Decline of the Art of Conversation Essay

Outline:

  • Power of expression, a powerful weapon
  • The carelessness of the younger
  • Giant in your vacation and pygmy in society
  • The humiliation of sitting dumb in public meeting
  • Power of good impression
  • The need to employ every bit of skill in this art
  • Conversational power for an aspiring young man
  • Conversation as a great educator
  • Qualities of a good speaker
  • Resolve to become a specialist in conversational ability

If you can express yourself clearly, in clear-cut, terse language, if you have the persuasive tone, which fascinates and holds, you will have a powerful weapon. If it is attended by a fine manner, a gracious personality, you will not need an introduction to the great, they will all welcome you.

It seems strange that young people neglect the very art of arts, the power of conversation. Who can estimate it the charm of a fine diction, the advantage of the power to talk well. Is it not strange that our schools and colleges teach almost everything except the ability to use one’s own language with power, with facility, with conviction? What accomplishments can for a moment compare with the ability to converse well, with all the charm of a powerful and fascinating speaker?

Students learn French, English and higher mathematics and theories which they may never or seldom use, but that which is brought into constant exercise almost every minute of their lives they ever learn as fine art. The average person’s conversation is but an accident. He has never made it a study. He has picked up his vocabulary on the street, in the car, in the stone, everywhere. He has never made a scientific study of words, their roots, origin, and meaning or their synonyms.

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What comparison is there between an accomplishment which we use occasionally and one which we use all the time and everywhere, as we do conversational power? People will spend years and years working themselves almost to death to master some phrase of art, or science or literature, and yet so utterly neglect their power of conversation that they are very stupid and dull in society. Is not it humiliating to be conscious of being a giant in your vocation and a pygmy, a dummy, a mere nobody in society, so that you do not dare to open your mouth? Is not it humiliating to be in company and be obliged to sit in silence while a man or woman with one-tenth of your ability monopolizes the conversation, simply because he or she has cultivated the art which you have neglected?

Is not it humiliating to sit dumb when you are called upon to speak at a banquet to which you have been invited because of your reputation in some line of work? You cut a sorry figure there because you are unable to express yourself as clearly and convincingly as a fifteen-year-old boy. What matters it, if you have discovered a new star, written a powerful book, if you are timid and awkward in speech? It is a remarkable fact that men who have achieved great things in some special line often do not dare to get up in an ordinary gathering to put a motion. They cannot preside over a public meeting, for they have not the slightest idea of parliamentary law. They would be frightened to hear their own voice in public. Their limbs would tremble. They would be all at sea.

Men may be a power in the office, but mere children in social life. They have never learnt to think on their feet. They could never hold the attention of an audience for a minute. They are so dry, mechanical and uninteresting that nobody would listen to them.

It does not matter what vocation you choose if you cannot talk well. If you have not the gift of self-expression you will be placed at an advantage. How many people owe their advancement, their position, largely to their ability to talk well! Making a good appearance, a favorable first impression, is everything, and no one can do this so well as a good, charming talker. How many men in public life owe their success and popularity largely to their fine conversational power. Many men have lifted him into high office by their ability to talk well.

It is a great treat to converse with people who are masters of this art. Their voices are like music in our ears. They have the power to charm, to soothe, to satisfy like a beautiful face.

The conversation is an art in which one may employ every bit of his skill and experience. You can tell how widely a man has traveled, whether he is a close or slipshod observer. You can tell whether he is systematic or slovenly. You can see what books he has read and how he has read them all in his conversation. You can trace the trend of them all in his conversation. You can trace the trend of his thought, his habits of life, what he says and how he says it. Conversation is an art, which embraces all others. No matter what your life has been, how much you know, where you have been, or what you have done, people can find it all out in your conversation. It is a perfect panorams of your experiences.

Every young person who expects to accomplish anything in the world, should acquire conversational power. He should be able to command himself perfectly to converse with ease and elegance in company. To be able to interest people is a great attainment in itself. It is worth everything to the youth who would achieve anything of note. This reputation will help him all through his life. How often we see that a man cut a sorry figure for an important position due to decline in conversation. He cannot impress us with dignity because he knows not what to say and how to say. He does not know how to make a good impression.

Conversation is a great educator. A good conversationalist brings into play a great many qualities. He must exercise his tact. His judgement comes into play. Good sense can never be absent. The good conversationalist must be large-hearted, generous if mean, is narrow, if prejudiced, all his bad qualities, as well as his good ones, come out in his conversation.

He must have a warm sympathy for his listeners. He must be interested in them. He must tactfully avoid touching their some spots or exposing their weaknesses.

His power of analysis is in constant use. His creative ability must be exercised also, for a good talker cannot be an imitator, a mere echo. In the mirror of these lines we can see the reflection of the decline in conversation.

It is pitiable to see how some able men and women stammer and wrestle with the English language, botching their sentences, mixing the parts of speech, dropping their adjectives and verbs as though they had never attempted to put a sentence together before. Many people’s vocabularies are composed of all series of incongruities. They have never been taught the magic of choosing just the right shade of words to adjust the right meaning.
It ought to be the ambition and pride of every young man and woman to handle language with facility and power. They should express themselves vigorously, concisely and forcefully.

Whatever other ambition you may have, resolve that you will become a specialist in conversational ability. You may not be able to practice law, medicine or any other professional or attend to the business if you lack conversational power. You should bring into use your power of speech. You should spend time in studying the thesaurus for synonyms and equivalent expressions, in order to give variety and breadth to your conversation. You should try to broaden your vocabulary in every possible way. This is an education in itself. It will mean very much to you. You cannot be a good talker with a narrow vocabulary or a limited experience.

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