Loose Ends: Conversations

One skill that we are keen on teaching children is listening. I am sure the first preschool and primary school conferences of the year addressed that one specific skill and informed the parent’s mastering it. I believe it is even more of a problem because of remote learning and the increase in the constant use of headphones to keep the individual learner concentrating on the classroom teacher, as well as one’s classmates. Judging from the battles in which families are constantly engaging on the home front, real listening is not going on anywhere.

I am not sure that teachers would be able to convince any of their students’ parents that they need to work on listening anymore these days. I find myself remembering back to my own family and how important that skill was to being included in all of their social activities. While my grandparents’ generation was raised to be seen and not heard, they encouraged their children to participate in adult conversation when included. The key was the continuing conversation, learning how to get a “volley” going so that all of the individuals present were engaged. The adult members made sure we all knew how to communicate effectively. It seems that no matter how old we all become,  we are sure that the younger generations have missed learning an important social skill.

It doesn’t matter if we talk on our phones and are using an video app that allows us to notice each other’s eye contact or  body language face to face. Sometimes people fall into their go-to mode with friends and family, taking over and not allowing anyone else to feel comfortable sharing or drawing back and sharing very little. We all know people who may be masters at small talk yet say very little, so that when we think of them later, we have no idea what they really are thinking or how things have been going for them. One’s body language in a video is more stilted at first, especially if it is a regular arranged exchange of information for classrooms or work conferences.  Usually when a  teacher or a moderator initiates the conversation, they continue throughout the discussion to try and make sure everyone is an active participant.   

The advantage of being able to communicate with each other everywhere we has turned into a disadvantage for so many of us. Parents complained that when their children in school, yet  in different rooms of the house, they discovered all of  the different ways their kids could appear to be participating while taking myriad breaks from the screen without the teacher or parent becoming ever the wiser. Friends who were working on their laptops told me of how much easier it was to be a part of a wider conversation and yet miss so much of it.

This Thanksgiving could prove to be a challenge this year. People are monopolizing conversations, noise levels are sure to rise, and so many of our family members and friends have gone to their default mode of conversation that it might be impossible to get anyone to listen. Some of us are more than ready to get together to meet the challenge. It is the best holiday for just sitting back and enjoying getting together. This is our best opportunity to practice real conversation and if a subject needs to be changed, a diversion is right in front of everyone. After all, everyone knows it is all about the food.  

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving!             

By DOLLY VISCARDI – Special to the Herald Times

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