The Further Adventures of Conversation Man Episode 6: A Festive Conversation Menu of Love

Dr John Reed spent 8 years at Oxford University (amassing 3 social science degrees including a Ph.D).  He worked for several years with historian and philosopher Theodore Zeldin (author of the likes of ‘An Intimate History of Humanity’ and ‘Conversation’) on conversation projects in health centres, shopping centers, high streets, art galleries, libraries, choirs, and even IKEA to see if it could be turned into a cultural and community hub. 

At Say It Now, John is our ‘conversationalist in residence’. Raising the bar in our understanding and thinking of the immense power conversation has on the human experience in relation to life, the universe and everything in between.

In this realm he’s no longer Dr. John Reed, in this world, he’s…Conversation Man!

Howdy! The festive season is upon us, and whether you happen to be celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, New Year or nothing in particular the chances are you’ll be gathering together with friends and family at some point to eat, drink and make merry. All of which is of course a good chance for an interesting chat with loved ones.

It’s probably fair to say that many of us don’t on the whole expect too much from our festive conversations. Rather they tend to be somewhat ritualised in nature, going round the same old grooves, often aided by a bit of TV and booze. So this month I’d thought I’d offer a kind of Festive Conversation Menu as food for thought and who knows it might spark the odd slightly more interesting chat around a dinner table.

Gathering together with loved ones can of course be lovely, but equally one can find that love (in any very obvious form) is in somewhat short supply at such occasions. Indeed, by all accounts, tension (and occasionally tears) can sometimes be the predominant vibe. But nevertheless I thought I’d base my Festive Conversation Menu on the topic of ‘love’, partly because it’s a theme which, one way or another, runs through many of the above celebrations.

‘Love’ often gets reduced to the notion of romance, or a kind of binary ‘are you in love with them?’ But someone once told me that there are in fact (at least) 9 different kinds of love, namely in no particular order: Passionate, Playful, Obsessive, Enduring/Practical, Deep Friendship, Familial, Caring, Universal, and Self Love (see the appendix below for a quick guide to each kind). As well as at least 5 different languages / ways of expressing love: Words, Acts, Gifts, Time and Touch.

So bearing all this in mind here is Conversation Man’s loved-up Festive Conversation Menu which you may wish to discuss with loved ones (or not, as the case may be). If you’ve not used such a menu before ideally you’d print it out on some paper (or card, perhaps with festive graphics) and then work your way through it with a conversation partner (or two, or three, perhaps aided by a meal and a bottle of wine). With each person choosing a ‘dish’ as you go. The questions tend to be quite meaty and require reflection, so the idea is that you mull them over for a while rather than just giving one sentence answers.

Conversation Man’s Festive Conversation Menu


What people, ideas, activities, places or objects have you been most obsessed about, and why? Where did such obsessions lead you?

How do you like to express your love for others, and vice versa? How important are words, acts, gifts, quality time, physical touch or something else?

How has your playfulness with others changed over the years? How important is it in your loving relationships and how can it be kept alive?


In what ways has your love for people, or other aspects of life, been grounded in duty, commitment and practicality? And what, or whom, has tempted you away from that path?

How do you show, or deepen, your love for family members and close friends? And what prevents you from doing so?

In what ways do you try to care about humanity, the world and everything? What are the limits to your compassion and empathy?


What fruits have been born of your passions over the years? And how have you kept your passions aflame?

Who do you trust, respect and confide in most? What makes you feel comfortable to do so?

What have you sacrificed for the sake of loving other people or things?


In what ways have you loved yourself too much or too little?

Appendix of love: The types and ways of love

1. Eros (passionate love)

Eros is about romance, passion, and attraction. It describes the intoxicating and thrilling emotions that the initial stages of a relationship can induce.

2. Ludus (playful love)

Ludus is very flirtatious and fun, without the strings that come with eros or pragma. It can be seen in the very early stages of relationships, when two people are flirting, courting each other, and crushing on each other.

3. Mania (obsessive love)

Between real people such obsessive love tends to be imbalanced and potentially toxic, but never the less many of us have no doubt gone through moments of such obsession with individuals, pop stars, ideas or things.

4. Pragma (enduring love)

Pragma is sometimes translated to practical love, referencing the kind of love grounded in duty, commitment, and practicality.

5. Philia (deep friendship)

Philia is the love that develops over a deep, long-lasting friendship. It’s platonic, but nevertheless, you feel very close to those you have philia toward and can confide in them, trust them, and respect them on a very personal level.

6. Storge (familial love)

Storge is the love shared between family members (typically immediate family), and sometimes close family friends or friends from childhood. Storge is compassionate, protective, and deeply rooted in memory.

7. Caritas (caring love)

Caritas is most obvious in the caring love that parents have for children, or between more elderly couples who look after one another, in certain professions such as nursing, or indeed in the notion of charity and thereby caring about mankind in a practical sense.

8. Agape (universal love)

Agape is selfless love, like the kind you might associate with saintly figures. This is a compassionate love for everyone (and even everything), also known as universal loving-kindness.

9. Philautia (self-love)

This love is all about self-love and self-compassion, it’s important for our own confidence and self-esteem.

Ways of expressing love:

1. Words of Affirmation

Some people want to hear “I love you” or other positive compliments from their partner. And if they don’t hear it, then they might feel unloved.

2. Acts of Service

Doing nice things for other people is called an “act of service.” Whether it’s changing someone’s oil, cleaning the house, or giving a back rub, doing things to help make the other person happy is what this one is about.

3. Receiving Gifts

Some people value giving and receiving gifts, and some do not. So, if you measure your partner’s love by how many gifts you are given, then your love language is “receiving gifts.”

4. Quality Time

Other people measure the quality of their love by how much time their significant other wants to spend with them. If they don’t get enough “together time,” then they might feel unloved.

5. Physical Touch

Finally, some individuals associate love with physical touch. Anything from hand- holding to cuddling, and even sex count as “physical touch.”

Yours, Conversation Man p.s. a good conversation is after all a journey, with others. And so if you’ve got any thoughts about, or stimulated by, any of the above, or there’s a topic or question raised you’d like to hear more about, or there’s something going on which you feel is relevant, do email me at . See you in episode 7…

You can read/listen to all of the Conversation Man episodes below: