Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Conversation Connoisseurs

Someone gave me the unexpected gift of a scintillating conversation on New Year's Eve. (Yes, I also did "fun" things like play Karaoke Revolution and Dance, Dance Revolution!) We got to chatting about why "good" conversations are so uncommon and about what makes a conversation a "good" one. As we talked we determined that most conversations are "chips and salsa conversations"—small talk that requires almost no preparation and very little knowledge of the other person. It spices up our lives a bit (depending, of course, on the brand of salsa) and the "chips" momentarily satisfy our hunger for social contact.

We decided that the second most common kind of conversations are "M&M conversations"—spontaneous, exchanges of banter that come in a variety of fun colors and flavors. Their candy-coating of fun tends to "melt in your mouth, not in your hands," but once you have ingested them and the delectable chocolate of playfulness that encases them dissolves, sometimes nothing else remains. Every once in awhile though, you may get lucky enough to find a tiny bit of substance (a.k.a. a peanut) at the core! Hence, their layered nature makes them a little more complex than "chips and salsa" conversations in many ways, and requires that the participants know one another to some extent (after all, some people are deathly allergic to peanuts!).

We termed the least common kind of conversations "lasagna conversations." These kinds of conversations consist of a wide variety of ingredients, demand quite a bit of preparation, and require a great deal of "cooking time" (i.e. it would be difficult to have such a conversation in the space of just a few minutes unless participants were to pre-cook some of the ingredients). When well-prepared, "lasagna conversations" are much more flavorful, nutritious, and satisfying than other conversations. However, many people avoid "making" such conversations because they are more expensive in that they require a greater investment of self, involve more effort, and require more skill. It takes both experience and practice to whip up a tasty one!

Gotta love lasagna (well, actually, I can think of a lot of other foods that I would prefer over lasagna, but for the sake of the metaphor . . . )!


Blonde said...

in my life...too much salsa, a few M&M's and no lasagna!

aKansasKid said...

Another slant on the seemingly lost art of conversation:

“Great minds discuss ideas, mediocre minds discuss events, small minds discuss personalities.” (Anonymous)

I found this and hundreds of other pithy comments on ideas and thought from great minds throughout history at

There are far too many good ones to note any favorites, but a small sampling includes:

“The limits of your language are the limits of your world.” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

“Little things affect little minds.” (Benjamin Disraeli)

“Cynicism is the intellectual cripple's substitute for intelligence.” (Russell Lynes)

Of course, tempering all this we have:

“A witty saying proves nothing.” (Voltaire)

“When ideas fail, words come in very handy.” (Goethe)

And for the rest of us:

“For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and big words Bother me.” (A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh)

Ok, two more…I like “Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.” And I think you’ll like “Imagination is intelligence having fun.”

Check the site out – good reading!

Cherice said...

I HATE it when I spend a lot of time on something and it disappears on me! So I'm trying ONE more time, knowing that it won't be as good as it was the first time!

Language teacher that I am, I enjoyed this quote: “The limits of your language are the limits of your world.” (Ludwig Wittgenstein) I find it to be true not only in terms of foreign languages, but also in terms of one's ability to use one's native language. There are some thoughts one just can't think, some concepts one just can't grasp, and some feelings one just can't express if one's vocabulary (and ability to string it together) isn't well-developed . . . but if it is, it can make for some scintillating conversations!

I liked this one:

“Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.” If the reading I am doing in grad school is any indication, there aren't very many geniuses who get PhDs! By contrast, I have some friends without them who do an amazing job of reducing complicated subjects (like math) to the point where I find myself thinking how simple they really are (and you don't have to know me well to know what a feat that is when it comes to me and math)!

My favorite from your list, however, was this one:

“Imagination is intelligence having fun.”

I am currently taking a course called "That Which Moves Us." (For more details, see the course website:

The course has given me the unique opportunity to ponder on a regular basis and from a variety of different perspectives the things that I find compelling (activities, associations with others, books, conversations, movies, natural phenomena, situations, etc.) and the reasons for that. One of the things that struck me about this quote is that many of the experiences that I find compelling appeal heavily to my imagination.

Well, I can't remember what else it was that I wanted to say, so . . .