Sunday, 14 August 2016

Good Conversations

Of late, there have been a number of articles on various platforms urging one not to use the word “busy” when asked “how are you?”.  The articles express how this one word can ruin friendships and conversations.  Unfortunately, it is true.

This one-word answer is the adult version of the teenager’s “fine”: it offers no substance and often closes conversations which should not be the aim when socialising with friends or family.  The fact of the matter is, everyone in today’s day is busy.  Whether blame be to technology, the expected immediacy of requests, longer working hours, more homework, there is simply more to fill a 24 hour period than there was “back in the day” (whenever that may be for you). 

Even if “busy” is followed by a barrage of supporting statements, chances are whoever you are speaking to was not after the full blown details of your day-to-day existence when asked how you are (which may have been a greeting and not necessarily a true question).  We have become consumed with the whats over the whys and hows: what we are doing should be far less important than why we are doing something and how it makes us feel.  It seems a silly distinction to make but in practice, speaking in whys and hows offers the listener more depth.  Obviously, a casual chat with a stranger does not require such depth, but the individuals close to our hearts certainly do.

As an example, if asked about plans for the weekend a what answer may be “going to a braai”. In comparison a why and how answer may be “spending some long overdue time with an overseas friend at a lunch braai”. Not only does this provide information about how important friendship is, it allows for further questions and generally an easier conversation with fewer awkward pauses. As with any changes, implementing this one will likely be difficult at first and may result in the odd mouth full of teeth situation; but with a little practice the art of the tête-à-tête can be mastered.