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A conversation is communication by two or more people, often on a particular topic. William F. Buckley's Firing Line, the Dick Cavett Show, and many other television programs described as "talk shows" are exercises in conversation. Conversations are the ideal form of communication from at least one point of view, since they allow people with different views of a topic to learn from each other. A speech, on the other hand, is an oral presentation by one person directed at a group.
Conversers naturally relate the other speaker's statements to themselves, and insert themselves (or some degree of relation to themselves, ranging from the replier's opinions or points to actual stories about themselves) into their replies. For a successful conversation, the partners must achieve a workable balance of contributions. A successful conversation includes mutually interesting connections between the speakers or things that the speakers know. For this to happen, conversers must find a topic on which they can relate in some sense.
Types of conversation
- Main article: Therapy as conversation
Conversations conducted in formal but unstructured settings can be particularly valuable in enlivening those in the growing population of retired, and sometimes otherwise isolated, people in advanced countries. Institutions such as the University of the Third Age provide such settings. Here the great diversity of life experience and points of view provide a very rich resource for advanced learning.
Literature on conversation
Authors who have written extensively on conversation and attempted to analyze its nature include:
- Charles Blattberg has written two books defending an approach to politics that emphasizes conversation, in contrast to negotiation, as the preferred means of resolving conflict. His From Pluralist to Patriotic Politics: Putting Practice First, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-19-829688-6, is a work of political philosophy; and his Shall We Dance? A Patriotic Politics for Canada, Montreal and Kingston: McGill Queen's University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-7735-2596-3, applies that philosophy to the Canadian case.
- Neil Postman - Amusing Ourselves to Death (Conversation is not the book's specific focus, but discourse in general gets good treatment here)
- Deborah Tannen - The Argument Culture: Stopping America's War of Words, Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk Among Friends, Gender and Discourse, I Only Say This Because I Love You, Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work, That's Not What I Meant!, You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation,
- Bohm Dialogue
- Discourse analysis
- Gricean maxims
- Listening (interpersonal)
- Phatic communication
- Politeness maxims
- Social skills
- Advice on initiating conversations and links to conversational organizations.
- Article on developing basic communication skills
- Conversation Cafè, devoted to creating a "culture of conversation."
- Empathic listening skills How to listen so others will feel heard, or listening first aid (University of California). Download a one hour seminar on empathic listening and attending skills.
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