Meaningful conversations are dialogues of people inviting each other to share opinions and experiences, and returning the favor.
It has happened again several times recently. I meet someone, and I ask a question, such as “What made you come to this conference?” or “What was the highlight for you today?” or “What are you looking for in an event?” and then the person starts talking. And keeps talking. And goes on talking. And on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on it goes… with me nodding my head, trying to listen, but actually thinking, “When is he ever going to stop?” Usually our “conversation” is interrupted by some external event, such as a phone call, a bell indicating the end of the coffee break, or a bystander dropping dead from boredom.
Even worse is the situation where I am asked a question, which is great, but it turns out I have only 20 seconds to answer it, because some bystander intervenes offering us her unsolicited input, “Well, I experienced something like that when bla bla bla bla bla bla…”, and there we go again. My opportunity to share something is hijacked without my permission, and for the next 15 minutes this conversational parasite is sharing with us an endless stream of opinions and personal experiences, in answer to questions that nobody had asked her. Until I escape the trap by pretending that my hair is on fire.
I am of the opinion that these are not conversations.
They are uninvited monologues.
When we're trying to survive and thrive in a network of creative people, it is important for us to develop the competence of having meaningful conversations with each other. Conversations are dialogues of people inviting each other to share there opinions and experiences, and returning the favor. A meaningful conversation is not about answering questions that nobody asked. And it is not about filling the available time until the next external interruption.
I think I have developed a sense for asking good questions. But I’m still not a good conversationalist. I have yet to learn how to say, “Shut up! Now it’s his/her/my turn.”