Three is a company, or Difficulty in maintaining bilateral conversation

How easy do you find it to reconnect with an old friend in a one-on-one meeting? How easy do you find it to sustain conversation beyond the first half an hour or so when you catch up on the lives of each other? Especially when you don’t have an external “stimulus” such as alcohol or sport or a movie?

It is incredible that it happens so frequently, and even with so-called really close friends. In fact, closeness of friendship may not even matter so much, as I’ve seen this happen with a large variety of people. You meet after a long time assuming you’ll talk the night away, and half an hour and pfff. Both of you run out of ideas, stare vaguely into your coffee cups, and make meaningless conversation about who has moved to which job.

The number of possible conversations grows quadratically with the number of people meeting up (or even at a higher order if you consider that strictly more than two people can stimulate conversation in a certain topic), which is why it is highly unlikely that in a group of three, you run out of ideas to talk about. And it gets better as the size of the group increases (though if it grows too large, it will split into sub-groups which maintain their own conversatiosn).

So where does louvvu fit into all this? After all, louvvu happens between a couple, and  a “catalyst” (a third person or a “woh”) is undesirable. Actually I suppose sustainability of conversation is one base case necessary (but not sufficient condition) to determine if louvvu are there. After all, if you can’t sustain conversation without a stimulus for half an hour, fat chance that you’ll be able to peacefully live in the same house for the rest of your lives.

The interesting thing in all this is that there are several people with whom I can sustain online conversation (GTalk etc.) for hours together but our conversation fizzles out when either on the phone or when we actually meet up. I think the deal is that in the former case you are multitasking so not all your energies are spent in the conversation. Also the other tasks that you are doing can give you ideas to further conversation.

9 thoughts on “Three is a company, or Difficulty in maintaining bilateral conversation”

  1. Gender brings in a new variable. I think two guys
    run out of stuff-to-talk much faster than two girls. While guys have to keep doing something (riding a bike, playing etc) while talking , girls can ‘just talk’. [ read this somewhere..]

    1. not really. the data points that I used for the hypothesis here are all female. as in – me meeting women

  2. Disagree with the analogy for louvvu.

    ‘After all, if you can’t sustain conversation without a stimulus for half an hour, fat chance that you’ll be able to peacefully live in the same house for the rest of your lives’

    Fallacy in this is as follows: When you meet someone after a long time, the agenda is to ‘talk’ about stuff/catch up on news etc (unless you have distractions like movie/sports/alcohol). This pre-expectation causes you to mentally create blocks of subjects you can discuss and cannot discuss logically with this person based on degree of familiarity and frequency of meeting. As a result, you are playing out a subconsciously rehearsed conversation. Too much pressure to keep it going and not stare into coffee cup. No spontaneous flow. Jai happens and stare-into-coffee-cup comes.

    In case of ‘living in the same house for the rest of your lives’, first there is no template to the conversation. Everything from why the maidservant is harassing to why obama is bad for the economy becomes acceptable/important/normal conversation. Expands universe hugely. Secondly, the core agenda is no longer to converse all the time – it is a culmination of hazaar ‘mundane’ things. Silence can be equally comfortable. A little like living with family (the parents kinds).

    So even though conversation is important at pre-marriage louvvu level, it needn’t be half hour plus on each and every meeting, especially if meetings are highly frequent.

    Ok, excessively verbose. NED has come now.

  3. Good point on the length of gtalk vs in person talking. I think it has to do with oral communication style also. While typing on gtalk is just writing down your thots, talking needs an interesting enough style, body language etc. etc. I think a lot of people are funny when they type but the humour doesn’t come across in person!

    1. interesting point about humour not coming out in person. btw i believe that i type faster than i can talk, and typing is more compatible with the speed at which my brain runs 😛

      but yeah – telling a story is easier in just words rather than “acting it out”

  4. Very true about the length of conv on msngr and/or phone…. guess its also because you get responses immeditely over the phone and u r done discussing a topic in a coupla mins. but on a msngr, you actually have to frame your sentence, type it out n then wait for a response 😛 😉

    You have a very nice blog! Looking fwd to catch up on your older posts when I find some spare time 🙂

    1. (shudder at the thought of cousins reading my older posts)

      actually i think i type faster than i talk. so i’m much more spontaneous that way. so not sure if your argument holds.

Put Comment