Jane's Reviews > Conversation: A History of a Declining Art

Conversation by Stephen Miller
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Nov 04, 08


"Intellectual stimulation, to most, means hearing themselves deliver lectures on matters they have already figured out to their own satisfaction."

Three-quarters of this book is historical and felt like deja vu of my university days. Hearing the names Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope, David Hume and Virginia Woolf was a pleasant journey back to academia. I did find it a little frustrating that the book doesn't always use full names upon first-use, which seems the proper way to me.

The last two chapters of the book were absolute gems. I couldn't agree more that the proliferation of conversation-avoidance mechanisms (tv, ipods, internet, cellphones...) has taken a toll on our lives and especially our conversations. (A debatable point that we even have any.) The author is right-on-the-mark in saying that we are egotistical by nature and that we have to train ourselves to be good listeners. He adds that many such bad listeners become "bloggers" to be able to talk without interuption (in other words to talk at you, not to converse with you). The book also discusses how people use e-mail to avoid face to face interaction. I enjoyed the emphasis on the importance of manners and civility. With some additional tidbits on how anger clouds communication, this book has a lot to offer.

So you talk, yes, but do you listen?
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