The Art Of Conversation

This is Part One of The Emily Post 12th Edition Etiquette Series.

What can this young believer, wife, and mother take away from the words written or edited over 40 years ago?  How can I take these tips and techniques and fit them into my life, or do they even fit at all?

Part One, The Art Of Conversation

Introductions, Greetings, and Farewells

There are always reasons for why we do the things we do.  Why do we say “Hello”?  Why do we nod or remove our hat?  Why don’t we yell someone’s name across a quiet room when we see them?  And does it matter if someone stands first, says “Hello” first, or limply shakes your hand?

According to Emily Post there are three unbreakable rules of introduction.  The first is that the younger person is presented to the older.  The second is that a gentleman is always presented to a lady.  And the third is that a woman can be presented to a man if he is the president, a royal, cardinal, or other church dignitary. 

These are all ways to show respect in a quiet manner.  And I see the value in respecting others from the very beginning.  But does one notice this anymore as a sign of respect?  I think I will need to watch people greet one another and see.

Avoid using “my friend”.  It implies that the other person is not your friend. (“Sally, this is my friend Amber.”)

I can see the merit in this.  I have never thought much about it, but some might be sensitive to this type of introduction and if we can, I can see why we should try to not hurt those who would be insulted in this situation.  If you realize too late that you have introduced someone in this manner, maybe follow it up with “I am so glad two of my friends finally get to meet.  I bet you will get along great!”

Some people dislike being asked their name.  If it does not come up naturally, ask someone else who might know.

I have never thought of this.  I am usually quite frank in asking someone their name, as I feel it isn’t very secret.  I guess there are people out there who might feel this way?  But then again, if they dislike someone asking for privacy reasons, I would think that they would dislike it more if a stranger came up to them who already knew their name.  Am I off on this?

“The habit that causes most unintended rudeness is absentmindedness.-Emily Post

And I believe this is truly what it comes down to.  Being aware of who you are meeting- if they seem delighted by your introduction or feel unnaturally pressured to be social.  It is about making the other person feel comfortable in your presence.

Words And How We Use Them

“No one “arises” or “retires” or “resides” in a “residence” One gets up, takes a bath, goes to bed, and lives in a house.  In other words, everything that is simple and direct is better form than the cumbersome and pretentious.” -Emily Post

This really hits the nail on the head with etiquette and wording.  It is about being social, conversing, and getting to know another individual.  The best way is to use proper English, not because it is proper and that means fancy/haughty/pretentious, but because it is the best way to share an idea, encouragement, or testimony.  If we truly want to be understood, we must speak so that the other person can follow and enjoy what we are saying.  We should not be speaking to hear our own voice, but so that the other person can connect with us.

Emily Post also recommends reading Rebecca West and Winston Churchill since they are in her mind “outstanding sources of flawless English”.  She recommends reading out loud to learn correct pronunciation, so that in conversing you will not be hard to follow.  Pitch is also discussed as highly important, so that your voice is soothing and easy to listen to if the conversation or story goes on for awhile.

The Good Conversationalist

This part really brings it all together, stating that “If you dread meeting strangers remember that most conversational errors are committed not by those who talk too little but by those that talk too much.”.

In being an aware conversationalist, remember to stop, look, and listen when conversing with someone. Stop yourself from continuously talking, and take breaks to look at your conversation partner, watching for clues to see if they are wanting to change the subject or walk away.  Listen as well to what they say and how they say it- they may not be as interested as you first thought, yet continue to nod politely to your story.

If you are able to listen with an open mind, you may safely speak on any topic.

Listening with an open mind does not mean agreeing, but it does allow the conversation to happen.  If the goal is really to converse with someone and learn more about them, you should give them the open floor to say their peace.  If all goes well, you will get your chance to share after.

“Remember to be a sympathetic listener.  The person who is eager for your news or enthralled with your conversation, who gives you spontaneous and undivided attention, is the one to whom you would rather talk than any other.” -Emily Post

I have to agree. Who doesn’t like someone who listens well?  And not only that, but is truly engaged in the conversation?  But it is a two-way street.  We must be sympathetic listeners and aware speakers. It not only shows the respect we have for the other person, but it opens up doors for great, meaningful conversations filled with truth.  We know when we are being treated well.  We can tell if someone likes our company.  Why not give others those great feelings while conversing, so that they will feel free to open their minds and hearts in conversation and let truth be spoken in the end.


(There were 2 chapters that I did not cover due to lack of content, Names and Titles and Public Speaking.  All quotes from the 12th edition.)



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2 responses to “The Art Of Conversation

  1. Rebecca

    Very good points. I did write a few things down to try to remember. Keep the lessons coming. They are helpful and short enough to read quickly and easily. Thank You.

  2. I think the quote “Busyness is the killer of kindness” —Adrian Rogers
    .(at least that is who I heard say it)….relates much to conversation these days. We are usually as polite as we perceive we have the “time” to be.


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