French people enjoy a high level of discussion, so I’ve heard and read (Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow).
Yes, the French care about your opinions and why you feel a certain way, but what truly interests them is how you express yourself. Eloquence it turns out is of prime importance.
Conversation for the French, is more about proving you have something interesting to say.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the quality of the conversations we’ve all been having such as the ones I hear going on around me, follow on social media and so on.
There’s a call for us to be more vulnerable, to reveal everything, every thought, every experience with one another in the hope that the person we’re addressing will relate to us, will find a common bond, will admire our authenticity. Often I’ll see a comment on someone’s site that says, “Oh, (insert name), you seem so real!”
Personally, I would like us all to do less sharing of our private lives. It’s nice to gather with friends and let it all hang out or unburden ourselves or expose our secrets, but’s let’s reflect on what’s in it for us when we do that.
Are we truly bonding with someone? Are we truly being real? Are we sharing selective bits of information for a particular purpose? Is it a way to reduce stress, to impress someone, relieve guilt or assuage one’s loneliness? Think for a moment about your reason for sharing so much information. Are we creating an intimate conversation or perhaps alienating others (unknowingly) with a tell-all of our pains and pleasures?
We each have our limits.
Instead, I’d like to see more thoughtfulness, more thinking before we speak. There’s too much drivel to be found online, on TV and in the news. What I’d like is for us women to turn our thoughts to more uplifting and/or meaningful topics to be discussed.
Like what, you ask?
Okay, here’s an example. #MeToo. You can’t miss this topic; it’s everywhere. When I go to my local CVS, there’s a check-out guy (I’d say he’s in his fifties) who regularly calls me “honey” or “dear.” You can be certain he doesn’t address a man this way.
I don’t like it and have considered saying something but then I think, he’s from a generation where this is acceptable; it’s what men do. He’s trying to be friendly (he goes out of his way to be helpful). And my reaction, though I don’t like his terms of endearment, is that I don’t want to upset him?, anger him?, hurt his feelings? – and so yes, I wind up making excuses for both his behavior and mine.
Since I’m a #MeToo gal and have experienced my share of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior directed toward me, I know that making excuses, not speaking up due to fear, reprisal, naiveté, shame or what have you are responses and thoughts that run through a woman’s mind.
After all, we women don’t particularly like confrontations.
So then … How do we change our thoughts so that we become bolder and more empowered? Why do we have these fears, why do we want to make ourselves invisible and unheard? How will all this affect younger generations of women? What does it mean to say what you feel? What can we do about it all? Where do we start to make changes? And When?
These questions are being discussed much more now (finally) online and in other media circles, but I want to have them with my friends and family. I want a deeper conversation and on a more personal level. I want to improve the quality of conversations that exist in my own social sphere.
Perhaps you do, too.
French people have an approach to conversation that’s deliberately confrontational and argumentative. It’s all part of raising the conversation to a higher level.
While I find that interesting and useful on occasion, is it not possible to achieve a higher level of discourse with an approach that values privacy, reflection, retaining an open mind and engaging in more peaceful encounters?
Wouldn’t you much prefer to talk about matters where your thinking is crucial than indulging in meaningless chitchat?
Yes, I know, we women are known to gossip.
But for the French, it’s more important to express an opinion about something than someone.
And gossip is another form of too much information. What is the purpose of talking about someone when the object of discussion isn’t there to participate in the dialog? Shouldn’t we speak up and let the offender know that we’d rather the conversation ended than sink to gossiping?
French people believe that rhetoric, eloquence, precision of language and esprit (enthusiasm, an active mind, and wit or cleverness) are the hallmarks of a well-spoken person.
So … can we learn to be more eloquent?
According to dictionary.com, eloquence is defined as:
1. Ease in using language to best effect
2. Powerful and effective language
3. The quality of being persuasive or moving
French children are taught from an early age to present an idea, explain possible objections to it and sum up their conclusions.
Yes, we can learn to be more eloquent. You can check here for some answers to the question of how.
The New Year is right around the corner. Perhaps we can all work at making our conversations resemble more French talk: by focusing on how we express ourselves, focusing less on inconsequential subjects and indulging in more interesting, absorbing and higher-quality conversations.
Of course there’s a place for light banter and girl talk, but let’s make this the year we take a long hard look at the art of discourse and strive to uplevel our conversations.
Please comment below, and let us know if you’re satisfied with the conversations you’ve been having with others. Do you believe there’s a way to improve the level of your discourse? What would you change if you could? As always, we’d love to hear from you.