The value in face-to-face conversation

“What is the power of words?” one might think. Words can change a decision. Words can cheer people up from sadness. Words can change someone’s life. Living closely in a big community, we need to have conversations, and here is what I have learned about conversations.

The whole inspiration of this topic comes from my daily life observations, and a speech on TED Talk. I have seen people, maybe strangers, sitting next to each other, but they never even spoke a word, so they are always strangers, which is even a common scenario at our school. Believe it or not, many people are just a little afraid of having the first conversation with someone else. It is understandable because people are uncertain about other’s personalities before having that first conversation, and these people want to avoid awkwardness. However, now I want to encourage everyone to break that ice and start conversations with someone who maybe sits next to you, or someone you want to talk with at school.

First of all, having conversations with others is the remedy of loneliness. Many people may suffer from loneliness because they don’t have such kind of connections and conversations with others. While talking with others, people can feel being surrounded; as a result, loneliness may fade away.

Besides that, one can get and share useful information with someone else in a talk. For example, I personally like to talk with people, and I often feel I can learn from others afterwards. After talking with a classmate at school three days ago, I learned that an instructor offers special lectures for people who want to develop a mobile app. I feel lucky that I talked with my classmate, and if I did not talk with her, I would never know such a class existed.

Conversations also help people express themselves and find others with similar interests. Talking with others can express different opinions and thoughts. Often times people can find others with similar opinions and interests while chatting. These people may become very good friends, and achieve the same goal together.

Knowing why we need conversations is an important leap, but how to make a conversation with others? I want to share what I learned from Malavika Varadan on TED Talks.

The first suggestion Varadan gives to start a conversation is saying the first word comes to your mind, and maybe just a simple “Hi.” Imagine you are at the first day of a quarter, and everyone seems to be a little shy. But you just walk up to someone waiting outside for the same class and say “Hi,” with a smile on your face, the result may be that you show the friendliness, and you may not be awkward anymore. The second thing is continuing the conversation, and do not let it hang in there. “Skip the small talk,” says Malavika Varadan, “and start asking some personal questions.” I found this point convincing: do not be afraid because you may make some meaningful connections with the person you talk with. You can ask any kinds of questions like “Where are you from?” and “Why are you taking this class?” for example. These questions may connect you with that person, and that will help develop a unique friendship.

“Find the me-toos.” Find some similar things you and someone else have in common. After doing that, you will feel that you and that person stand on the same side, and the conversation will become much easier. Another thing you can do is ask for opinions, and these opinions may not necessarily be something serious. Ask a question like “How do you like the coffee you bought from the school cafeteria?” And really listen to that person because you need to be present. You should not talk with someone on your phone and have a conversation with someone next to you at the same time. Be in just one conversation at the moment, and if you talk with someone in person, try to make eye contact because it means you care about them.

The above is what I learned from both my daily life and Varadan’s talk, and I want to encourage you to start having conversations and building connections with others because it will certainly open up a whole new world. I like Varadan’s analogy in her talk, “Having a conversation is like reading a book, so reach a book and open the first page, and start reading a new story!”