“The reason why so few people are agreeable in conversation is that each is thinking more about what he intends to say than others are saying.” – Francois De La Rochefoucauld
In Middle English, the word “conversation” denoted “living among, familiarity, intimacy”. I love these shades of meaning because even the most mundane conversation can take on that quality if the participants are willing to let it be so.
A review of the day with one’s spouse, a discussion about how the school day went with a small child, or even a heated debate in a Presidential election can take on these qualities when there is a genuine interest in hearing another out. That genuine interest comes naturally to an individual whose heart that is rooted in love and whose mind centered in truth, for “worship” of this nature cannot help but be reflected outwardly through the thoughts, words, and deeds once established internally.
You may know or have known someone who faced a life-threatening illness and then “saw the light.” Such experiences tend to ground the individual in thankfulness for what truly matters, and more often than not they forgive past grievances, relinquish the sense of entitlement to withdraw love or abandon truth, and dedicate themselves to living their remaining days with greater dignity. The inner change or realization often precipitates a dramatic outer transformation.
I love speaking with people who have had such an experience because conversations with them tend to be conditioned more by “living among, familiarity, and intimacy” than just about any other quality. There is less mixture in their concerns, a greater respect for life, and as a consequence, a deeper appreciation for their fellows. Selfishness may even give way to generosity and the concern to be a blessing may eclipse the concern to get something for oneself, be it getting one’s point across, getting a rise out of someone, getting one’s jollies, or getting a word in edge-wise.
Conversation ought really be nothing more than letting an inward reverence for the sacredness of life find expression in words. Private conversations between two people are often referred to with the French phrase “tête-à-tête” (“head-to-head”), but I think that true conversations are as much “coeur-à-coeur” (heart-to-heart) as they are tête-à-tête.
If you let nothing but love and truth condition your part of any conversation, you have done well. So doing allows you to focus your concern in relation to discovering and agreeing with the love and truth in those with whom you are conversing. Moreover, this approach allows you to solve the harder issues you might face with greater civility and dignity.