It is an art to know when to listen and when to speak. And when we do speak, that it is worth listening to….
The Wife Desired by Father Leo J. Kinsella, 1950’s
As most of us grow older and become less active physically, one of our greatest sources of entertainment is intelligent conversation. We derive satisfaction from the discussion of current events, of problems affecting our daily lives, and of sundry subjects of mutual interest.
Too little stress is given today in educational circles to the art of conversation. I believe that there are a number of reasons for this lack of interest on the part of educators. A group of high school girls at recess time usually presents the same picture. All are talking; none are listening. Promote talking? Teachers naturally lift an eyebrow if one suggests more conversation at their school. Yet ninety-nine per cent of all this talk is just chitchat….
Real conversation is an art. Like any other art it must be cultivated and practiced. The voice is an important phase of personality. Often the voice alone gives the cue to personality and character of a girl.
A petulant, or frivolous, or frigid, or nagging young lady frequently rings a bell of warning in her voice to interested young men who have ears to hear as well as to catch dirt.
Likewise, a warmhearted and generous woman refined and cultured with a well developed personality can tell others of her accomplishments simply by speaking a few sentences. “The flute and the psaltery make a sweet melody, but a pleasant tongue is above them both.” Ecclesiaticus 40, 21.
Perhaps by this time some find their thoughts wandering from the work at hand–namely, self-appraisal and consideration of how to advance toward the goal of the ideal and desired wife. Maybe some are asking by now why they should strive to become this paragon of a girl.
Too many young men are too stupid anyway to see and appreciate in a girl all the qualities of the ideal wife. Isn’t a girl lucky for that! A girl can thank God that these imbeciles are not attracted to her. One of these cigarette sucking simpletons might rush her off her feet, and then see with what she would be stuck the rest of her life.
It does seem that neurotics attract each other for marriage. I suppose it is one more bit of evidence of the old proverb, “Birds of a feather flock together.” So the girls who develop their personalities and acquire the other features of the ideal wife have a much better chance of attracting their counterpart, the ideal husband. Again, let that all-interesting ideal husband take care of himself for a while. Let us get back to our “netting.”
Conversation is not a one way street. It connotes the ability to listen as well as to talk. Some people make a good audience. They stimulate conversation purely by the manner of their attention. They are alive, and thus they register. Because they are interested they are interesting. They bring out the best in others.
A clever girl can do wonders by the way she listens with animation to her boyfriend. The boyfriend or the husband is only human. There will be times when he is going to want to tell “all about it.” He is loquacious for a change. Then for heaven’s sake, let the wife give him the stage. Or, perhaps, he is taciturn and yearns for quiet. The wise wife senses these various moods of her husband.
I remember a case in which the wife hauled her husband down to the Chancery. Her major complaint was that her husband would not talk things over with her, would not confide in her. “He just never talks with me.” This poor woman talked “like a blue streak” for an hour and a half. A number of times I tried to break in. At each failure I got a knowing look from the husband as much as if to say, “Know how you feel. For years I’ve been trying to get a word in edgewise.”
There is a theory of counseling based on letting the estranged husband and wife talk themselves into their own solution of the problems vexing their marital happiness. There are enthusiasts of this school of thought who maintain that they can solve any case by just letting them talk.
I wish they had been in on the case just mentioned. I finally had to run from her one day later on, when she came down alone to see me. I could not take any more than two hours of it. I imagine that she is still talking, whether at her husband or not I do not know. How he could stand it, I do not know either.
While at school a girl should “make hay while the sun shines.” It is then that she can acquire and develop ability at conversation. As she learns to swim, to play tennis, to figure skate, and to sing, she can talk with interest and intelligence about these things.
If she knows nothing about music, a girl will have to be pretty clever to be able to “get away with” talking about music. On the other hand, as she develops her personality by learning to do various things, she should acquire facility in conversing about these things.
If she reads good literature, she opens another tremendous potential for conversation. True, she must practice, and school affords that opportunity not only in the classroom, but even during moments of recreation. Practice on your girl friends? Why not? They do on you!
Friends have been defined as those between whom there need not be conversation. Husband and wife can spend a quiet evening at home with a minimum of conversation and be happy and content.
They are aware of each other’s presence, and that is enough. Yet intelligent conversation will add immeasurably to their lives. A dumb Dora may have her moments; but, if she cannot formulate two consecutive and coherent sentences, let us all pray for strength for that husband of hers.
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Very interesting, thank you. This can be a dead give-away when talking to some people. And does help one to seek out those who truly have inspiring thoughts to share. 🙂
Sometimes we can feel intimidated by a conversation if we don’t have much knowledge on the subject. However I think you can get around that by asking intelligent questions. Then you get to learn something and the other person is probably flattered to be able to share their knowledge. It’s also ok to say “I don’t know” or “I’d have to learn more about that to give you my opinion.”
Just a couple of my thoughts 🙂
I remember reading in a Dale Carnegie book years ago about a ride he had taken in a taxi. The driver was quite talkative and when there was a break in the conversation, Mr. Carnegie would ask him another question about his life, etc. When they arrived at their destination, the driver looked at him, sincerely thanked him and told him he was the best conversationalist he had ever met! Mr. Carnegie’s point was just as you said, Gemma. It’s not all about the talking. To be truly interested and allow the other person to talk is a key element in conversation.
As a man, let me chip in and say that Gemma is on the right track. A woman asking thoughtful and intelligent questions can be appealing to a man. He is able to appreciate her politeness and civility, and also show off what he knows. Often it can be an enjoyable experience for both the man and the woman.
I agree, Donal. Here is a tidbit from Fascinating Womanhood relevant to conversation: “Encourage him to talk about himself, especially his life away from home . Begin by asking him leading questions about his work. This is not to suggest you be prying or overly inquisitive. But steer the conversation to things he is interested in and then encourage him until he is wound up in his subject. When you see that he is enjoying the conversation, keep it going by your comments and questions. Then learn to listen.”