Dr Airdre Grant.
Dr Airdre Grant.

A good conversation is like a ball game

A good conversation is like a ball game. It works well when people pass the ball; when it is shared around. You may be familiar with this idea. But there are times in conversation where it might go like this. A person:

  • Grabs the ball and doesn't let anyone else have a turn
  • Takes the ball and storms off
  • Insists that they in fact have a better, more important ball
  • Spends a great deal of time talking about balls they have known before to the point that everyone loses interest in the ball at hand and wanders off
  • Holds the ball while talking about other vaguely related balls, at length so everyone loses interest and ... see above
  • Tells stories about balls in their life/childhood/family at length so that everyone loses interest and ... see above
  • Talks over/interrupts the ball holder frequently

This overhead conversation illustrates my point:

Person one: I am having a hard time getting motivation to exercise. I was thinking of joining a...

Person two (cutting in): oh I know! I wanted to exercise regularly. In fact I started going to the gym and there was this really hot guy who was there when I went and I can tell you it was a good motivator. I used to watch him all the time. Sounds pervy doesn't it but who cares? He was way hot. So chiselled. And such beautiful tattoos. Have you noticed how many hot guys there are around these days, I mean everyone is into six packs and ...

Person three (cutting in): I have always been really good at self-discipline and sticking to a program. It's not hard if it's something you really want. (Looks smug and sips coconut water)

Person four: When I was young our exercise came from working outside. Nowadays everyone is on their screens and really lazy. Not like when I was young. We used to work much harder than young people these days with their screen addictions and ...

Person one (vainly trying to regain the ball): As I was saying I was thinking of joining a gym can anyone recommend ...

Person five (Jumping in): Seriously! All you care about is yourselves! What about the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef! Look at all the plastic water bottles at gyms. Its middle class privilege! People who go to gyms are vain and up themselves and couldn't care less about the future of our planet! (Slams door on way out)

And so it goes. A good conversation is all about good listening and exchange. But it can go anywhere at any time.

Here's a recent example.

Person: Hi, how are you? All good with you?

I see your column every week.

Me (foolishly): I hope you enjoy it.

Person: Oh I consider it clutter and delete it immediately.

Anyway, good to see you, bye!

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