The Value of Making Conversation


Seven of us sat around a small table in a conference room. Our phones were put away in lockers. There was no television or other sound in the room, and we had to wait until we were called.

This was my jury duty experience.

The other six jurors and I looked at each other and smiled. It was certainly awkward at first. Soon, though, our conversation skills kicked in.

One person asked a question, and most responded or later added commentary. We had different backgrounds, ages, and cultures, yet we babbled with interest. We discussed attending local events, cooking meals, and even meeting celebrities.

Forty-five minutes went by. I was delighted and surprised at how refreshing it was not to have my phone in front of me as a disruption and distraction. These folks were quite interesting, and I was almost sad when our service ended.

Since then, I’ve been thinking about the value of conversation and how it’s vastly different for my family and those around me.

  • My 11-year-old daughter seems to have no problem talking to anyone and speaks her mind most days. She can have long conversations with friends, family, and most people.
  • My 15-year-old daughter says talking to other high school students is hard when she doesn’t know many people in her freshman classes. She has a few close friends but rarely picks up the phone to call or talk to others.
  • My husband misses his hour-long conversations with his dad several times per week, and now he and his father struggle to have a conversation. My father-in-law has vascular parkinsonism caused by several small strokes over the years. He has trouble articulating, finding words, and not repeating himself. He used to be a man of big words with plenty to say.
  • My mom, a retired teacher, talks enough for both of us in every phone call. It’s hard for me to get a word in sometimes. (Love you, Mom, but you know it’s true!)
  • My good friend’s mom is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, and her mother barely talks. My pal has commented that she would do anything to converse with her mom as she did in the early stages of the disease when her mom was first experiencing memory loss.

I tend to be a person who starts the conversation and asks more questions than shares about myself. That’s the inquisitor, interviewer, and writer in me. Other people are more interesting than me, so I don’t talk much about me unless asked.

But I’ll admit I love to make people laugh and smile, even complete strangers, during a conversation.

Recently I was in the grocery store talking to a friendly clerk. She shared that soft drinks were on sale. I replied that I no longer drink sodas but did a lot as a kid. I told her how my parents would try to limit my soda consumption to one per day but allowed me to drink sugary Kool-Aid all day long. (It was the 80s, you know!) We laughed about that. Then she roared when I said that I can’t stand Kool-Aid or soft drinks today and pretend they all taste like a colonoscopy prep drink. She cackled with laughter, tilting her head back. It was such a joy to witness. I smiled really big.

Hearing another person’s voice, seeing people smile, making connections, and having laughter are important to our health and well-being.

We realize that when we go without it or when someone leaves us, we can’t have that anymore.

Two friends laughing and being sillyI encourage you to talk to others as you go about your day and routine, even if it sometimes feels a bit out of your comfort zone or the conversation is one-sided. You can help teach your children how to have better conversations and practice with them. offers these tips for more meaningful conversation:
1. Ask questions.
2. Listen
3. Smile
4. Make eye contact (and put phones away).
5. Be curious.

We are social beings, so talking to trusted friends, loved ones, and new people is good for our souls.

It’s OK to feel awkward at times and for there to be pauses. A way to move past that is to compliment someone or ask a question about a movie, book, or song to break the tension. You can also try the FORD acronym method – ask about (F) family, (O) occupation, (R) recreation, or (D) dreams.

After a great conversation with another person, tell them how much you enjoyed it and want to do it more often. As a taxi mom these days, my sitting down and being still long enough for good conversations is rare. So I cherish them when I’m able to have them.

Even if you don’t have much to say, there’s nothing wrong with just reaching out to express gratitude or tell someone you love them.

Take note from singer and songwriter Stevie Wonder:

“I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.”

Now, go call a loved one or friend. Or make plans to do so later today. You won’t regret it.

Don’t underestimate how it can brighten their day and your own.


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