Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Art of Conversation and Self-Expression - Betty E Norris

I found this book in an old collection of books in Pune and could not resist picking it up. Super old world stuff and I love the way they did it. This book was published in 1963 by DB Taraporevala Sons and Co Pvt ltd and was priced at Rs3.75. One of the many books on self-help in those days. Betty Norris does a thorough job of it as they did in the old days. For starters she puts conversations into brackets like business, professional, social, intellectual and friendly.

Then she puts across the principles of good conversation which are - clarity, brevity, simplicity, courtesy, tact, sincerity, originality and a pleasant tone. On subject matter she says one could talk of intellectual matters, literary, history, classical, scientific and religious and that it is best to be informed on all the above subjects to an extent that one could hold a conversation. However she cautions that one should know when and where to talk about these subjects

What I found the most interesting was this part - things to avoid if you want to have a good conversation. Very  valid even today! An unpleasant attitude, bad pronunciation, talking loudly, talking very softly, whispering, wild gesticulation, mannerisms, interruptions, inattention, slang and loose speech, correcting the speaker, useless criticism, repetition, monopolising, seeking prominence, personal opinions, giving advice unless sought, sensationalism, undue emphasis, hasty postiveness, extravagance, illogical stuff, inaccurate stuff, superficiality, being personal, pedantic, scandal, making excuses, making light promises. Covers it all.

She devotes one whole chapter to gossip - which we have learned is poison from 'The Four Agreements'.

There is a nice one on listening - don't finish sentences, provide words for the other person, be atrentive, be appreciative etc. One chapter on the importance of knowing the language. One chapter on elocution where she goes deeper into aspects like how to breathe right, pace, interpretation, style, inflection, modulation intensity etc. Rounds it off with a bunch of common idioms and mistakes.

What a lovely piece of work. Took me right back to the 60s - full of good intent. One can imagine the many members of society reading this book and benefiting form it. 

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