I want to have meaningful conversations. It is a notion I think many of us have. We want to raise the conversational bar with our friends and peers. We want to reach above the noise.
The problem is that these kind of aspirations are left as aspirations. The demand to have meaningful conversation is crippling. When I demand so much out of myself I am left not trying at all. I fear sounding like a pompous ass if I ask about the meaning of life at a cocktail party.
Why not start smaller? Why not find rules that could immediately be put into practice? Maybe all we need are little nudges towards meaning. Perhaps our goal is to collect and utilize heuristics that can help us slowly develop into better conversationalists. It might be more important to develop this sort of compass rather than a step by step roadmap. If that is the case, then we better get started.
The first one I have found use for in my life is from Soren Kierkegaard’s The Present Age:
“If we could suppose for a moment that there was a law which did not forbid people talking, but simply ordered that everything which was spoken should be treated as though it had happened fifty years ago, the gossips would be done for, they would be in despair. On the other hand, it would not really interfere with any one who could really talk. That an actor should have mispronounced a word could only be interesting if there was something interesting in the mispronunciation itself, in which case the fifty years make no difference…”
Kierkegaard’s rule is echoed in Jeff Bezos’ advice to focus on what does not change. If we can focus on what would not erode after fifty years then we can reach conclusions and questions about human nature and meaning that transcend otherwise petty “He said, She said’s”.
Keep finding more and using them. I sure need to develop the toolkit. If there are any that prove useful for you then please feel free to share. Much obliged.