champion the side of not being a cunt.

Hopefully smiling at strangers is a common occurrence in your life and if it isn’t, I hope you’re okay. Whether your interactions are this subtle or the more profound, honest conversations I think we are all truly craving. Connection is vital and you can begin to cultivate it with open, honest, conversation. Achieving a connection between individuals shouldn’t be so scarce but from what I have witnessed in today’s society it isn’t readily available to most. Cutting through the bullshit and having better chats and interactions can achieve this and comes with a range of other bi-products. Bi-products such as opportunity, joy, connection and knowledge. However, achieving this is a skill and like every skill takes hours of practice to truly consider yourself a master (10,000 hours apparently). There is a plus side that should keep the motivational fire burning though, because when you develop certain skill sets, the improvements you make can be seen, and like many skills the evidence of your own improvement becomes clear…take martial arts training for example; you’re unlikely to be dishing out any damage to anyone but yourself with your first roundhouse kick but 150 repetitions later it might start to look like something and after a few years of slamming your shins into the heavy bag I certainly would be doing everything in my power to keep you away from my ribcage.

When we do manage to wage our way in deep and or meaningful conversation; talking face to face with a comfortable amount of eye contact takes preference to an anger induced social media comment thread all day, every day. Going from an incredibly arrogant, cocksure and opinionated individual to a fairly arrogant, cocksure and opinionated individual – I’ve already learnt a lot of methodology and practice that can be put into place to help maximise the results of every interaction or conversation you have with someone. Be it in person or over social media. There are always limitations and due to the fact, we are finite beings living within the infinite and this seems to always be the case. That is unless of course we merge with artificial intelligence in a Ricky and Morty, Marvel comics type manor, evolve beyond our capabilities and takes the form of an omnipotent, conscious being with all the answers and good intentions we were created for. Hopefully leaving the remaining humans to just frolic around planting trees and painting. Why not be utopian?

Anyway. I am now going to share these insights with you, I welcome you to challenge them, if you can do so in a nice manor (otherwise people won’t listen, including myself) ß There’s your first. I hope the BuzzFeed-styled list format doesn’t make you want to throw yourself off a bridge as a 20-year-old naively suggests how we could all talk a bit better to each other from his quiet corner of the internet. Bare in mind that there are some conversations that are simply not worth having. If you hold a view point and someone opposes you then it really is your duty to either understand why they believe otherwise and attempt to change your own mind or help to change theirs – staying present and adaptive throughout the interaction.

I would like to note that there are however some conversations which simply aren’t worth having or at least your time could be better spent elsewhere because the time or evidence you would have to provide the other party to see past their point of view may be so vast that it would quite simply be inefficient to even continue especially when they are infected with bitter-bred ignorance. Frustration levels can sky rocket. I find the definition of a “sceptic” and “denier” that I derived from a tweet by Neil deGrasse Tyson quite a good example of when it’s worth cutting you’re loses during an exchange. A sceptic is someone who doesn’t take your stance on the issue at hand and naturally tends to disbelieve it – they’re however willing to change their mind, once provided with sufficient evidence. This is a good position to hold. A Denier is not willing to change their mind regardless of the information they are provided with, denying anything put there way and refusing to engage with most content regarding the subject – don’t be this person. It’s a very bad positions to hold.

I have no doubt there is much more to learn and I certainly haven’t perfected a single one of these techniques but when put into practice glimmers of progress and improved outcomes that certainly wouldn’t have surfaced a year or two ago have shone through and therefore, I recommend them to you.

Treat every encounter as a practice and remember to breath throughout – that bits important

Some Insights and Experiences

Be Present

This would be my prescribed advice for almost anything a person is to do. Get out your head. Stop talking to yourself when someone else is talking to you. Truly listen and absorb from a mutual position then allow the questions and answers you need to come through you and let the conversation develop.

The truth will prevail (in the long run) and you must be its ever-fighting champion – when appropriate.

Obviously, somethings are better not said; there’s no need to go running around a primary school shouting Santa isn’t real or telling a terrorist the best way to recreate, liquidise and then spray out Ebola. Apply some of your adult logic here. As humans, we should however hold telling the truth with a firm grip as we run through life and if it isn’t high on your list of priorities, I’ll let a google search tell you why being a pathological liar isn’t the best thing for you.

Keep it simple and be honest, you can’t tell a lie if you admit something is merely an opinion you harbour or that you don’t know enough on a subject to engage in it! People appreciate honesty and the value they hold for it means that it is usually reciprocated and can open a multitude of previously locked doors for you.

The Importance of saying “I don’t know”…

Comparing opinion to opinion isn’t going to get you anywhere, so unless you truly know your shit don’t engage in the topic as if you were an expert, having a hunch is all good and well but when you comment on some of the more serious issues of today such as climate change, crime, violence and politics it is probably better to listen to the experts, contemplatives, researchers and individuals who has invested significant amounts of time putting in the ground work. Ones you have yourself investigated and validated. I’m not a fan of the whole let’s ask Pete from Bendingford what he thinks about the currently political landscape of Seria, you have glimpsed this flimsy promotion-based engagement tactic from many of the larger mass media reporting institutions your used to seeing on a day-to-day basis. Saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t know enough about this subject to have an opinion”, can really bruise your ego, so do it! It’s all good and well having an outspoken personality but consistently talking out your arse with no real grounds for your opinions isn’t a good look. I love a “feeling” a “sense” a “hunch” but be careful if your riding into battle on the back of a conspiracy. I can tell you that it isn’t that hard to say “I need to look into this more” and it just opens you up to new information and ways of thinking.  Get over your self-indulged arrogance and understand that someone is almost defiantly going to know more than you on a subject seems like an undoubtably better stance to be taking to me.

Taking what others say to fast forward time…but do your own research.

To strengthen your argument that is. In terms of conversation it means don’t repeat bullshit and call people on their bullshit! As touched upon in the intro it’s impossible to taken in all the content regarding a conversation topic. Taking facts and opinions that have been reproduced accurately from reliable sources can be a brilliant way to fast forward your own intelligence and knowledge. However, this can go very wrong if your regurgitating ever other useless lie as god’s word and then going fourth to do more damage. When someone tells you a “fact” or “statistic”, make sure they can provide a good understanding of where it was sourced and who by; and that them themselves are a good judge of character. In proper sourcing can completely skew the general opinion and not everything produced as evidence is always valid data the levels of manipulation at play can be quite impressive. You must spend ample time learning to use your bullshit metre.

“After months of anal sex, he was enlightened”, which holy book do you recon that came from? Well apparently according to my understanding of the multiverse theory this has actually made it to all of them at some point but in our universe however to the best of my knowledge it hasn’t.

Sharpen your tools, use your head!

Little Tip… In many cases a book is an accumulation of someone’s life’s work. In which they summarise some of the most important things they have learnt along the way. Do yourself a favour and leapfrog that process and learn from them.  

Decent Eye-Contact… but not too much you’re not a messiah and your starting to freak me out.

Something that unfortunately cannot be achieved over most social media platforms and certainly isn’t achieved during the exchanges that take place between presumably loving emotional human beings and their Russian protagonists – fiercely engage in a rather embarrassing demonstration of unintellectual name-calling in attempt to share their opinion online. I’m fairly confident that over 75% of the shit that gets said over social media comment threads wouldn’t be said in real life when looking face-to-face, eye-to-eye with another human being. Londoners struggle to smile or nod at each other in their self-centred pursuits of all thing’s material, let alone call each other racists, homophobes and wankers. So, if

 you do get the opportunity to exchange some words with a friend or stranger, give them some eye contact. I’m pretty confident in guaranteeing you that you won’t turn into stone and I ask that you stop drowning yourself in social anxiety about what they are going to think. “Smile and wave boys”, don’t be out friendlied by an animated penguin. On the other hand, you don’t need to give unconditional and unbroken eye contact the entire exchange or you’re going to look insane and it isn’t going to give you the loving, warmed hearted, open minded look that I’m recommending.

Have a play around with it you’ll no when you get it right.

(get out, talk to people, look others in the eye…start living in the real world).

Trust yourself, your opinions and your gut but always remain open to new evidence and your brain adaptable to change

This is tricky one as it is contradictory by nature. Much of life is however and getting this balance right will undoubtably serve you well. This is ties in nicely with my article on presence “you are not the voice in your head!”, as for numerous reasons mental & physical health for you and people you come in contact with being the most prominent it is so important to live in the moment and listen to your gut instinct. If you don’t feel right about something or your feeling weird before taking part in an activity, this might be more than last nights curry piping up! Tune into your intuition and trust your gut however always remain open to new evidence. As mentioned before having a hunch or a sense that something is wrong is all good and well but you cannot pledge that again actual evidence or experience and always having an adaptable mindset (not being the “denier”) is so important. 

If someone doesn’t understand, you haven’t explained yourself well enough.

I have found taking this attitude towards interactions especially with people who I am particularly close to in my life has brought me much more peace. Taking full responsibility for yourself is something that should also be spoken as I think it is important to living a happy life (whilst understanding the limitations of the physical world). Having the ability to understand when you are wrong and apologise has resulted in me spending significantly less time ‘het’ up.

Questions, questions, questions!

Lead people to their own conclusions. Show them how you got to yours by asking them careful and logical questions it makes more a much nicer conversation and may even help them to elaborate their side of the discussion and change your mind! People are more willing to face their demons when they do it voluntarily. Push a man whose terrified of heights out of a plan with a parachute and he’s probably falling all the way to the bottom, convince him to jump himself and he’s still going down but I imagine he’s drop might be a little smoother.

I have heard this done so many times and I see questions as an indispensable tool when engaging in anything that takes the form of a conversation from a heated debate to a opened minded idea share. For example; if someone is ranting about how blue is the best colour in the world and you think it’s red. It could go a little like this:

“Blue is the best colour”, “no, red is the best colour”, “no, blue is the best colour”. Well done your conversation skills are at par with most 5-year olds. Now try “but what about all the people who think its green, do their opinions not matter? Are you more important than them?” It’s nicer than you simply shouting at them or telling them that they think they are more important than other people and allows them to come to the conclusion themselves. You’re also teaching them important thinking skills. Nice one you!

After writing these I began to listen to the philosophize this podcast series in which a detailed breakdown on Socrates on of the earliest, most heroic and influential philosophers describes how he made his very name from an intense questioning style which lead people to the conclusion they knew nothing. This didn’t go down very well and he was eventually sentenced to death but his work and legacy was continued by his faithful student Plato. I would highly recommend the podcast series as not only do you get the luxury of listing of information about philosophers and feeling all so sophisticated but you can pick up new profound insights, re-enforce old ones and further more continue to expand your mind.

I have also heard questioning yourself a good method for dispelling anxiety and worry, fear and anger. It can be used to flag up irrational emotions. So maybe we should unpack this a little more at a later date.

Mindful Talking – don’t talk for no reason

This is a notion that I have had highlighted for me by many Buddhist figures or people who walk similar paths. Joseph Goldstein has been described to me as one of the pioneers who began bringing eastern wisdom to the West and although I have only heard him through third-parties like the “Making sense” podcast with Sam Harris. I will be investigating his work at some point in the near future. It’s a simple message but don’t talk for no reason. Be aware of yourself and the words that are leaving your mouth a lot of what is said really doesn’t need to be and much of what isn’t should be. Start putting more value into your words and conversations and make them count.

Day to day people are unlikely to really care what you’re doing. You can learn more from listening.

I believe this article has been the longest yet and I appreciate anyone who has stuck with it. I also wanted to expand on the evolution of ideas but I have decided to save this for a later article. If you have valued this post in anyway please give it a like, a comment and a share. If you have any contradictions and questions to make please send them over and if you would like to correct me or educate me on any point please also get in touch this is a learning process for me. Much love.

Usual Spew; if you found any value in this article at all please like it on my website, on social media. Share, comment and all that jazz. It means a lot to receive feedback especially in these early days. Podcast’s including article readings are now available on all major platforms, although sound does seem to be an issue for some. If anyone could guide me as to why this is rather than the obvious (its to quiet) that would be great. I have played around with settings but so far to know success. Let me know if you even encounter this issue! Also, I plan on clocking in some more hours on the social media pages soon so please follow along on there to get a free piece by piece education as I try to repeat some of the little gems of knowledge or interesting words and noises I’m picking up on different subjects.

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