I have a friend whom I dread to meet. If I see him coming my way, I take a detour. Not that he is an undesirable character, but is a veritable long winding bore. A very knowledgeable man, he can talk on any subject endlessly. The only snag with him is that he plays solo and cannot end speaking. A compulsive talker he has no sense of the value of time, his or mine. If perchance I cross his path and ask him a formal “How do you do?” he would drone on for half an hour on his health, his recent ailments, the high costs of treatment, the imposition of unnecessary tests, the secret deals between the doctors and laboratories, the duplicate medicines that abound in the market, drug trials in collusion with pharmaceutical companies, the relative merits of alternative branches of medicine and the new found cure-all from ancient Chinese treatise. His topics would branch off in unexpected directions and in diverse tangents. He would not let go my hand till I forcibly wrench myself. He would bemoan that I was always in a hurry.
There are many such for whom brevity is never a virtue. In the present day world in hurry everything is short. Résumés longer than a page are passé. Business speeches are no more than 15 minutes in duration and vote of thanks not beyond two minutes. Eye catching advertisements convey their messages tellingly within 30 seconds. The lengthy reports in the AGMs are taken as read. News papers do not accept articles beyond 800 words. Say it well but concisely is the mantra. Verbosity is Victorian style long abjured. Oratory is limited to political meetings and debating societies.
I have another friend who is the other extreme. I was convalescing in the hospital after a myocardial infarction. With nothing to do, I was looking for friends to drop in. This friend came with an umbrella and flowers in hand.. He smiled at me and sat by my side holding my hand. He did not utter a word and after what seemed an eternity said “It is raining heavily.” There was a long pause before he assured me “Nothing to worry. You will be ok soon.” I was shooting many questions about common friends and he responded in monosyllables or grunts or just vacant look as if he had not heard me. Possibly he was concerned about the exertion to me. But the point is he was poor in conversation. He sat with me for 45 minutes and except for gazing at the monitor behind me and staring at the nurses he spoke little. But I know he had affection and a genuine concern for me.
Conversation is not a monologue as in the first case or shy silence as in the latter. It involves more than one person and recognizes the presence of other person(s).The topics chosen should be of interest to all. It should be relevant to the group. One may be well informed on special subjects and that does not give one the right to compel others to listen. There is a place, time and people for everything. One cannot be morose and laconic in a Baraat or boisterous and chatty in a funeral procession. There are some thumb rules for a good conversation.
-Do not take more time than your proportionate share. Fifty percent for two and twenty five percent if there are four is ideal.
-Resist the temptation to talk about home in office and vice versa
-Keep an eye on the body language of the listener(s)
-Keep the voice to moderate level and the tone non-abrasive
-Smile and be relevantly witty
-Welcome changes in topics discussed
-Take interest in what others say
-Keep mum if you do not know the subject or have anything to say
-Avoid embarrassing subjects and lewd matters
-Wait for your turn
-Say your views but do not argue
-Lastly be brief.