Growing up in the sixties and seventies, I loved pop music, but my stepdad, a big band musician who had entertained presidents, detested rock and roll. He explained why the music I liked was bad music. Besides being too loud, it was too simple. It lacked depth and complexity. Sometimes my stepdad’s sophisticated musical friends piled on. One of them put it to me like this: “See—you know what you like; but I know what’s good.”

That staggered me. I think I was 17 at the time. When the guy said that, he looked so satisfied with himself. I knew I was looking into the face of a peculiar (yet common) type of insanity.


Music, for me, is the easiest zone of life in which to know what I really like.

But I actually can’t think of a single other zone of life where it comes quite so naturally to know what I really like. Not even reading. Definitely not conversation.

Have you ever tried to stay really mindful in a conversation, noticing how your body feels, noticing if you’re happy? Noticing those moments where—oof!—something didn’t feel right, something triggered you? Or something mellowed you, warmed you, made you smile?

Social conversation, like music, like sex, like sleep, should never be a ground of struggle.

What are some of the things we do to make conversation as easy and pleasing to move with as music?