Linguistic Linguine: The Multi-Conversationalists

It wasn’t until about 10 years ago when my ears finally clued into the fact that most of the population has the talent to be able to hold multiple conversations at the same time. I cannot do this, and I may never be able to do this. In fact, I am a very strong proponent of having only one conversation at a time and to converse directly with another.

There seems to be two conversational styles which exist and maybe even a third. The first style is being able to intertwine a second conversation within the current conversation. If a person is speaking to another person, they may have another secondary topic they are addressing as they speak. The problem is, you may be very tuned into listening to the primary topic that they are speaking about, and devoting your entire attention to it, that you miss out on the second conversation, or may get it later. This is not much fun for the talented multi-speaker as they may not receive the satisfaction they desire for a response. However, it may be received later by the the one-level-of-conversation-at-a-time listener later in the day or weeks later as they recall what was said.

The second method, of talented conversationalists, is to be able to throw their conversation across the room in a discrete manner. Now I have seen someone who has been able to do this to 4-5 people at the same time. It was my 8-year old niece, in fact, at a Thanksgiving dinner. There is not an age limit to this and I’m not sure how people learn to do this, but it is useful. A person can speak below the volume level of the noise in the room using a normal voice level, or of a just slightly quieter tone, and speak to someone across the room. Ears up, most hear, and can speak back.

The third method is making references to situations or things which the listener must quickly interpret to understand what is trying to be communicated. While puzzles are fun, a person must be very quick to figure out what is meant. If not on the same wavelength, it could be hours later before they know what you were referring to. Some like to give other people “something to munch on” for later. If you are a conversationalist who does this and needs immediate gratification for your cleverness, this may not be the best method for those who need extra time to figure out what you are talking about.

While my ears have started to learn to be able hear better, I would stress that there are people like me out there who are not able to converse this way. If someone is not able to talk or listen in this way, it is always best to speak at the level of communication that can be understood. If a person continues to communicate in a way that cannot be understood, then it defeats the purpose of communication.

It’s how you phrase it.

—Clean Up Dallas with Culture and Kindness


Read more about communication styles…


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