5 Movies That Offer a Master Class in Conversation

Character interactions have a lot to teach us about our own.

Considering how inherent it is to everyday life, conversation is an underdiscussed art. Being more thoughtful about how we talk to each other can yield powerful connections. I thought a lot about conversation when writing my memoir, No One You Know, which revolves around organic interactions with strangers. Sometimes, the conversation was stimulating, sometimes a drag, and occasionally, revelatory. When I think about what makes a fruitful conversation, besides drawing on experience, it’s been useful to consult a resource hiding in plain sight—movies. I’ve plumbed some of my favorites for enlightening clips and lessons and that are worth adding to the conversational tool belt. This is Part 1 of a 2 Part series.

Clip Wisdom: Offer perspective without shutting the other person down

At one point, Wally mentions that he’s become enamored with an electric blanket he’s received as a gift. Andre is wary of the way technology distorts human experience and perception, but he doesn’t put down Wally for using it, even as he compares an electric blanket to a lobotomy! Instead, he gently offers an alternative viewpoint. Disagreement is okay, even productive when handled with care. Good conversation thrives on divergent perspectives, so long as you offer up your idea in a manner that adds to the dialogue rather than focusing on shutting the other person down.

Clip Wisdom: Inject a sense of play

“It’s Q & A time,” Jesse says to Celine, before aping the voice of an old-timey interviewer.

Clip Wisdom: Know when to get on (and off) the boatmobile of any conversation

“So what do you think of my little vessel?” the eccentric driver asks Wiley about his boatmobile. “She’s what I call seeworthy. S-e-e — see with your eyes. I feel like my transport should be an extension of my personality. Voila!”

Clip Wisdom: Reflect on the boundaries of what you’re willing to share

Just because someone asks you about something, that doesn’t mean they’re entitled to an answer. By giving some (brief) thought to which topics may be out of bounds (with most people), it can let you more confidently navigate what otherwise could be a disconcerting moment if you’re asked about something personal. There are some things that are simply private or you may not ready to talk about and that’s okay! More than okay. It’s not for the other person to decide. Reveals should be on your own terms. If it’s a fragile topic you’re working up to talking about, one useful approach is to practice with someone you’re close with, like in the above surprising clip from the movie.

Clip Wisdom: Liberate yourself with a “lampshade”

“I’m starting to sweat. Stop sweating,” Charlie Kaufman (the character) thinks to himself during a studio meeting. “I’ve got to stop sweating. Can she see it dripping down my forehead? Ugh, she looked at my hairline. She thinks I’m bald.”

Debut book NO ONE YOU KNOW forthcoming May 2021 from Outpost19 | Founding Editor, True.Ink | Twitter: @jdschwartzman | Website: jdschwartzman.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store