A review of


The Science of Conversation

When You Speak

by David Meyer

Social psychologist Elizabeth Stokoe provides a fascinating – and yet practical – exploration of the systems underlying conversational patterns and how you can apply them to improve your verbal communications.

Social psychologist and conversation analyst Elizabeth Stokoe discusses the “science of conversation.” Studying conversations enables understanding of how highly organized underlying systems structure human talk, and of how different ways of speaking can alter outcomes. Stokoe avoids conventional communication training, debunks popular myths and provides new and surprising revelations.

Real-Life Conversations

The pioneers of conversation analysis – Harvey Sacks, Emanuel Schegloff and Gail Jefferson – studied how changing a single word affects a conversation. Their analyses noted how speakers take turns. For example, the opening sequence of a typical conversation generally contains brief, reciprocal paired actions that include “summons and answer,” “greetings and identifications,” and “initial inquiries.” Humans process conversations quickly and respond, enabling rapid exchanges in which overlaps are common.

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