The Art of Conversation (What Conversation?)

Apr, 15, 2013

Do You Talk or Text?

Like many of the X generation, my sister and I shared three-course dinners with our parents nightly, and during that meal, we talked. My parents asked us questions such as: How was your day? Was your science test hard? How’s your friend Katina? These days, however, much communicating is nonverbal: texting, sexting, and everything-ing.

At home, does your family talk together, or do you read your e-mails on separate colorful tablets? The New York Times recently published a great piece entitled “The Flight from Conversation,” citing that “we’ve become accustomed to a new way of being ‘alone together.’ Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be.” How true. How convenient.

I can’t tell you how any times I’ve been out to dinner with my husband and have seen couples, young and old, on their phones throughout dinner. No one loves their smartphone more than I do, but at the dinner table while another person is present? That’s a big no-no. (And don’t leave your smartphone on the table, either. The table is reserved only for meal-related items.)

Herb Caen, the venerable three-dot columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, once wrote a column that I will never forget about joggers and walkers who never make eye contact with one another. What would he think of us today? Not only do we not make eye contact, we don’t talk. I’m glad I’m in my forties instead of my twenties, because I remember when conversation was an art.

Who doesn’t love their electronic gadgets? Of course they are brilliant at relaying information. But when we engage in electronic communication, it’s important to follow some basic e-etiquette rules.

1. Know your audience. Never send a text to someone you don’t know. That’s when you take pen to paper or actually speak on the phone.

2. Identity yourself. I receive many texts that I have to answer by texting back “Who is this? Then the sender seems offended that they are not in my address book.

3. As with phone calls, return e-mails and texts within 24 hours so the message is not lost.

4. Be specific. Get your questions across clearly, and hopefully you will get an answer back.

5. Never be accusatory on any electronic device, as it’s impossible to know what the other person is thinking.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (, certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on and

Follow Lisa Mirza Grotts on Twitter.[/author_info] [/author]

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