Saturday, January 17, 2009

Catherine Blyth

Salon's Katharine Mieszkowski interviewed Catherine Blyth about her new book, The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure.

Part of their dialogue:

It's often said that we live in the communication age, but you argue that we're really not having enough conversations. How can both things be true?

For all of the amazing, proliferating ways that we have to be in touch, face-to-face conversation is being pushed to the margins of our lives. And it has for thousands of years been the core of human interaction, and it's very good at what it's designed to do.

There's a whole lot to be said about the pleasures of a wired-up world, but there is a lot of difference between being in touch and having an interaction. If anything, I think that with too much communicating via machines, people end up hiding behind screens.

Let's start with the simplest kind of conversation. You want to bring back the convention of saying "hello" and "goodbye" to pretty much everyone whom we interact with on a daily basis, such as the grocery store clerk. Why do you think these little niceties are important?

It's all about the connections that stitch the day together. If you live in a city, like me, you'll know that there can be quite a lot of friction in your day. If you just humanize these encounters, if you meet somebody's eye, if they feel you listening to them, instantly it's going to boost your mood and theirs.

If you just introduce these low-stakes but emotionally satisfying little transactions in your day, you're more armed and prepared for more difficult conversations.

What is important about small talk? The very name of it makes it seem puny. What is its function?

Some people liken it to grooming amongst apes. Even if...[read on]
Read the complete Q & A.

Visit Catherine Blyth's website.

--Marshal Zeringue