Martin Luther - Read famous historial articles or little known poems speaking about the black experience throughout history. Visit Martin Luther King.caInformational Site Network Informational
    Home   Articles   Quiz Questions   Punctuation   Fiction Writing   News Writing   Lecturing

Speaking Writing Articles

These verbs are very often confounded. Rise is to move or pas...

The Verb
A verb is a word which implies action or the doing of somethi...

A preposition connects words, clauses, and sentences together...

Future Perfect Tense
Sing. Plural ...

The address of a letter consists of the name, the title and t...

Choice Of Words
In another place in this book advice has been given to ...

Strength is that property of style which gives animation, ene...

A letter is a mark or character used to represent an articula...

Good Conversation Conclusion

Good conversation, then, is like a well-played game of whist. Each has
to give and take; each has to deal regularly round to all the players;
to signal and respond to signals; to follow suit or to trump with
pleasantry or jest. And neither you yourself, nor any other of the
players, can win the game if even one refuses to be guided by its rules.
It is the combination which effects what a single whist-playing genius
could not accomplish. Good conversation, therefore, consists no more in
the thing communicated than in the manner of communicating; no more than
good whist consists entirely in playing the cards without recognizing
even one of the rules of the game. One cannot talk well about either
cabbages or kings with one whose attention wanders; with one who
delivers a sustained soliloquy, or lecture, and calls it conversation;
with one who refuses to enter into amicable discussion; or, when in,
does nothing but contradict flatly; with one who makes abrupt
transitions of thought every time he opens his mouth; with one, in
short, who has never attempted to discover even a few of the thousand
and one essential hindrances and aids to conversation. As David could
not walk as well when sheathed in Saul's armor, so even nimble minds
cannot do themselves justice when surrounded by people whose every
utterance is demoralizing to any orderly and stimulating exchange of

"For wit is like a rest
Held up at tennis, which men do the best
With the best players,"

said Sir Foppling Flutter; and few would refuse to admit that fortunate
circumstances of companionship are as much a factor of good conversation
as is native cleverness. Satisfactory conversation does not depend upon
whether it is between those intellectually superior or inferior, or
between strangers or acquaintances; but upon whether, mentally superior
or inferior, known or unknown, each party to the conversation talks with
due recognition of its first principles. There are, to be sure,
different classes of talkers. There are those of the glory of the sun
and others of the glory of the moon. It is easy enough to catch the note
of the company in which one finds one's self; but the most entertaining
and captivating person in the world is petrified when he can not put his
finger on one confederate who understands the simplest mandates of his
art, whether talking badinage or wisdom. Without intelligent listeners,
the best talker is at sea; and any good conversationalist is defeated
when he is the only member of a crowd of interrupters who scream each
other down.

Conversation is essentially reciprocal, and when a good converser flings
out his ball of thought he knows just how the ball should come back to
him, and feels balked and defrauded if his partner is not even watching
to catch it, much less showing any intention of tossing it back on
precisely the right curve. "The habit of interruption," says Bagehot,
"is a symptom of mental deficiency; it proceeds from not knowing what is
going on in other people's minds." It is impossible for a good talker to
talk to any advantage with a companion who does not concern himself in
the least with anybody's mental processes--not even his own.

Given conversation which is marked by conformity to all its unwritten
precepts, "Men and women then range themselves," says Henry Thomas
Buckle, "into three classes or orders of intelligence. You can tell the
lowest class by their habit of talking about nothing else but persons;
the next by the fact that their habit is always to talk about things;
the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas." Discussion
is the most delightful of all conversation, if the company are up to
it; it is the highest type of talk, but suited only to the highest type
of individuals. Therefore, a person who in one circle might observe a
prudent silence may in another very properly be the chief talker. Highly
bred and cultured people have attained a certain unity of type, and are
interested in the same sort of conversation. "Talk depends so wholly on
our company," says Stevenson. "We should like to introduce Falstaff and
Mercutio, or Falstaff and Sir Toby; but Falstaff in talk with Cordelia
seems even painful. Most of us, by the Protean quality of man, can talk
to some degree with all; but the true talk that strikes out all the
slumbering best of us comes only with the peculiar brethren of our
spirits.... And hence, I suppose, it is that good talk most commonly
arises among friends. Talk is, indeed, both the scene and the instrument
of friendship."

On the whole, then, the very best social intercourse is possible only
when there is equality. Hazlitt in one of his delightful essays has said
that, "In general, wit shines only by reflection. You must take your cue
from your company--must rise as they rise, and sink as they fall. You
must see that your good things, your knowing allusions, are not flung
away, like the pearls in the adage. What a check it is to be asked a
foolish question; to find that the first principles are not understood!
You are thrown on your back immediately; the conversation is stopt like
a country-dance by those who do not know the figure. But when a set of
adepts, of illuminati, get about a question, it is worth while to hear
them talk."

If we are to have a rising generation of good talkers, by our own choice
and deliberate aim social intercourse should be freed from the
barbarisms which so often hamper it. Conversation at its highest is the
most delightful of intellectual stimulants; at its lowest the most
deadening to intellect. Better be as silent as a deaf-mute than to
indulge carelessly in imperturbable glibness which impedes rather than
encourages good conversation. Really clever people dislike to compete in
a race with talkers who rarely speak from the abundance of their hearts
and often from the emptiness of their heads. On the other hand, one can
easily imagine a sage like Emerson the victim of conceited prigs,
listening to their vapid conversational performances, and can readily
understand why he considered conversation between two congenial souls
the only really good talk.

Marked conversational powers are in some measure natural and in some
acquired; "and to maintain," says Mr. Mahaffy, "that they depend
entirely upon natural gifts is one of the commonest and most
widely-spread popular errors.... It is based on the mistake that art is
opposed to nature; that natural means merely what is spontaneous and
unprepared, and artistic what is manifestly studied and artificial....
Ask any child of five or six years old, anywhere over Europe, to draw
you the figure of a man, and it will always produce very much the same
kind of thing. You might therefore assert that this was the natural
way for a child to draw a man, and yet how remote from nature it is. If
one or two children out of a thousand made a fair attempt, you would
attribute this either to special genius or special training--and why?
because the child had really approached nature." Just as a child, either
with talent for drawing or without it, can draw a better picture of a
man after he has been trained, than before, so can those not endowed by
nature with ready speech polish and amend their natural defects. Neither
need there be artificiality or affectation in talk that is consciously
cultivated; no more indeed than it is affectation to eat with a fork
because one knows that it is preferable to eating with a knife.

The faculty of talking is too seldom regarded in the light of a talent
to be polished and variously improved. It is so freely employed in all
sorts of trivialities that, like the dyer's hand, it becomes subdued to
that it works in. Canon Ainger has declared positively that
"Conversation might be improved if only people would take pains and have
a few lessons." Nearly two hundred years before Canon Ainger came to
this decision, Dean Swift contended that "Conversation might be reduced
to perfection; for here we are only to avoid a multitude of errors,
which, altho a matter of some difficulty, may be in every man's power.
Therefore it seems that the truest way to understand conversation is to
know the faults and errors to which it is subject, and from thence every
man to form maxims to himself whereby it may be regulated, because it
requires few talents to which most men are not born, or at least may
not acquire, without any great genius or study. For nature has left
every man a capacity for being agreeable, tho not of shining in company;
and there are hundreds of people sufficiently qualified for both, who,
by a very few faults that they might correct in half an hour, are not so
much as tolerable." It is recorded of Lady Blessington by Lord Lennox in
his Drafts on My Memory that in youth she did not give any promise of
the charms for which she was afterwards so conspicuous, and which, in
the first half of the nineteenth century, made Gore House in London
famous for its hospitality. A marriage at an early age to a man subject
to hereditary insanity was terminated by her husband's sudden death, and
in 1818 she married the Earl of Blessington. Everything goes to prove
that, in those few years during her first husband's life, she set
herself earnestly to cultivating charm of manner and the art of

Talking well is given so little serious consideration that the average
person, when he probes even slightly into the art, is as surprized as
was Moliere's bourgeois gentilhomme upon discovering that he had
spoken prose for forty years. Plato says: "Whosoever seeketh must know
that which he seeketh for in a general notion, else how shall he know it
when he hath found it?" And if what I write on this subject enables
readers to know for what they seek in good conversation, even in
abstract fashion, I shall be grateful. When all people cultivate the art
of conversation as assiduously as the notably good talkers of the world
have done, there will be a general feast of reason and flow of soul;
each will then say to the other, in Milton's words,

"With thee conversing, I forget all time."

Previous: Power Of Fitness Tact And Nicety In Business Words

Add to Informational Site Network