How To Edit a (Live) Conversation
Acting like an editor will make your chats more dynamic.
As a magazine editor, part of my job is to cut away verbal fat. The boring parts, repetitions, whatever needs cutting. I’m also a student of compelling conversation (I wrote a book made of unusual and uncanny ones).
So I took note when I was increasingly getting marooned in frustrating chats, even when I thought the other person interesting and they thought I was interesting. Somehow we’d often find ourselves stuck talking about something neither of us cared about or something we talked about with every single person, frequently just going through the verbal motions, all the air time gobbled up with bland updates or something tired. Then I had a thought. What if I approached conversations with the lens of an editor?
It’s reductive to characterize small talk as the main and only villain since it can have a useful function as a warm-up or an easing in or a boundary setter , but it also norms conversation and leaves us beholden to the same old rules and systems, frequently inhibiting deeper, more searching dialogue. Here’s a few core tactics I’ve discovered for acting as an editor of your real-time conversations. The primary targets here are: connection, intimacy, and discovery.
1: Curate aggressively
I had Covid a little while ago and I kept making the mistake of saying so while catching up with friends. It was a tripwire. They want to show they care and pepper you with questions and then they tell you about how it was for them and how it was for this other person they know and how it was for their neighbor and then maybe you trade thoughts on tests and the faint line that is still a positive and what is your mask philosophy and round and round we go in this conversation I’ve had so many times before and our short time together is getting shorter. With a little editing, you can step over the tripwires and enter a conversation of your own making.
Another week or two went by and I made what felt like an unnatural move the next time I spoke to a friend and didn’t say I’d…