Conversation is Dying

In the last year I’ve noticed that the average person cannot carry a regular conversation anymore. 

I’ve always enjoyed talking to strangers and getting to know them and would consider myself a slightly above average conversationalist (I’m far from great at it, but I'm always working to improve).

In the last 12-18 months I've started to recognize a trend in most conversations for there to be long, awkward silences for seemingly no reason. Normally a lull in conversation indicates the conversation is over or it’s time to move on to something else. But in all of these scenarios the conversation was only one or two questions deep.

For the majority of the last year I just kept telling myself that it was me. Maybe I'm just that awkward? That's what I told myself as I assumed I was the problem. After all I can't fix other people, only myself. So I tried to have more conversations to improve my skills, but I kept encountering the same dynamic again and again.

In the last month or so I’ve realized that my conversation skills haven't deteriorated as I'd assumed.

I started to notice that the lulls in conversation always happen when I asked people questions about themselves.

That’s how I learned to hold conversations. I get to know the person and try to find something they're interested in or passionate about and then dig in. People love talking about themselves so if you can find something that gets them excited then, typically, 9 times out of 10 that will get the conversation flowing. That's worked for me for years.

It's less successful now than ever.

In the last month I recognized that when I have conversations with people they’re answering in one or two sentences and then they stop talking. They don't ask a follow up question of me. They don't offer any other details. Almost nothing for me to grab onto and run with to keep the conversation moving.

At first I didn’t recognize why there was a lull in the conversation and so many awkward pauses, but now that I’ve identified the pattern I see it everywhere.

People have started talking like they text. 1-2 sentences. Short, snappy. Rather than being in the moment and enjoying the conversation, their minds are miles away from the person in front of them. Like a text on your phone, it may demand your attention for a moment and then you’re swiping on to another app to scroll endlessly or play a game and get a rush.

I'm sure I'm guilty of this at times, but I actively try to mitigate that by seeking real, meaningful conversations with people.

A conversation doesn’t offer the instant gratification people seek so they zone out.

I don’t have a solution at this point other than trying to force more conversations. To lean into the awkwardness. Ask more questions and try to pull people out of their shells and into the moment.

What this does tell me is that if you can hold a fluent conversation right now, you’re above average and you have an opportunity to leverage that to your advantage.

Has anyone else noticed this trend? Do you think I'm crazy? Let me know in the comments!i