IQ-tips timewarp trip: Conversation


If you missed the previous installments, we're on an IQ-tips timewarp trip this week, dipping into Amy Vanderbilt's classic book from the 1950s, The Complete Book of Etiquette, looking at her chapter on Home Entertaining.

Yesterday we looked at her tips on Ice Breakers. So here's what she has to say on the art of conversation, assuming, of course, you've successfully broken the ice:

The talk-talk kind of conversation does little but fill time better left unfilled. The chatterbox, usually feminine, rattles on very often because she is really ill at ease socially and in this way tries to make herself felt. In conversation it is not really necessary to have a ready opinion on everything. On the contrary, good conversation develops opinions and this depends on an ability to listen as well as to express oneself. An ability to converse comes with general social ease. The relaxed person, comfortable in his surroundings, is able to parry the conversational ball with little assistance. He should be himself and not try to fit his conversation in some stilted way to the company. If he finds himself well beyond his intellectual depth, he can be an alert listener and he can ask a question now and then. A hostess should never try too hard to get her party going. If she relaxes and lets her guest become acquainted, general and group conversation will normally develop. I know one hostess who carried clenched, in one hand, a little black notebook containing the tag lines of what she deemed appropriate stories. Whenever a lull came in conversation, she would leaf nervously through it and come up with a story. She succeeded only in make her ineptness as a hostess even more apparent.