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Conversation

  • Eating without conversation is only stoking.

  • Her conversation was like a very light champagne, sparkling but not mounting to the brain.

  • If they were only free thinkers, but they are free speakers!

    • Natalie Clifford Barney,
    • "Scatterings" (1910), in Anna Livia, ed., A Perilous Advantage: The Best of Natalie Clifford Barney ()
  • To talk easily with people, you must firmly believe that either you or they are interesting. And even then it's not easy.

  • There is no reason why any one of us cannot become a good conversationalist.

  • All worthwhile conversation is based upon equality. Only those of poor taste and judgment try to prove themselves wittier or cleverer than others.

  • Politics and religion are dangerous subjects, for they may cause ill feeling even in the most cultivated company. Illness, death, and disaster are unpleasant, and consequently should be avoided.

  • Don't pass judgment upon yourself. People are not especially interested in what you think of your own character or personality.

  • Don't discuss domestic problems in a group made up chiefly of business people.

  • Don't talk about diseases, hospitals, ailments, and operations. Above all, don't talk about your own symptoms.

  • Don't tell a mixed company how clever your children are. Discuss your children only with friends who ask about them.

  • Apart from being a necessity, conversation is one of the greatest of social pleasures. Some of the most subtle enjoyments of life are derived from it.

  • At its scintillating best, conversation is a social game in which all can join, and at which all can score. It is a game that requires neither courts, links, nor other equipment. It is always in season, and will be popular as long as civilization itself endures.

  • Gushing seems to be our great national fault. We hear people gushing about the things they have done, and the things they intend to do—about the parties they have had, and the people they have met, and the opinions they have formed. We hear people gushing when they view a beautiful scene, or a work of art, not realizing that they are merely showing their enthusiasm—certainly not their appreciation. It takes time to form an opinion or judgment and to give an appreciation.

  • ... there are few better ways to cultivate one's own conversational powers than to become an interested and sympathetic listener. But it is not enough to remain silent while others are talking; that is not listening in any true sense. One must be manifestly attentive to the speaker, asking an occasional question, commenting upon what has been said. The good listener brings out the best in people. He is responsive. His eyes lights up occasionally with interest and pleasure. Not for an instant does he permit his attention to wander.

  • Never, never ask an author what he is going to write next, a painter what subject he is going to depict next. They most prefer talking about their past achievements.

  • This wasn't conversation. This was oral death ...

  • Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine.

  • Polite conversation is rarely either.

  • The opposite of talking isn't listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.

  • The conversational overachiever is someone whose grasp exceeds his reach. This is possible but not attractive.

  • ... the conversation whipped gaily around the table like rags in a high wind.

  • Listening to Britons dining out is like watching people play first-class tennis with imaginary balls.

  • It is always chilling, in friendly intercourse, to say you have no opinion to give.

  • One has to grow up with good talk in order to form the habit of it.

  • If one talks to more than four people, it is an audience; and one cannot really think or exchange thoughts with an audience.

  • ... good communication is stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.

  • It is not restful, it is not possible to talk wholeheartedly to more than one person at a time. You can't really talk with a person unless you surrender to them, for the moment (all other talk is futile). You can't surrender to more than one person a moment.

  • I do not like talking casually to people — it does not interest me — and most of them are unwilling to talk at all seriously.

  • ... most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness ...

  • Plenty of guys are good at sex, but conversation, now there's an art.

  • Beatrice cut her conversation as an inspired dressmaker cuts expensive materials without the need of a pattern. The shape was in her mind; and it was sometimes a little alarming to watch the ruthless decision with which Beatrice wielded her conversational shears.

  • The two best subjects for conversation are talking shop and making love.

  • We who officially value freedom of speech above life itself seem to have nothing to talk about but the weather.

  • Conversation was a kind of little flashlight, with which you explored caves you had never been in before. You never could guess, when you started, what you would find.

  • There was nobody who could talk so well to people they didn't know. The first half-hour you were with him made you think you'd discovered something, but all the other half-hours were a disillusionment.

  • She wanted to get away from herself, and conversation was the only means of escape that she knew.

  • Miss Bart had the gift of following an undercurrent of thought while she appeared to be sailing on the surface of conversation ...

  • Miss Corby's rôle was jocularity: she always entered the conversation with a handspring.

  • She took up the thread of her mild chat and carried it on at the same pace as her knitting. Her conversation resembled the large loose-stranded web between her fingers: now and then she dropped a stitch, and went on regardless of the gap in the pattern.

  • ... with Mrs. Fairford conversation seemed to be a concert and not a solo. She kept drawing in the others, giving each a turn, beating time for them with her smile, and somehow harmonizing and linking together what they said.

  • A self-taught conversationalist, his style with new acquaintances had the immediate warmth of an investigative journalist tracking down discrepancies in a municipal budget.

  • ... the delicacy that respects a friend's silence is one of the charms of life.

  • Remember my unalterable maxim, where we love, we have always something to say ...

  • ... talking too much is a far greater social fault than talking too little.

  • The words a man speaks are always more comforting than the words he hears.

  • The conversation of two people remembering, if the memory is enjoyable to both, rocks on like music or lovemaking. There is a rhythm and a predictability to it that each anticipates and relishes.

  • I have one gift that I know of, and I am a little proud of it. It is that of making people talk — at least, of making some people talk. My dear Lady Cloncurry says that it is like the art of driving a hoop, — that I give a little touch now and then, and my victim rolls on and on. But my people who pour forth to me are not my victims, for I love to hear them talk and they take pleasure in it ...

    • Margaret Oliphant,
    • in Mrs. Harry Coghill, ed., The Autobiography and Letters of Mrs. M.O.W. Oliphant ()
  • ... I abhor all kinds of shams and deceitfulness. ... Though once in a while when I have particuler company, and my cookin' turns out bad, I kinder turn the conversation on to the sufferin's of our four fathers in the Revolution, how they eat their kat ridge boxes and shoe leather. It don't do us no hurt to remember their sufferin's, and after talkin' about eatin' shoe leather most any kind of cake seems tender.

  • 'My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.' 'You are mistaken,' said he gently, 'that is not good company, that is the best.'

  • ... from politics it was an easy step to silence.

  • In meeting again after a separation, acquaintances ask after our outward life, friends after our inner life.

  • Conversation in its happiest development is a link, equally exquisite and adequate, between mind and mind, a system by which men approach one another with sympathy and enjoyment, a field for the finest amenities of civilization, for the keenest and most intelligent display of social activity. It is also our solace, our inspiration, and our most rational pleasure. It is a duty we owe to one another; it is our common debt to humanity.

  • It is not what we learn in conversation that enriches us. It is the elation that comes of swift contact with tingling currents of thought. It is the opening of our mental pores, and the stimulus of marshaling our ideas in words, of setting them forth as gallantly and as graciously as we can.

  • A man who listens because he has nothing to say can hardly be a source of inspiration. The only listening that counts is that of the talker who alternately absorbs and expresses ideas.

  • The choice of a topic which will bear analysis and support enthusiasm, is essential to the enjoyment of conversation.

  • If everybody floated with the tide of talk, placidity would soon end in stagnation. It is the strong backward stroke which stirs the ripples, and gives animation and variety.

  • We owe to one another all the wit and good humour we can command; and nothing so clears our mental vistas as sympathetic and intelligent conversation.

  • ... her ideas were so correct that it was sometimes difficult for her to make conversation. Talking must be easier and topics more plentiful, she imagined, when one is slightly unsound either in one's mind or in one's opinions.

  • Everybody knows that really intimate conversation is only possible between two or three. As soon as there are six or seven, collective language begins to dominate. That is why it is a complete misinterpretation to apply to the Church the words 'Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' Christ did not say two hundred, or fifty, or ten. He said two or three.

  • All my life I've been looking for someone intelligent to talk to.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • 1973, in David Rieff, ed., As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh ()
  • Tallulah [Bankhead] was sitting in a group of people, giving the monologue she always thought was conversation.

  • To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but a more animated and an audible thinking.

  • Click, clack, click, clack, went their conversation, like so many knitting-needles, purl, plain, purl, plain, achieving a complex pattern of references, cross-references, Christian names, nicknames, and fleeting allusions ...

  • There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all.

    • Rebecca West,
    • "There Is No Conversation," The Harsh Voice ()
  • The one prediction that never comes true is, 'You'll thank me for telling you this.'

  • Smart people duck when they hear the dread announcement 'I'm going to be perfectly honest with you.'

  • ... conversation is like a dear little baby that is brought in to be handed round. You must rock it, nurse it, keep it on the move if you want it to keep smiling.

  • 'Ha-ha,' said Sir Mark. 'Hum. Very good, yes, ha-ha!' Thumbs under his lapels he looked, however, rather anxiously round the room. Conversation with someone at whose joke you have heartily laughed without seeing the point is apt to become precarious.

  • ... the modes of speech are scarcely more variable than the modes of silence.

    • Hannah More,
    • "Thoughts on Conversation," Essays on Various Subjects ()
  • ... silence is one of the great arts of conversation ...

    • Hannah More,
    • "Thoughts on Conversation," Essays on Various Subjects ()
  • ... when these incorrigible talkers are compelled to be quiet, is it not evident that they are not silent because they are listening to what is said, but because they are thinking of what they themselves shall say when they can seize the first lucky interval, for which they are so narrowly watching?

    • Hannah More,
    • "Conversation," Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education ()
  • ... he was impelled, by the fatality that hangs over people who have struck a false note, to strike it yet more loudly.

  • A nice thing about the man was his way of drawing out the best things she had to say and in a way which made her pleased with herself for having said them.

  • A favorite strategy was the paragraph-terminating: Right? Followed immediately by Wrong. This linear invitation to a mugging was considered a strategy of wit.

  • Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.

  • Good conversation can leave you more exhilarated than alcohol; more refreshed than the theater or a concert. It can bring you entertainment and pleasure; it can help you get ahead, solve problems, spark the imagination of others. It can increase your knowledge and education. It can erase misunderstandings, and bring you closer to those you love.

  • Why is it that the people with whom one loves to be silent are also the very ones with whom one loves to talk?

  • All social change starts with a conversation.

  • Nothing has given me more hope recently than to observe how simple conversations give birth to actions that can change lives and restore our faith in the future. There is no more powerful way to initiate significant social change than to start a conversation. When a group of people discover that they share a common concern, that's when the process of change begins.

  • Life doesn't move in straight lines, and neither does a good conversation.

  • ... their conversations were a mined field in which at any moment she might make the wrong verbal move and find her ignorance exploding in her face.

  • People who relate what they believe to be new and startling information like to have such information received with exclamations of astonishment and admiration.

  • All really frank people are amusing, and would remain so if they could remember that other people may sometimes want to be frank and amusing too.

  • ... Harry drowned his sorrows in talk, as other men drown theirs in wine, or in sport, or in taking some violent step. He intoxicated and soothed himself with conversation.

  • ... politics ... is the hottest, most dangerous subject in the land. It's not only a conversation-wrecker, it's a friendship-wrecker, a family-wrecker, a job-wrecker, a future-wrecker.

  • Don't confuse being stimulating with being blunt ...

  • A conversation isn't a competition.

  • She had learnt ... that it was impossible to discuss issues civilly with a person who insisted on referring to himself as 'we.'

  • Their civil discussions weren't interesting, and their interesting discussions weren't civil.

  • [Alice Roosevelt Longworth] listens with her whole personality, and she makes everybody feel that he is much more brilliant than he is. In the elation of that feeling, he sometimes really is more brilliant than he is.

  • There is no arena in which vanity displays itself under such a variety of forms as in conversation.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in R.R. Madden, The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, vol. 1 ()
  • Each person's life is lived as a series of conversations.

  • All conversation, in addition to whatever else it does, displays, and asks for recognition of, our competence.

  • He has a very pretty kind of conversation; 'tis like a parenthesis. ... Yes, it might be all left out, and never missed.

  • Wherever conversation's flowing, / Why must I feel it falls on me / To keep things going?

  • Conversation is the wall we build between ourselves and other people, too often with tired words like used and broken bottles which, catching the sunlight as they lie embedded in the wall, are mistaken for jewels.

  • It is almost axiomatic that the best conversationalist is really the best listener.

  • ... while games and other amusements may serve for a temporary variety (always excepting games known as 'kissing-games,' which should be promptly tabooed and denounced, and ever will be in truly refined society), yet animated and intelligent conversation must always hold the first place in the list of the pleasures of any refined society circle.

  • Conversation with Albert was instructive rather than entertaining ... a mine of information produced in such a manner as to rob it of any possible spark of interest.

  • Once someone like her got a leg in the conversation, she would be all over it.

  • Conversation takes practice; the more we do it, the better we get, and the more easily we do it.

  • In no time the conversation was leaping like canoes with the tide.

  • ... the aim of conversation is the exchange of ideas, not the assertion of them.

  • Good conversation not only stirs ideas and the exchange of ideas, but it gives two persons a more vivid impression of each other.

  • Whether in private conversation or in a group — if you are doing all the talking, you are boring somebody!

  • ... they were large ladies of great presence and vast dignity. Ladies in hairnets. Ladies with both slippers on the floor. ... Sitting abreast in strings of three or four, they leaned to speak, to listen, and to nod their heads emphatically at one another. They agreed, they said. Only too true, they were afraid. No question about it, no two ways of looking at it. That much is certain. The fact is. Without a doubt.

  • She never lets ideas interrupt the easy flow of her conversation.

  • She was a woman well-skilled in the art of dinner table dialogue, devoting half her time to the right, the other to the left, and throwing a remark right down the center whenever she deemed it appropriate.

  • His conversation was marked by its happy abundance.

  • Conversation is a form of play, and, like any play, it is give-and-take. Turn it into a lecture or a solo performance — and you lose!

  • She did not talk to people as if they were strange hard shells she had to crack open to get inside. She talked as if she were already in the shell. In their very shell.

    • Marita Bonner,
    • "Nothing New" (1926), Frye Street and Environs ()
  • It was the most brilliant exhibition of conversational weight lifting that Irene had ever seen.

    • Nella Larsen,
    • "Passing" (1929), An Intimation of Things Distant ()
  • Grace ... was famous for her ability to carry on a conversation without any specific knowledge of what she was talking about.

  • ... Mrs. Litcher conducted a monologue with the skill of a veteran conversationalist ably equipped to anticipate and fend off all interruptions.

  • Conversation may be compared to a lyre with seven chords — philosophy, art, poetry, politics, love, scandal, and the weather.

    • Anna Jameson,
    • "Conversations," Visits and Sketches at Home and Abroad ()
  • ... those that now remain'd were all of them either People of real Wisdom, or had Wit sufficient to enable them to conceal that Deficiency ...

    • Eliza Haywood,
    • "The Tea-Table: or, A Conversation Between Some Polite Persons of Both Sexes" (1725), in Alexander Pettit et al., eds, Fantomina and Other Works ()
  • She was big on eye contact; a conversation without it was, for her, like driving without headlights.

  • If a person begins by telling you, 'Do not be offended at what I am going to say,' prepare yourself for something that she knows will certainly offend you.

  • Conversation's got to have some root in the past, or else you've got to explain every remark you make, an' it wears a person out.

  • ... my friends plunged into a borderless sea of reminiscences and personal news.

  • Talking to you is only thinking to myself — made easier.

  • She handles a conversation like the only runner in a potato race. She offers you the potato and before you can take it she's turned and rushed off with it again herself.

  • Craddock thinks a conversation consists of him talking and everybody else nodding.

  • And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside.

  • How often one talks not to hear what the other person has got to say, but to hear what one has got to say oneself!

    • Mary E. Coleridge,
    • 1891, in Theresa Whistler, ed., The Collected Poems of Mary Coleridge ()
  • ... talking to Maurizio was like playing a slot machine. ... Suddenly, unpredictably, he would spew out words.

  • ... he knew how to hold a conversation in the proper way — a way which is like an old lane, wandering from cottage to cottage and farm to farm, down to the stream and up the hill and down to the stream again, and not apparently going anywhere in particular, but getting there safely in the end.

  • ... English tradition debars from dinner-table conversation almost all topics that might interest the conversers and insists upon strict adherence to banalities.

  • With the children she was strict and with the adults chatty, contributing her remarks to the conversation as if they had been large, heavy stones.

  • ... the conversation seemed to have entered one of those vicious circles to which only the death or collapse from exhaustion of one of the participants can put an end.

  • Humans abhor a vacuum. The immediate filling of a vacuum is one of the basic functions of speech. Meaningless conversations are no less important in our lives than meaningful ones.

    • Lidia Ginzburg,
    • "The Siege of Leningrad," in Soviet Women Writing ()
  • ... he was, conversationally, a born elephant.

  • ... she leaned toward me the way people do when they want an idea to penetrate your resistance. As though the closer they get their own brain to your brain, the easier it will be for the idea to leap across.

  • On the whole, and providing one is in good spirits and feeling reasonably bright, it is not hard to converse for a short space of time on subjects about which one knows little, and it is indeed often amusing to see how cunningly one can steer the conversational barque, hoisting and lowering her sails, tacking this way and that to avoid reefs, and finally racing feverishly for home with the outboard engine making a loud and cheerful noise.

  • It was possible to talk to Agatha and read simultaneously.

  • Ideal conversation must be an exchange of thought, and not, as many of those who worry most about their shortcomings believe, an eloquent exhibition of wit or oratory.

  • [On Thomas Babington Macaulay:] He was a most disagreeable companion to my fancy ... His conversation was a procession of one.

  • Your conversation is a spring that never fails, never overflows.

    • Mary Russell Mitford,
    • 1854, in Henry Chorley, ed., Letters of Mary Russell Mitford, 2nd series, vol. 2 ()
  • A gossip is one who talks to you about others; a bore is one who talks to you about himself; and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself.

    • Lisa Kirk,
    • in New York Journal-American ()
  • ... she had learned ... the value of silences in an important conversation, and the art of not weakening a statement by a postscript.

  • Every one has his or her style of conversation, just as all authors have their own peculiar style of writing. Mrs. Baxter, for example, delighted in iteration; she had a habit of taking a particular word and working it to death.

  • Not every conversation changes your life, but any conversation can.

  • ... Lord Beaconsfield in his later years talked little when in society — men of his stamp, although they possess the gold of conversation, seldom have its small change.

  • ... conversation is now pretty well a lost art.

  • The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but, far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

  • He left the conversation to his wife, a burden she had evidently borne lightly and with enjoyment for years.

  • ... she will not be interrupted. Break into her train of thought, and she simply starts over. From the top. It is like trying to hold a conversation with a cassette.

  • ... she had the habit into which your poor conversationalists usually fall, namely, asking questions. I know nothing more disagreeable that does not absolutely shock one's principles, than to be subjected to the society of a questioner.

  • ... I tried the plan of talking incessantly myself, so as to hide the fact I didn't hear anything they said, the result was nobody paid the slightest attention to my (doubtless brilliant) remarks ...

    • Susan Hale,
    • letter (1907), in Caroline P. Atkinson, ed., Letters of Susan Hale ()
  • Miss Rickerby-Carrick flapped into the conversation like a wet sheet.

  • ... she was ... never known to finish a sentence. She always got lost in the thickets of secondary thoughts that sprang up round her simple remarks ...

  • The conversation seemed just as boring and forgettable as details of American history around 1805, for example.

  • Isn't it boring ... how people always want to tell you their own stories instead of listening to yours? I suppose that's why psychiatrists are better than friends; the paid listener doesn't interrupt with his own experiences.

  • She talked fast, as if conversation cost money.

  • ... let dullness have its due: and remember that if life and conversation are happily compared to a bowl of punch, there must be more water in it than spirit, acid, or sugar.

    • Hester Lynch Piozzi,
    • 1817, in A. Hayward, ed., Autobiography, Letters, and Literary Remains of Mrs. Piozzi (Thrale), vol. 2 ()
  • [Samuel] Johnson's conversation was by much too strong for a person accustomed to obsequiousness and flattery; it was mustard in a young child's mouth!

  • ... he's seen so many plays he uses dialogue instead of conversation.

  • Anything that begins 'I don't know how to tell you this' is never good news.

    • Ruth Gordon,
    • in John Robert Colombo, Popcorn in Paradise ()
  • The art of conversation consists in the exercise of two fine qualities. You must originate, and you must sympathize; you must possess at the same time the habit of communicating and of listening attentively.

  • [She] held conversational reins tight in her hands.

  • When somebody says, 'I hope you won't mind my telling you this,' it's pretty certain that you will.

  • If you happen to find it hard to have sustained conversations, try keeping your voice up at the end of the sentence. There is a charming graciousness in doing so, for it seems to say that you do not think your remarks are the last words to be said on the subject. It prevents you from seeming opinionated. How men dislike an opinionated woman! No one really likes her! To keep your voice up sounds as though you are interested in other people's ideas. The subject is still open!

  • Probably one of the reasons why gushing is so unattractive is that it leaves nothing for the listener to do.

  • Conversation is much like a tennis game except that in tennis you try to put the ball in the most difficult position for the one who must hit it — while in conversation you must try to put it where it will be easy to hit.

  • Our talk began with luncheon, reached a climax at tea, and by dinner we were staggering with it. By five o'clock in the morning we were unconscious but still talking.

  • Many a pair of curious ears had been lured by that well-timed pause.

  • Being interested is more important than being interesting.

  • [On the British Museum:] It was manifestly impossible to read all the books in that huge, gloomy structure, but I made a good try and accumulated a fund of useless information guaranteed to cast a pall over any dinner table.

  • A conversation that begins 'this will only take a second' usually lasts two hours.

    • Debbie Dingerson,
    • in Lisa Cofield, Debbie Dingerson, and Leah Rush, Mrs. Murphy's Laws ()
  • ... his conversational ore ran in seams and a recent outcropping was always the best promise of more.

  • Someone has said that conversation is sex for the soul.

  • Ah, good conversation — there’s nothing like it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.

  • It was certainly easy making conversation with this woman. You didn’t even have to know the native tongue.

  • Conversation requires a balance between talking and listening. Somewhere along the way, we lost that balance.

  • There is no belief so strong that it cannot be set aside temporarily in order to learn from someone who disagrees. Don’t worry; your beliefs will still be there when you’re done.

  • Never start a sentence with the words 'No offense.'