The use of speech for informal exchange of views or ideas or information etc.

Have you ever stopped to think what you really talk about in a conversation?

I’d just like to remind you, before we begin our discussion, that we are the most intelligent species on the planet. We’re the one characterized by superior intelligence, and articulate speech. We all talk about a million different things in the day, in a thousand different languages, in hundreds of different countries; but I’m sure you would agree that we are not all super-intellectuals able to discuss the future of mankind; the problem of global warming, healthcare, poverty, and starvation in the third world. Social policy, healthcare, peace, violence terror in the community, guns and global warfare may also be topics we are unable to discuss. Why not? It’s our planet! So what do we all talk about then?

Let’s look at a couple after a hard day at work: – How was your day at work? – Oh, fine… – Busy? – Not too bad. – Dinner will be ready in ten minutes. – Great, how was your day?” – Oh fine. I went shopping after work.” – Is there anything good on tv tonight?” – I’m not sure.”

How about the conversation between two friends having a drink?

– Well, what’s he like? – Oh, he’s really nice. – What does he do? – He works in marketing. – Ooh, has he got a nice car? – Yes it’s brand new, it’s really nice.

How about the sports fans? – Did you see that goal? – Yeah, it was amazing. – But the other guy should have been sent off.” –

How about the reality show fans? – I can’t believe she got voted off! – Yeah, I was sure she was going to win. – I don’t like that other guy. – No I don’t either. – I hope he gets voted off next week. – Yeah, so do I.

How about the news experts? – Did you see what’s happening over there?” – Yeah, the prime minister should send in more troops.” – Do you think?” – Absolutely; if we have more fire-power over there, the war would over much sooner.”

How about the justice experts? – They should lock him up and throw away the key.” – I agree, I think they should bring back capital punishment.” – That would definitely be a deterrent.” – It’s what the country needs.”

We all have conversations: With friends, with colleagues, and family members. We discuss every topic from the weather to the state of the political situation in the middle east. Sometimes we have conversations just to pass the time or to be polite, and sometimes we have opinions which we are eager to share with someone else. More often than not, they are just comments passed on what someone else has said; that we happen to agree or disagree with.


A person who uses the mind creatively

The problem when one talks about having an intellectual conversation, is that often it is perceived to be boring. But tell me, which is more boring; a conversation about life, or a conversation about who’s going to be voted off the latest reality show?

When I talk about life, I am not talking about something profound. Life is all around us. The people we meet, the places we see, the things we do. We all have the ability to use the mind creatively, yet how many of us do it?

We go to school to learn. We learn about history, mathematics, art, science, and politics. We learn how to speak a different language, as well as understand literature from our own country. We talk about field trips we’ve been on, we act in plays, and I’m not talking about university education; this is your average high school education.

Why did they teach you about all these things? Because they are all part of life. Geography, geology, sociology, chemistry, and physics are not abstract subjects, they’re what makes up the world we live in. Yet how many of us remember anything about them?

We finish school and get a job – glad to leave the structure of class work, and get into the business of earning money. So many people go to university to learn at a higher level, to discuss complex topics, yet they too fall into the employment trap when they leave.

Not that getting a job is a bad thing; it’s all too necessary if you want to eat and pay your bills; it’s just that the capacity for discussion of anything but the most mundane becomes so distant, and unimportant.

Think about it.

Topics of discussion now fit in around work; after all, that’s what you do for at least eight to nine hours a day. Depending on the job you have, your conversations may be about how to increase turnover, how to solve a particular scientific problem, how to lift a large piece of sheet glass fifty metres into the air; or if you work in a job such as production line, retail or hospitality for example, you may have to wait until your break to discuss anything with colleagues.

When talking with your colleagues, you generally have discussions that, if not totally relating to work, revolve around topics that a person of your status in the society may be expected to discuss. For example, a managing director, talking to his equal (employment status only) may be expected to discuss economic trends, the budget, and corporate taxation; whereas the manual worker, may be expected to talk about an article he read in a tabloid newspaper, or a comment he heard down the pub. I am not trying to stereotype anyone, but people fall into stereotypical categories by virtue of their status in society. A manual worker, doing a repetitive task at work, would not be expected to read a broadsheet business section, or a magazine on economics, any more than a managing director would be expected to read a tabloid newspaper. In fact it would be positively frowned upon, and the person committing the offence may find themselves the subject of ridicule.

“Who does he think he is reading the business section? He’s getting a bit above himself if you ask me. Does he think he’s better than us? Well he’s not, he’s just the same.”

You are expected to conform to your status level, not to drop below or to go above it – intellectually that is. It has nothing to do with money.

A titled gentleman, who gambled away his money on alcohol and prostitutes, would still read the business and world politics section, in the same way the builder who made a lot of money may still read the tabloid newspapers, because he believes that is his intellectual level.

Some of you may think I am making sweeping generalisations that are not true, but I think the choice of newspaper still says something about a person’s expectation of their intellectual status. See for yourselves; look in the builders vans, the manual workers tea room in the factory, check the directors offices!

See what newspapers the higher managers are reading. I have spent many years working in and around factories and it seems to go like this.

Manual worker – Tabloid

Supervisor – Tabloid

Junior manager – Tabloid

Middle manager – Broadsheet Senior manager – Broadsheet Director – Broadsheet

Is this just a coincidence? Are people merely conforming to what they believe is expected of them intellectually, or is the manual worker really interested in the latest celebrity drug scandal?

I for one always bought the broadsheet and the tabloids when I was young. The broadsheet to maintain intellectual appearance, and the tabloid for meaningless gossip that filled twenty minutes whilst eating my sandwiches at lunchtime!

It seems that people with a high intellectual status expectation can happily read material that is “below” them, but not the other way round.

No one would look twice at the director glancing through the tabloid for a bit of harmless fun, but a manual worker could not get away with reading a broadsheet in front of their peers.

Let me ask you another question: Do window cleaners read the financial broadsheets?

“Of course not,” say you, “if they were intelligent enough to read the financial broadsheets, they wouldn’t be window cleaners!”

We all learned similar things when we were growing up, you and I; some had better teachers, some worse. We learned about the planet, the history, the animals, and the birds. We learned some science, we learned how to count, and read and most importantly, we all learned to speak.

Speaking is natural; we can all do it from a few years old. We hear our parents speaking and we copy it.

We learn to copy the way they express themselves, we develop the same accent they have, we copy their phraseology (the manner in which something is expressed in words), and as we get older, we begin to read what they’re reading, and listen to what they’re discussing.


An extended communication (often interactive) dealing with some particular topic

Some of us did better at school than others. I went to a good school, but never really achieved what was expected of me.

My parents were both in good positions: my mother in an accounts department, and my father who worked as a financial director. They both read the broadsheets and were well informed, although I would hesitate to call them intellectuals. Discussions at our house were fairly limited, and usually started by my mother asking my father a question about some financial topic, and my dad answering it brusquely to show her she was of lower intellectual status, and it wasn’t really worth his time, or effort to discuss it! So on the whole, I didn’t gain much from these discussions.

I wasn’t really interested in school, although I think I enjoyed it. I tried hard at the things I enjoyed, and messed around in all the classes I didn’t.

My parents were both scottish, but we lived in england, and don’t ask me how, but during my time at private school, I developed a polite english accent. I wasn’t really any good at anything, and I left school early, at seventeen, to try my luck in the workforce. As I was travelling to work in london every day, I always bought a paper for the train journey – a broadsheet, like my parents read.

I don’t know why I bought it, it just like a seemed normal thing to do. I was always stuck in dead end jobs (think commission only telesales!), and never made any money, but I always read the financial sections of the paper!

I was always interested in what was going on in the world, and I loved the paper because it opened up so many questions in my mind. The problem was finding someone to discuss all the new things I had learned, or observed during the day.

My parents had split up, my friends were all people who liked cars, girls, football and pubs, and all my work colleagues wanted to talk about was how much commission they were going to make that month.

Even as I moved up the financial ladder, and ended up in jobs in information technology, I was still mixing with people I couldn’t discuss the topics which were of interest to me with. Who wanted to have a discussion with me about politics or economics? An economist or a politician? I don’t think so. So I was left with pub topics and tabloid junk.

I really wanted to talk to someone – not because I wanted to show off what I knew – I just wanted to learn more. I wanted to talk to someone, but never got to meet the people who could discuss things I was interested in, as I was of low intellectual status. The people who would discuss things with me weren’t interested in the topics I wanted to discuss. Catch 22.

The influence our family and friends have on our expected intellectual status is immense. If the topics you are exposed to are limited to what was on tv last night, the football results, the latest reality shows, the latest cars and gadgets, and the latest gossip from the local pub, I would expect you to fall into line with those topics. You see, we always follow the majority; no one wants to be unpopular by bringing up a topic he knows will be of no interest to his peers; so we conform.

Let me ask you a question. If you are talking to someone, how can you tell if they are of higher intellectual status than you? Is it because of the way they speak? Is it their accent? Perhaps bbc english or equivalent? Does their accent lead you to believe that they are more educated than you, and so make you feel inferior? Or is it because they have a higher position than you at work, that you assume this? Does a manual worker feel inferior to the managing director if he comes around the factory to talk to “the workers?”

Unfortunately, the answer is normally, yes.

Why do you think this is? (a) The director is wearing nicer clothes (because the manual worker has to wear protective clothing and the director does not get his hands dirty). (b) The director speaks in an educated accent (because he is using the language correctly as it was meant to be used, not in a slang and loose way). (c) The director pays your wages, and is the boss of everyone, so he must be more intelligent (because he was interested in business, applied himself to learning, and worked hard all his life to get to the position he is in now; not because he is more intellectual). (d) The director can talk about more interesting things than you can (only because he is interested in them not because he is more intellectual).

The only difference between the factory worker and the director is not clothes, accent, or job title. It is that one was deeply interested in something (business) and applied himself to learning it. He is not more intelligent than the worker; he just has an interest that allows him to use his mind creatively.

Let me ask you another question. If the director found out that you both shared a deep interest for bird watching, do you think he would believe he was a superior bird watcher because he had a better job than you? Of course not. He would treat you as an intellectual equal, the same as you would treat him. You would happily go bird watching together, because that is the deep interest you share.

The perceived gap between the workers and the directors is one only marked by interest.

If you worked on the factory floor and developed a deep interest for business and economics, you would study it and learn it – not because you had to – because you wanted to find out more about a subject you were interested in. Do you follow what I am trying to say here?

Are you not the most intelligent species on the planet, characterized by superior intelligence, and articulate speech? Is that you? Well, why don’t you use it?

I’m sorry to be blunt, but it is all too easy to conform to what you think is expected of you and just give up hope. You all have learned about the same things at school about life, and you may have found some subjects more difficult than others; even failed all subjects. I didn’t do well either!

The difference is, I was interested in life. I was interested in the world around me, the people, the politics, the why’s and the why not’s.

Interest, that’s all you have to have, to begin to use your mind creatively.

It doesn’t matter if you work on a production line and only get to speak to your colleagues once a day. If you are deeply interested in something, you are intellectual. You are using your mind. You are not just letting politicians and directors use their minds, you are a human being with the same brain capacity as every intellectual on the planet.

Don’t let other people decide your intellectual status. Don’t accept that you are destined to be a tabloid reader, or that you will be a production line worker; a human machine. You and I have huge brain capacity for learning; we just have to spark it off by being interested in something. Something not superficial. Something with enough depth to keep your interest; something like life!

Life! It’s such a great interest to have. It’s about people, it’s about places, it’s about family, politics, nature, water shortages, hunger, war, jobs, and health. It’s about fun, laughter and crying.

The more you are interested in life, the more you want to discuss it; you’ll find plenty of people who want to discuss it with you – not just family members, but people from the wider community.

You decide on your intellectual status; your mind has more capacity than the biggest computers in the world; and the great thing about life is you don’t need to go to university to study it, you’re already part of it.

Observe, watch, listen and participate.

There are conversations that need to be had all around the world about things too important to leave to the politicians, the media, the scientists or the intellectual elite. You are an intellectual. You hold solutions to world problems in your mind but you may not know it until you start the discussion. Don’t let your legacy to the world be that you worked, watched sport, drank beer and wine, and discussed tv shows, just because you believed that was where your intellectual status lay. You are so much more than that.

You belong to the most intelligent species on the planet; don’t let your creative mind go to waste. It’s waiting to be used right now. This is a message I gave myself sometime ago.


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