1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

The Importance of Meaningful Conversation


When was your last meaningful conversation?
Andreas Pollock - Getty Images

As you look forward to bringing your family and friends together for the holidays, consider serving up some delectable conversation along with the victuals! Here are a half-dozen plus ways you can spice up your celebrations by adding a dash of provocative, entertaining, and illuminating talk.

Conversation Week happens every year at the Conversation Cafe! Talk about things that matter.


What Do You Most Relish in Conversation?:

To start with, remind yourself of what you most relish in conversation. Recollect the most interesting conversation you had in the last week. (If you can’t think of one, get some new friends--fast!)

Ask yourself what made this conversation so enjoyable or valuable. When I ask this question, people usually say:

  • Sincerity/Caring
  • Wit or humor
  • Relevance
  • Charm
  • Originality
  • Clarity
  • Informativeness

Now think: which of the folks you’ll be having over are strong on one or another of these, and how can you give them a chance to express it? Who else might you invite who would bring delightful strengths to the conversation?


Use Table Topics:

Use Table TopicsTM, which Deb has blogged about, to spark interesting little dialogues. These well-tested questions appeal to everyone, and the acrylic box they come in gives the famed panache. ‘Nuff said, since Deb’s blog is so helpful.

Holiday Thoughts:

Serve up some stimulating thoughts about the holidays themselves, easily available for a 30-minute Google search.

How do Native Americans regard Thanksgiving?

When and why did our distinctly American way of celebrating Christmas come about?

What do psychologists have to say about the ways we both relish and abhor the holiday season?

How do you and your friends and family feel about the annual spending spree, especially in this time of economic stringency?


Try a Conversation Café:

Want to invite a few of your more thoughtful guests to go deeper? Try a "Conversation Café", a simple but powerful way to enrich your sharing by passing around a "talking stick" (can be any object), which gives the person holding it the floor to express themselves fully on the topic of discussion. For the easy how-to, visit the Conversation Café.

Turn Your Party Into a Fascinating Salon:

Tap the riches in your circle by specifically asking two or three of your guests to tell the group about something exciting and interesting that they are passionate about: a civic project, a recent unusual journey, a newsworthy aspect of their profession.

Ask them in advance to be prepared to talk about it for 6 minutes, then hear others’ responses and questions. People need to be given permission to take the floor like this, but if they have something of real interest to talk about, others will welcome it. It turns your party into a fascinating Salon.


Really Listen to Your Guests:

Really listen to what your guests are saying when they touch on a subject of strong interest to them and to you, and make a point of asking for more. "Fred, that’s really interesting to me. Could you tell us more about how you learned that…how it works in practice…why you think it’s important…"

Avoid the "Organ Recital":

Be on the qui vive to intervene when the talk gets turgid. Thoreau said, "We descend to meet." Often there’s a tendency for people to head for the least common denominator in an effort not to seem pretentious. Nobody wants to be the one to offer a really stimulating, provocative, or informed thought. Some people even get mired in reciting their mutual aches and pains. My wife and I call it the "organ recital."

Consider it your responsibility as the host to move in at these points with a conversational pick-me-up. Your guests will bless you for it!


The Most Important Part of a Meal:

Conversation is your most readily-available, pervasive, and useful way to stimulate your mind and continue learning and growing. I was interviewed last week by a local talk-show host about how the right foods, exercise, etc. can keep our brains sharp. "What’s the most important part of a meal, for your mind?" the host asked.

My answer, "The conversation!"

Make that true at your table, too, and you’ll add a dimension to your holiday celebrations this year.


©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.