8 Reasons You’re Terrible at Conversation

I recently had a conversation with Hugh Silver about why people might be terrible at conversation. The following list isn’t comprehensive, and I don’t know how many apply to you. (I won’t say how many apply to me or to Hugh.) Be forewarned, we brainstormed this in the manor’s conservatory at two in the morning, when we were both exhausted and a bit creeped out by the shadows of the plants in the moonlight. Here goes…

If conversation is an art, some people can fill a canvas with delicate chiaroscuro and angels clothed in lapis lazuli. Others can fill a piece of construction paper with elbow macaroni, glitter and nosebleed drippings.

Even if conversation isn’t an art, or you think that bloody macaroni-covered construction paper can be art (Capillary Red # 4 at the Merriwether A. Rackett Modern Art Museum), maybe this list will give you some insights and directions to consider if you want to improve your conversational skills. Or maybe you don’t want to improve anything, and you will grunt if you need to get your point across to anyone.

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In which Hugh struggles with futility

If there’s a dominant feeling in Hugh’s life now, it’s futility. He had at one point a successful career in finance, felt that his success qualified him to speak about success more generally and become a life coach. He imagined himself a famous motivational speaker, with best-selling self-help books, seminars, crowds of admirers.

And he struggled for years, drained his savings, and took to drink.

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Kilter Street Profiles: Hugh Silver

Hugh Silver, of apartment 3b, is the “Neuro Guru.” Or at least he was, years ago.

Origins and Appearance

He’s middle-aged and has a pale, tired look to him, though he’s in good shape overall. He wears a mustard yellow sweatband on his head, and his salt-and-pepper hair sticks out over it. His eyes are blue-gray and watery; sometimes they’re bloodshot.

Why is he nicknamed the “Neuro Guru?” Years ago, he had worked as a motivational speaker or a life coach, using the secrets of the brain to give people tips about happiness and success.

That isn’t his job anymore. I know that he works at least part time at the Museum of Mental Maladies as a tour guide.

Impressions of His Character

He struggles with futility
His 8 good reasons for living