The Doust Files – Albany Advertiser 27/9/2011

Here’s the thing about conversation, the guts, the meat: I say something, you listen, then you say something, I listen and so on, back and forth until we tire of each other, or one of us raises a fist.

At its best, it’s an art form. There are folk in this region who have a fine handle on the art and craft and I would consider them to be master practitioners.

There are, of course, others who stare with a great blank wash on their faces and sometimes small flickers of fear.

We should not abuse them, for natural conversation may be denied them because of a committed introversion, or because your face reminds them of a monster from a dream they once had at a very early age. Or even the night before.

There are others who believe they have mastered conversation but what they have is an intense belief in their right to speak non-stop in the face of anyone who gives them one tiny window of opportunity.

This is not conversation. This is hammer-speak.

This column, for example, is part of a conversation I am having in my head, but it is meant for you, the reader. And if you see me in the street, you are more than welcome to approach me and continue it.

Take care, of course, because some days I am more volatile than others.

You always know when you have had a good conversation, because you feel like you have been listened to and not yelled at.

My father was a good conversationalist, until that point where he felt like he was in an argument, then something grew in him and he became an opinion evangelist. His primary objective quickly shifted and he had to make you agree with him, to admit that he was right and you were wrong.

It could have been about anything, the colour blue, the core message of Karl Marx, the future of old growth forests, or the best way to fish for trout.

I miss the old bastard.

Now, to bring this piece to a head, I’d like to take the opportunity to remind the electronically hooked, that email, Facebook, sms, Skype, and so on, all belong to the same genre. They are vehicles for conversation.

Here’s how it should go: I email you, you read, respond, make some points of your own, ask a question or two, I read, respond, and so on.

Oh, there is one major advantage – no need for the fist. You simply delete.

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