You can easily say whether you enjoyed a conversation, but what makes you enjoy it? Some people I asked defined it as getting new information, but if someone talks about feeding their frog, I couldn't care less. If someone talks about how things (like physics) work I'm really interested. If some people talk about their personal lives/relations/things, I really want to hear everything, and with other people, I couldn't care less.

What's the difference? Is it about the subject of the conversation? Does the other person play a role? It is the way he presents things (suspense?)?

(PS: Sorry, this was the best tag I could find)

5 Answers 5


One can argue that we define something (let's say a conversation) as enjoyable if it makes us feel better.

How can a conversation makes us feel better?

It depends entirely on what makes you feel better. I can think of the following reason:

1) You speak of topic you care about. You are interested in the matter of the conversation, and you feel that the other person(s) are passionate about it as much as you are. This stems from the fact people can often relive emotions and feelings if they are shared (this is why people still go to concert even if they can listen to all the music they want on their computers) and that, in general, we like being close to someone who understands us.

2) You are doing great in front of your peers. Imagine that you are among friends (or people you respect) and you are the star of the night, you make all the jokes, everyone laughs, and everything. Now, the conversation itself may not be all that interesting, but you feel better because you have a greater social status now. And often you remember parts of the moments with pleasure, thereby thinking you had a very pleasant conversation

3) Similarly, if you are flirting with someone, and it is going well, you feel that it was a very enjoyable conversation, even if all you talked about was the weather.

4) On the other hand, why some people like to talk behind the back? Because they are mostly envious / jealous, so they take pleasure in your failure and they would enjoy a conversation which expose your flaws

To sum up, I think that a conversation is enjoyable if it makes us feel better; it may be because you talk about something you care, or because you social status is enhanced, or a combination of those reasons.


From a kind of spooky psychoanalytic view, the thing that makes conversation interesting is 'intersubjectivity', the experience of part of you becoming part of another person temporarily and then coming back home to roost. Our primary way of shaping ourselves, from that perspective, is not 'work on the self' directly, but comes about by having the self vicariously experience life from other perspectives.

I am largely a Montessorian, so my answer to 'why is X fun' is always either 'evolution' or 'personal development'. So what parts of having some conversations be more fun than others is evolutionarily or developmentally advantageous?

In this theory, 'intersubjectivity' is just interactive version of 'projective subjectivity', which is what you enjoy in reading, which is easier to analyze, because you choose it more for yourself. So I will go there, instead.

Enjoyment of reading does not seem to be about information, because reading stories is more interesting than reading informational texts most of the time, to the point where many informational texts are re-formed into stories to capture interest. Most people read fiction for characterization or for plot. So what makes a story more of a story and less of a stream of information is generally emotional or strategic alignment with the characters.

It seems clear to me that enjoying strategic alignment with the characters is about appreciating leadership and competence. It feels good to be inside the head of a person making good choices, because it teaches us how to make good choices, and it makes us want to consort with the kinds of people who do so, which is good for us. It feels good to be inside the head of a person making poor choices, because we can enjoy our realization that we could make better ones, and that we could help. It is an odd form of altruism, and validates our competence.

Enjoying emotional alignment validates the possibility of emotional alignment. We are always afraid of losing empathic connection with our broader circle of associations, for fear they will turn on us, or will not identify with us in crisis. By repeatedly experiencing empathy for people even farther removed from us, we allay that fear. At the same time we practice the skill of empathizing selectively, of knowing whom to align with, and whom to resist as a trap, a manipulator or an energy sink, which again, is good for us.


Conversing with friends, and even perceived enemies, are company. Very few people can stand being alone for long (even Sartre didn't like being alone). Good friends and loved ones, worthy of trust, can be comforting when nasty things happen (e.g. violence, war, massacre, crime, illness, insanity, hatred and so on).


I guess what makes a conversation interesting is similar to what makes a school lesson interesting. Either you already care about the subject, or the teacher is "entertaining". If we examine the meaning of "entertaining" closer, I'd suggest it means that the teacher manages to get our emotions involved, by being either funny or dramatic. With a teacher like that, learning becomes like a game or an adventure: We feel a challenge that we do not want to ignore, satisfying triumph if we master the challenge, and amusement (benevolent or malevolent) if others fail at challenges by overlooking something we easily spotted.

If we already care about a subject, we can be gripped even a "boring" teacher, because we are already emotionally invested; we already have accepted challenges and want to prove ourselves.

With conversations it's pretty much the same thing, I would say. However, as you mention, in that context another factor comes into play: The person we are talking to. As Ant already pointed out in his answer, while firting people enjoy a conversation even when it has no intellectual interest. In that case, the evaluation of the conversation is based on different emotions, i.e. the birds and the bees. ;)


Because you've appealed to your own emotions, the question is pretty much unanswerable. It sounds like you enjoy conversations in which you learn something that can serve you some purpose.

Personally I like conversations which are spontaneous.

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