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Conversation is interactive
communication Communication (from la, communicare, meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is usually defined as the transmission of information. The term may also refer to the message communicated through such transmissions or the field of inquir ...
between two or more people. The development of conversational skills and
etiquette Etiquette () is the set of norms of personal behaviour in politeness, polite society, usually occurring in the form of an ethical code of the expected and accepted social behavior, social behaviours that accord with the convention (norm), conve ...
is an important part of socialization. The development of conversational skills in a new language is a frequent focus of
language teaching Language education – the process and practice of teaching a second language, second or foreign language – is primarily a branch of applied linguistics, but can be an interdisciplinarity, interdisciplinary field. There are four main learni ...
and
learning Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, value (personal and cultural), values, attitudes, and preferences. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals, and some machine learning, machines ...
.
Conversation analysis Conversation analysis (CA) is an approach to the study of social interaction A social relation or also described as a social interaction or social experience is the fundamental unit of analysis within the social sciences, and describes any volu ...
is a branch of sociology which studies the structure and organization of human interaction, with a more specific focus on conversational interaction.


Definition and characterization

No generally accepted definition of conversation exists, beyond the fact that a conversation involves at least two people talking together. Consequently, the term is often defined by what it is not. A ritualized exchange such as a mutual
greeting Greeting is an act of communication in which human beings intentionally make their presence known to each other, to show attention to, and to suggest a type of relationship (usually cordial) or social status (formal or informal) between indivi ...
is not a conversation, and an interaction that includes a marked status differential (such as a boss giving orders) is also not a conversation. An interaction with a tightly focused topic or purpose is also generally not considered a conversation. Summarizing these properties, one authority writes that "Conversation is the kind of speech that happens informally, symmetrically, and for the purposes of establishing and maintaining social ties." From a less technical perspective, a writer on etiquette in the early 20th century defined conversation as the polite give and take of subjects thought of by people talking with each other for company. Conversations follow rules of etiquette because conversations are social interactions, and therefore depend on
social convention A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms, or criteria, often taking the form of a custom. In a social context, a convention may retain the character of an "unwritten law" of custom (for ex ...
. Specific rules for conversation arise from the
cooperative principle In social science Social science is one of the branches of science, devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the fiel ...
. Failure to adhere to these rules causes the conversation to deteriorate or eventually to end. Contributions to a conversation are responses to what has previously been said. Conversations may be the optimal form of
communication Communication (from la, communicare, meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is usually defined as the transmission of information. The term may also refer to the message communicated through such transmissions or the field of inquir ...
, depending on the participants' intended ends. Conversations may be ideal when, for example, each party desires a relatively equal exchange of information, or when the parties desire to build social ties. On the other hand, if permanency or the ability to review such information is important, written communication may be ideal. Or if time-efficient communication is most important, a speech may be preferable. Conversation involves a lot more nuanced and implied context that lies beneath just the words. Conversation is generally face-to-face person-to-person at the same time (synchronous) – possibly online with video applications such as Skype, but might also include audio-only phone calls. It would not generally include internet written communication which tends to be asynchronous (not same time – can read and respond later if at all) and does not fit the 'con'='with' in 'conversation'. In face to face conversation it has been suggested that 85% of the communication is non-verbal/body language – a smile, a frown, a shrug, tone of voice conveying much added meaning to the mere words. Short forms of written communication such as sms are thus frequently misunderstood.


Classification


Banter

Banter is short witty sentences that bounce back and forth between individuals. Often banter uses clever put-downs and witty insults similar to
flyting Flyting or fliting is a contest consisting of the exchange of insults between two parties, often conducted in verse. Etymology The word ''flyting'' comes from the Old English verb meaning 'to quarrel', made into a noun with the suffix -''ing''. ...
, misunderstandings (often intentional), zippy wisecracks, zingers, flirtation, and puns. The idea is that each line of banter should "top" the one before it and be, in short, a verbal war of wit. Films that have used banter as a way of structure in conversations are: * ''Bringing Up Baby'' (1938) * ''His Girl Friday'' (1940) * ''The Big Sleep'' (1946) * ''Much Ado About Nothing'' (1993) Important factors in delivering a banter is the subtext, situation and the rapport with the person. Every line in a banter should be able to evoke both an emotional response and ownership without hurting one's feelings. Following a structure that the involved parties understand is important, even if the subject and structure is absurd, a certain level of progression should be kept in a manner that it connects with the involved parties. Different methods of story telling could be used in delivering banter, like making an unexpected turn in the flow of structure (interrupting a comfortable structure), taking the conversation towards an expected crude form with evoking questions, doubts, self-conscientiousness (creating intentional misunderstandings), or layering the existing pattern with multiple anchors. It is important to quit the bantering with the sensibility of playground rules, both parties shouldn't obsess on topping each other, continuously after a certain point of interest. It is as Shakespeare said "Brevity is the soul of wit."


Discussion

One element of conversation is discussion: sharing opinions on subjects that are thought of during the conversation. In polite society the subject changes before discussion becomes dispute or
controversial Controversy is a state of prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of conflicting opinion or point of view. The word was coined from the Latin ''controversia'', as a composite of ''controversus'' – "turned in an opposite d ...
. For example, if theology is being ''discussed'', maybe no one is insisting a particular view be accepted.


Subject

Many conversations can be divided into four categories according to their major subject content: * ''Subjective ideas'', which often serve to extend understanding and awareness. * ''Objective facts'', which may serve to consolidate a widely held view. * ''Other people'' (usually absent), which may be either critical, competitive, or supportive. This includes
gossip Gossip is idle talk or rumour A rumor (American English American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. Engl ...
. * ''Oneself'', which sometimes indicate
attention-seeking Attention seeking behavior is to act in a way that is likely to elicit attention. Attention seeking behavior is defined in the DSM-5 as "engaging in behavior designed to attract notice and to make oneself the focus of others’ attention and admir ...
behavior or can provide relevant information about oneself to participants in the conversation. The proportional distribution of any given conversation between the categories can offer useful psychological insights into the mind set of the participants. Practically, however, few conversations fall exclusively into one category. This is the reason that the majority of conversations are difficult to categorize.


Functions

Most conversations may be classified by their goal. Conversational ends may shift over the life of the conversation. * Functional conversation is designed to convey information in order to help achieve an individual or group goal. *
Small talk Small talk is an informal type of discourse that does not cover any functional topics of conversation or any transactions that need to be addressed. In essence, it is polite and standard conversation about unimportant things. The phenomenon o ...
is a type of conversation where the topic is less important than the social purpose of achieving bonding between people or managing
personal distance Proxemics is the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behaviour, communication, and social interaction. Proxemics is one among several subcategories in the study of nonverbal communication, including Haptic c ...
, such as 'how is the weather' might be portrayed as an example, which conveys no practicality whatsoever.


Aspects


Differences between men and women

A study completed in July 2007 by Matthias Mehl of the
University of Arizona The University of Arizona (Arizona, U of A, UArizona, or UA) is a Public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university in Tucson, Arizona. Founded in 1885 by the 13th Arizona Territorial Legislature, it was the first ...
shows that contrary to popular belief, there is little difference in the number of words used by men and women in conversation. The study showed that on average each gender uses about 16,000 words per day.


Between strangers

There are certain situations, typically encountered while traveling, which result in strangers sharing what would ordinarily be an intimate social space such as sitting together on a bus or airplane. In such situations strangers are likely to share intimate personal information they would not ordinarily share with strangers. A special case emerges when one of the travelers is a mental health professional and the other party shares details of their personal life in the apparent hope of receiving help or advice.


Narcissism

Conversational
narcissism Narcissism is a self-centered personality style characterized as having an excessive interest in one's physical appearance or image and an excessive preoccupation with one's own needs, often at the expense of others. Narcissism exists on a co ...
is a term used by sociologist
Charles Derber Charles Derber is an American Professor of Sociology Sociology is a social science that focuses on society, human social behavior, patterns of Interpersonal ties, social relationships, social interaction, and aspects of culture associated ...
in his book, ''The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Ego in Everyday Life''. Derber observed that the social support system in America is relatively weak, and this leads people to compete mightily for attention. In social situations, they tend to steer the conversation away from others and toward themselves. "Conversational narcissism is the key manifestation of the dominant attention-getting psychology in America," he wrote. "It occurs in informal conversations among friends, family and coworkers. The profusion of popular literature about listening and the etiquette of managing those who talk constantly about themselves suggests its pervasiveness in everyday life." What Derber describes as "conversational narcissism" often occurs subtly rather than overtly because it is prudent to avoid being judged an egotist. Derber distinguishes the "shift-response" from the "support-response". A shift response takes the focus of attention away from the last speaker and refocuses on the new speaker, as in: "John: I'm feeling really starved. Mary: Oh, I just ate." Whereas a support response maintains the focus on the last speaker, as in: "John: I'm feeling really starved. Mary: When was the last time you ate?"


Artificial intelligence

The ability to generate conversation that cannot be distinguished from a human participant has been one test of a successful artificial intelligence (the
Turing test The Turing test, originally called the imitation game by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine's ability to artificial intelligence, exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Turing propos ...
). A human judge engages in a natural-language conversation with one human and one machine, during which the machine tries to appear human (and the human does not try to appear other than human). If the judge cannot tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test. One limitation of this test is that the conversation is by text as opposed to speech, not allowing tone to be shown.


One's self

Also called
intrapersonal communication Intrapersonal communication is the process by which an individual communicates within themselves, acting as both sender and receiver of messages, and encompasses the use of unspoken words to consciously engage in self-talk and inner speech. Intr ...
, the act of conversing with oneself can help solve problems or serve therapeutic purposes like avoiding silence.


Literature

Authors who have written extensively on conversation and attempted to analyze its nature include: * Milton Wright wrote ''The Art of Conversation'', a comprehensive treatment of the subject, in 1936. The book deals with conversation both for its own sake, and for political, sales, or religious ends. Milton portrays conversation as an art or creation that people can play with and give life to. * Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Al Switzler, and Ron McMillan have written two ''New York Times'' bestselling books on conversation. The first one, ''Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High'', McGraw-Hill, 2002, teaches skills for handling disagreement and high-stakes issues at work and at home. The second book, ''Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior'', McGraw-Hill, 2013, teaches important skills for dealing with accountability issues. *''Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most'' (Viking Penguin, 1999), a book by Bruce Patton, Douglas Patterson and Sheila Heen was one of the work products from the Harvard Negotiation Project. This book built on, and extended the approach developed by Roger Fisher and
William Ury William Ury is an American author, academic, anthropologist, and negotiation expert. He co-founded the Harvard University, Harvard Program on Negotiation. Additionally, he helped found the International Negotiation Network with former President J ...
in ''Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In'' (Houghton Mifflin, 1981). The book introduced useful concepts such as the Three Conversations (The 'What Happened' Conversation, The Feelings Conversation, and The Identity Conversation), Creating a Learning Conversation, and Collaborative Problem Solving. * Charles Blattberg has written two books defending an approach to politics that emphasizes conversation, in contrast to negotiation, as the preferred means of resolving conflict. His ''From Pluralist to Patriotic Politics: Putting Practice First'', Oxford and New York:
Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of the University of Oxford. It is the largest university press in the world, and its printing history dates back to the 1480s. Having been officially granted the legal right to print books ...
, 2000, , is a work of political philosophy; and his ''Shall We Dance? A Patriotic Politics for Canada'', Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003, , applies that philosophy to the Canadian case. * Paul Drew &
John Heritage John Heritage (born July 10, 1946) is Professor of Sociology at University of California at Los Angeles. He is one of the key figures in the approach known as conversation analysis. He came to prominence in 1984 with the publication of his book o ...
– ''Talk at Work'', a study of how conversation changes in social and workplace situations. *
Neil Postman Neil Postman (March 8, 1931 – October 5, 2003) was an American author, educator, Media studies, media theorist and cultural critic, who eschewed digital technology, including Personal computer, personal computers, Mobile phone, mobile devices, ...
– '' Amusing Ourselves to Death'' (Conversation is not the book's specific focus, but discourse in general gets good treatment here) *
Deborah Tannen Deborah Frances Tannen (born June 7, 1945) is an American author and professor of linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Best known as the author of ''You Just Don't Understand'', she has been a McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at ...
** ''The Argument Culture: Stopping America's War of Words'' ** ''Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk Among Friends'', ** ''Gender and Discourse'' ** ''I Only Say This Because I Love You'' ** ''Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work'' ** '' That's Not What I Meant!'' ** '' You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation'' * Daniel Menaker – ''A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation'' (published 2010)


In fiction

* ''
Conversation in the Cathedral ''Conversation in The Cathedral'' (original title: ''Conversación en La catedral'') is a 1969 novel by Spanish-Peruvian writer and essayist Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Gregory Rabassa. One of Vargas Llosa's major works, it is a portrayal of ...
'' (1969) is one of the main novels by the Peruvian writer
Mario Vargas Llosa Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa, 1st Marquess of Vargas Llosa (born 28 March 1936), more commonly known as Mario Vargas Llosa (, ), is a Peruvian novelist, journalist, essayist and former politician, who also holds Spanish citizenship. Vargas Ll ...
.


In "Six Benefits of Better Conversation"

The benefits are: # Being better understood # Better understanding # Better self-confidence # Workplace value # Better self-care # Better relationships


See also

* ''
A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation ''A Complete Collection of genteel and ingenious Conversation, according to the most polite mode and method now used at Court, and in the best Companies of England,'' commonly known as ''A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation, ...
'' (book) * Aizuchi * Awkward silence *
Bohm Dialogue Bohm Dialogue (also known as Bohmian Dialogue or "Dialogue in the Spirit of David Bohm") is a freely flowing group conversation in which participants attempt to reach a common understanding, experiencing everyone's point of view fully, equally and n ...
* Compulsive talking *
Conversation theory Conversation theory is a cybernetic and dialectic framework that offers a scientific theory to explain how interactions lead to "construction of knowledge", or "knowing": wishing to preserve both the dynamic/kinetic quality, and the necessity for th ...
* Conversational narcissism * Conversational scoreboard * "Conversation" Sharp MPdoyen of the Georgian period conversationalists * Conversazionea social gathering for conversation and discussion, especially about the arts, literature and science. *
Debate Debate is a process that involves formal discourse on a particular topic, often including a Discussion moderator, moderator and audience. In a debate, arguments are put forward for often opposing viewpoints. Debates have historically occurred ...
*
Dialogue Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American and British English spelling differences, American English) is a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people, and a literature, literary and theatrical form that depicts suc ...
*
Discourse Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a conversation to any form of communication. Discourse is a major topic in social theory, with work spanning fields such as sociology, anthropology, continental philosophy, and discourse analysis. F ...
* King of Clubsfamous Whig conversation club *
Online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time text, real-time transmission of text-based, text messages from sender to receiver. Chat messages are generally short in order to enable other participa ...
*
Speech (public address) Public speaking, also called oratory or oration, has traditionally meant the act of speaking face to face to a live audience An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art, literature (in which they ...


References


Works cited

* *


External links


Empathic listening skills
How to listen so others will feel heard, or listening first aid (
University of California The University of California (UC) is a public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university, research university system in the U.S. state of California. The system is composed of the campuses at University of Califor ...
). Download a one-hour seminar on empathic listening and attending skills.
"The art of conversation", ''Economist'', 19 December 2006
{{Authority control Oral communication