The Art of Conversation

I just came back from cycling Madagascar.  This was a week’s fundraising trip for the Genesis Research Trust—a non-profit research organization for the health and welfare of women and children.  It was a very challenging cycling event for a very good cause.

Forty-two women signed on for this cycling challenge; the bike ride was one of the most difficult riding experiences I’ve done, and I’ve been riding for well over twenty-years.  Plus, it was in a third-world country which brought up emotions and feelings yet to materialize.  Another blog someday!

Bringing forty-two women together had its own challenges and surprises.  First, I’ll describe the surprises.  I was struck by the team-work among the women.  Since the ride was challenging, when someone had difficulties riding, fell, or felt like they couldn’t go on, there was always someone to help.  One woman was extremely terrified by the extreme steep downhill.  She was assisted by two women who rode with her, one in front and one in back as the three navigated down the hill slowly.  Another incident occurred when a woman fell ill with heat exhaustion and almost passed out.  The women on the ride swarmed to her aid to shield the sun from her face for protection, obtain wet rags to cool her head and neck, and ran to obtain food and drink.  Once she recovered there were continuous “how do you feel” comments by many.

The challenges with the women can be summed up by the lack of understanding the art of conversation.  Conversation is a two-way dialog and can be shut down immediately if either person does not participate.  A friend on the trip tried several times to engage in small talk with another woman at dinner.  She asked open-ended questions in an effort to start a conversation.  However, the person she tried talking with did not reciprocate.  Conversation closed.

There was a time when I was talking with a woman and asked about where she lived and her work.  Immediately, I found out that we had a couple of things in common.  After she answered a couple of my questions, she dropped the conversation chain.  Conversation closed.

The difficulty in getting to know someone begins and ends with the art of conversation.  It is a give and receive exchange of information.  And, when engaging in a cycling activity like the one I described or attending a networking event, each person must pay attention to the person with whom they are talking.  It is through the art of conversation that you get to know about a person.  Isn’t it worth a small amount of your time to participate in the art of conversation?  Not to engage with another person when it is obvious they are trying to get to know you, is just plain RUDE!

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