Forced vs natural conversation. Meaningful vs small talk conversations

This subject is really starting to interest me. Why is it that some conversations feel forced and some natural? Why do some strike me as meaningful and some are just empty? Are there any good books on the psychology of conversation and why some conversations are meaningful and natural while others are empty and forced? Do they go into detail about the psychology of both and how to find/carry out one while avoiding the other?

Like today, two jehovah’s witnesses were talking to me. They asked what i was listening to on my CC player as an opener to start a conversation about God and I told them I was listening to System Of a Down. That felt like forced and unnatural conversation, and the opposite of the kind of conversation that i would have with a friend. Does anyone know why? Is it because he is a stranger or because we don’t share common interests? Had a friend asked me what i was listening to it wouldn’t have struck me as forced. Had he built up his similiarities with me would it have not bothered me as much (i dont think it would’ve)?

It’s all about non-verbal communication. A friend who asks what you’re listening to is going to have a certain tone of voice, posture, etc. That’s what makes it feel natural.

I think conversations that feel forced are the ones that are not mutual – that is, both parties aren’t interested in communicating. And, because we humans communicate largely via conversations, it’s a given that not all of them will be mutual. Like with your LDS folks: you weren’t interested in talking with them (for whatever reason), so when they attempted to start a conversation it felt unnatural (and you could probably also tell that they had an ulterior motive). If a complete stranger started talking with you but you didn’t mind, the conversation would be more natural…until/unless you didn’t want to talk with them anymore, at which time the conversation would start to feel strained.

I’m not a shrink or anything, but I don’t think there’s anything deeper going on here…unless I’ve misunderstood your question? :slight_smile:

Um, yeah. What ultrafilter said, too.


(but not instead of what I said)

Well actually I was interested in talking to them. They walked by and said ‘hi’ to everyone so i said ‘hi’ back and started a question. It just felt forced how they looked for excuses to socialize like asking what bus i was waiting for or what CD i was listening to.

Maybe it was their motive that made me uncomfortable. Their goal was to convert me to a religion i dont want to join. Maybe it was because we are different people on a variety of levels. Maybe it was something else, im not sure.

Commonality is another huge factor though. I have read alot of amateur psychology and having something in common (same major, same outlook, same experiences, etc) make socializing easier. Maybe the fact that they were not only total strangers (so i didnt know where they stood) but that they were religious christian strangers (i am an agnostic who doesn’t want to be converted) made us even more opposed.

Had the guy not been dressed as a jehovahs witness and said he liked System of a down and knew alot about their music and other music I liked I would’ve been more comfortable I think.