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The Lost Art of Conversation

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Carlene Coward, an internal communications executive from north west London, shares her views on the decline of the conversation.

I remember when I got my first mobile phone. I was 15 years old, and in those days it was a big deal. The appeal of being able to talk for as long as I wanted without my parents interfering was irresistible. My contract let me talk for hours on end between certain times, and all for free. I’d call my friends every evening and spend hours talking about anything and everything. It was our way of catching up, and, apart from face-to-face conversations, it was our only method of communication.

Today, the appeal of a telephone conversation seems to have diminished. It seems almost everyone got a mobile phone to be able to communicate on the go, but it wasn’t long before text messages became the main way of getting in touch. With the more recent launch of smartphones, there are now so many different options available that a phone isn’t always used for its primary purpose of making call. If it’s not a text, then it’s an instant message. Text messages used to be the best option for sending a short message that didn’t need an immediate reply, or was just a quick update about something fairly unimportant. They were perfect for getting in touch with someone when you didn’t have the energy to have a full-blown conversation. These days, texts and instant messages are a substitute for actual dialogue. People spend forever having a ‘conversation’ through text or instant message, when it would be quicker and easier to call.

It’s crazy to think that the introduction of email has replaced basic office communication

The boom of social networking has only increased the number of available conversation replacements. Phrases such as ‘Facebook me’ and ‘Tweet me’ are now just as common as ‘call me’. When it comes to basic communication, we have become lazy and rely on posting information online to update our family and friends on developments within our lives. The latest excuse for not contacting someone with that all-important information is that ‘it was on Facebook’. Does that make it ok?

And it’s not just our personal lives. I’ve noticed that nobody seems to talk much at work either. On what seemed to be a busy day in the office, I suddenly realised that there was a distinct lack of conversation and the only sound was the frantic tapping of keyboards. Phones weren’t ringing and everyone seemed to be glued to their computer screens. It’s crazy to think that the introduction of email has replaced basic office communication. There was a time when people had to call and send letters to make contact, but now we rely almost exclusively on email. If you get a call with some information, the automatic response is to ask for it to be emailed. It even goes as far as sending an email to a colleague across the office and in some cases sitting opposite you.

Conversation has so many dimensions that it’s difficult to replace. Written messages can be easily misinterpreted and end up meaning the complete opposite of what they should. Maybe we should have a revival of the good old days and, instead of typing a message, we should dial a number. That way, we’ll hopefully we’ll keep the art of conversation alive.

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