Great article from the economist on the rules of conversation. The fundamentals of which have remained unchanged since Cicero wrote the essay On Duties in 44BC.
said that good conversation required "alternation" among participants. In his essay "On Duties", Cicero remarked that nobody, to his knowledge, had yet set down the rules for ordinary conversation, though many had done so for public speaking. He had a shot at it himself, and quickly arrived at the sort of list that self-help authors have been echoing ever since. The rules we learn from Cicero are these: speak clearly; speak easily but not too much, especially when others want their turn; do not interrupt; be courteous; deal seriously with serious matters and gracefully with lighter ones; never criticise people behind their backs; stick to subjects of general interest; do not talk about yourself; and, above all, never lose your temper.
Unfortunately the rest of the article is behind the economists pay wall. but if anyone would like to talk about it feel free to give me a call, I need to practice my conversational skills. This quote from Samuel Johnson seems to neatly define conversation:
talk beyond that which is necessary to the purposes of actual business.