What does it take to create a refreshing conversation?
It requires expression that is not routine, predictable, or stale.
(Which, unfortunately, describes many everyday conversations.)
Elements of Refreshing Conversation
Refreshing conversation is upbeat, with some new ingredients and perhaps some surprises, these expressed with positive energy, colorful words, and vitality. Such a conversation might also include the spices of wit and humor, a helping of good will. Certainly it has full attention among the conversers even though all parties to the conversation may not share equally in the talk. It's lively, attentive, and stimulating with fresh ideas expressed in a vibrant way.
Most conversations I observe tend to be routine, and those include conversations among good friends and relatives. It's pretty predictable stuff.
Then I think of the small child, rushing home from school to announce “Guess what we did in class today!” She goes on with a lively report about how Angie brought her pet snake to school for all to see, and the brave students were allowed to touch it. If the parent is eager and attentive and says “Wow! Tell me about it,” now that's a refreshing conversation!
Routine Talk is Dull
I contrast the above interchange with the predictable available talk with a grocery clerk (even when there is no line behind), who flatly mentions that “You saved $3.40 today” and “Have a good one” as we depart.
Break the Pattern
To refresh these conversations, I often make it my goal to “break the set” (the routine) by noticing something different, such as an award button on the clerk's uniform that says “15 years of service” or “Employee of the Month”. I comment on such items, usually asking a few questions, then give genuine congratulations to the clerk. In a few moments, our brief conversation is transformed.
Sometimes little bits of wit accomplish the refreshment, as in these examples, mostly done tongue-in-cheek:
I know the guy who invented imitation spaghetti. He's gonna call it “impasta.”
Or, borrowing from another wit, say something like
"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
--- Film director Billy Wilder
We become what we think about, and what we think about is usually what we listen to and read. Want more verbal spice and flavor? Read some contemporary poetry. Want challenging ideas? Listen to provocative, in-depth interviewers like Charlie Rose on PBS, or talks given at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco (often re-broadcast on public radio.) Also, spend time with colorful, vivacious people who have lots of interesting points of view. Their energy will rub off on you.
Above all, break out of predictable conversational routines. Then, when talking with others, take some detours, venture beyond the usual, be a bit contrarian.
That'll be refreshing!