Milton Wright wrote The Art of Conversation, a comprehensive treatment of the subject, in 1936. The book deals with conversation both for its own sake, and for political, sales, or religious ends. Milton portrays conversation as an art or creation that people can play with and give life to.
Discussion of abstractions becomes wearisome unless relieved by stories or anecdotes. They must be interesting, relevant, pointed and, in general conversation, usually short.
A story must not only be on the subject under discussion but in tune with the discussion. No one should be justified in saying `So what?'
A story must proceed by a series of hops, skips and jumps. The speaker should enjoy the emotions of the story (dead pan humour is overrated) without letting his story get the better of him.
The Uses of Argument
Argument can be a tonic to conversation, but it must be in good humor.
Success in argument or debate and success in conversation are often mutually incompatible goals.
For example, clarity and persistence often win arguments though they have nothing to do with logic or fairness of mind.
Again, honesty in thinking is often less effective in argument than sincerity which is blind to any merit in an opposing viewpoint. Taking advantage of this fact will certainly cause conversation to suffer.
Again, it's easier to prove someone wrong than to prove yourself right and therefore it is good debating tactics to attempt the former. If congenial conversation is your aim forget about debating tactics.
Using statistics to prove or strengthen one's case should be avoided whenever possible. Most people distrust statistics. The phrase, `There are lies, there are damn lies and there are statistics,' has come into common usage with good reason.
To argue in conversation one must have complete control of one's emotions. Moreover one should always leave an opponent a means of retreat and sometimes even intentionally lose an argument.
If you concede a point to the other person he will be inclined to concede a point to you. A conciliatory attitude in admitting the truth of a statement will place him under an obligation to be conciliatory too.
The purpose of argument in conversation is agreement because agreement promotes harmony. By contrast, disagreement breeds disharmony and often antagonism. These are facts that are lost on many people.
Even if agreement on the point at issue is impossible one should at least try to agree with the person.