In 2009, I wrote a Post on Blogger on different types of conversations. The four types I identified were:
- A ping pong match, in which the other person tries to one-up every statement you make. For example, you say, “We had a good vacation in Arizona.” To which the person you are conversing with replies, “We had a good vacation in Paris.” No interest what so ever in hearing your story.
- A Spanish Inquisition, in which every statement you make is torn apart in pieces by the other person who just cannot see the larger picture and seems to be on a quest to prove he/she is smarter/more street wise than you.
- A Communist debate, so named in honor of how Soviet Union used to respond to almost every proposal from the West in United Nations. “Nyet,” they would say. In this type of conversation, everything you say will be opposed by the other person, does not matter what you say.
I pointed out that a more pleasurable conversation would be the fourth type, a Productive Conversation, which involves listening to what the other person is saying, thinking about what was said, and then responding. The point here is to not to think of the other party as an opponent and the reason for conversation as an opportunity to score a victory
Little did I know that we would be heading a situation in which there will be no conversation among people.
You know the scenario. Two people sit down for dinner in a restaurant, and both are engrossed in viewing and tapping their own smartphone. An occasional word will be exchanged, otherwise it is total immersion in the outside world.
This is a very frustrating situation if you are trying to have a conversation with an addict of smartphone. You are staring at him; he is staring at the smartphone.
“So, how was your day?”
“Good” …. Tap, tap, tap, full concentration on the device, total absence from the present moment.
“What did you do today?” No response. Tap, tap, tap.
“I said, what did you do today?”
“Huh…nothing.” Back to tap, tap, tap.
You give up.
Occasionally, the conversation starts normally, but the phone pings and it is taken out in a moment. Then, you lost the conversation partner. Sometimes it does not even need to ping. Every few minutes the addict has to take out the phone to check if he has missed something. How bad would it look if the text of a distant friend is not responded immediately?
Now I am no saint. I too check my smartphone periodically, but I make it a point that it does not come in way of a conversation, which can be a joyous, fruitful activity that further cements the bond between two people. Perhaps some people don’t see the need or don’t feel that they are good at talking with the others. Smartphone provides an easy out in those situations.
As the grip of these devices tightens, there will be no talking. It will be the end of conversation.