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How to talk to anyone: the experts’ guidebook

Handle awkward date stillness, objective a conversation with a stranger plus chat to your children, your parents and your boss. Our panel shares their secrets

How to talk to children and adolescents, by family therapist Karen Holford

Children often dont have the words to say what theyre feeling, and they dont always understand what were looking for when we ask them topics. So if you ask, How was your day? and youre met with a grunt or a shrug, its not because your child is trying to hide something from you. Its since they are dont consider why you could possibly want to know, or which part of their day youre interested in. It can help to attain your questions more specific: What was the best thing about your day? What was the hardest thing? And, of course, it helps if you are really listening. We often dont give infants our full attention.

Try to meet your childs emotions, rather than telling them how to feeling. If your child comes home saying, I hate everyone in my class, your first reaction might be, Thats not a nice thing to tell, or, Things cant be that bad. Try to pay attention to the feeling rather than the content. Help them find other terms to draw out their emotions It sounds like you had a really bad day so they can talk about it in a different way.

With younger infants, visual cues and games can be a helpful way of piecing things together. If youre trying to find out whom they play with at school, you might get them to draw a picture of their friends, tell. Recurring back to a younger child what they have said stimulates them feel heard. And if youre talking about difficult topics, transgress them down into manageable chunks.

Teenagers often respond better if youre doing something alongside a conversation, so they dont have to give you a lot of eye contact, even if its merely cleaning up or talking when youre in the car. Using a bit of witticism can help to defuse the tension, and watching cinemas with older kids can be a good way to broach difficult subjects.

Use visual workouts
with younger infants to help them explain whats going on.
Respect the importance of what theyre talking about; avoid saying, Its merely a silly worry.
Model good ways of communicating with other adults. Let infants see you argue and make up.

How to talk to strangers, by Susan RoAne , author of How To Work A Room

Most of us find the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers daunting. Instead of reasoning, Who will I have to talk to tonight? say to yourself, I wonder who Im going to get to meet tonight.

Theres a phrase I like to use: The roof is an introduction, which means that if youre in the same place, you always have one thing in common. Remember that most people in any room feeling uncomfortable. If we can be aware of that, and think, What can I do to attain other people feel comfy with me? thats not just a great strategy for socialising its a kindness.

I often borrow tales. Im not a dog person, but if someone else wants to talk about dogs, thats fine. I merely mention something my friend Jim told me about his dogs. I dont feign its my narrative, but merely mentioning that I have a friend who loves dogs helps us to relate.

The number one question people ask me is, How do I exit a conversation? And its a good point: youre not there to monopolise one person all night long. If the other person is getting a little squirmy, theyre ready to move on. Interrupt yourself , not them: Its been so nice talking to you. I so enjoyed talking about and there you can let them know youve been listening to what theyre saying. Then dont merely turn your back on them its too abrupt. Instead, stroll a quarter-length of the room away to another group or, better still, to someone standing alone.

Ask people
how they know the host, or how they got there, or what they think of the food( just about everyone likes talking about food ).
Watch out for conversation-killers, especially one-upmanship. If person says they just lost 10 lb, dont tell them how you lost 20.
Borrow tales . If you dont have infants but youre talking to a new parent, are you able share an anecdote that a friend has told you?

Illustration: Nishant Choksi for the Guardian

How to talk to your doctor, by Dr Ayan Panja , GP and resident physician on BBC World News

The key thing is that you know why youre there. Increasingly, people have more than one thing they want to mention at an appointment. Get the most important thing out at the beginning. Men are especially bad at this, as theyre frightened. But it actually doesnt help if you get to the end of your 10 minutes, then tell, Oh, by the way, every time I mow the lawn, I get this pain in my chest that goes right up to my jaw thats nothing to worry about, is it? Actually, it could mean youve got angina.

I find, increasingly, that theres a generational change in how people speak to doctors. Younger people are more likely to say, I merely feel shit. Try to be descriptive. If you have a pain, is it dull or sharp? Does it burn or pulsate? If you have new symptoms, make sure you mention them. The timeline is extremely important: have you been getting pains for a few days, or weeks, or at certain times of day? Photos help, especially if symptoms have changed.

For doctors, half the game is trying to figure out, Why is this person really here? Do they want medication, or tests? Do they want to be signed off run? If you are secretly worried that you have a much more serious illness, then mention it( we know that everyone looks up their symptoms on the internet ). Your physician wont mind if you say, I know Im being stupid, but Im fretted this is a brain tumour. Wed rather discuss that than waste time wondering what it is youre not saying. Simply be honest. The whole consultation is really about the connection between two individuals and, in an ideal world, it should be based on reciprocal respect and trust.

We live in a convenience culture, but medicine doesnt run like that. People often tell, It would be great if I could just email my GP. But if you cant investigate person, you dont have an accurate image. We cant always refer you instantly for the complicated tests youve ensure on TV. And we cant always solve everything in a 10 -minute appointment.

Start with the thing
youre most worried about. Dont attain your doctor guess.
Be as detailed and descriptive as you can when explaining your symptoms.
Have an awareness that youre talking to a human. We try to leave the emotions of the last appointment behind us, but its not always easy.

How to talk to your date, by Dan Williams and Madeleine Mason, founders of PassionSmiths , a dating and relationship coaching service

Everyone get nervous about dates, and everybody is worried that the other person wont like them. Theres an assumption that you are on the back foot, and the other person holds all the power. One of the most effective way of dealing with that is to focus on what you want. Ask yourself, Is this person a good fit for me? rather than the other way round. It helps to lessen the fear of rejection.

Pay attention to what people talk about. If your date is sharing a lot of negative info talking about their acrimonious divorce, say it might be their way of expressing fear of the current dating situation. The same runs for what you disclose. Its nice to show a certain openness, or vulnerability, but not to be needy. So talking about a run conundrum could be good, but discussing therapy on a first date is likely a bad idea.

A lot of people are anxious about stillness: theres a fear about whats going on in the other persons head. But stillness can offer an opportunity. Ensure how the other person reacts. For instance, you might tell, Im feeling a bit nervous. Does your date help you out and react positively, or not? Its another way of judging, Am I having a good time? And thats actually what its all about.

Pay attention to
the negative info your date shares with you. It could be a sign that theyre not “re ready for” a relationship.
Try not to focus on Does this person like me?; instead, ask yourself, Do I like them?
Think of your date as a team-building exercising: youre both gathering information to work out whether youll fit well together.

Illustration: Nishant Choksi for the Guardian

How to talk to your mothers, by clinical psychologist Linda Blair

When you reach adolescence, the drive is attributable to your peer group rather than your family kicks in. So by the time youre a young adult, you may have spent a lot of time trying to get emotional distance from your mothers. Mother-and-daughter relationships, including with regard to, suffer a lot, with the mother pushing for information and feeling marginalised. Whether youre a grownup daughter or son, remember you will probably need to initiate the conversation. Your mothers have become cautious; they dont want to interfere with your independence. The best way to re-establish a relationship is to give them regular updates on everyday details of your life.

Your relationship with your mothers is not a friendship or, rather, its not just a friendship. Its also a nurturing relationship. Its becoming more common for children to feeling in competitor with their parents. Mothers are more likely now to be as active at work and in life, and many adults today can expect to be poorer than their parents. All you can do is try to be tactful on both sides, and dont ask too many questions that are going to attain you feel resentful: So whens your next holiday, Mum?

As mothers get older, one of the most commonly carried emotions from their children is irritation irritation that their conversations seem more jog, or even confused. That irritation is a cover-up for fear. No child wants to lose the relationship they had with their parents. And for the mothers, who are getting towards the end of their lives, theres an overwhelming need to feel as if they have lived for a reason, to make sense of the story of their life. It can be very therapeutic to make time for those working tales, to share them with each other. Good conversations are really about good listening.

Conversations with mothers
tend to be one-sided. Its easier to share details from your life than hear about a lot of intimate details from theirs.
Envy of mothers is increasingly common, but remember its not their flaw, and try not to let it cloud your relationship.
Your position in your family ( whether youre the eldest or youngest child) can affect the kind of conversations you have with your mothers, so dont assume your siblings will have the same experiences as you.

How to talk to your boss, by David Cairncross, a director at Hays Recruitment

Most people, whether theyre the boss or the employee, want more contact. Employees often feel out of the loop, particularly in times of change, but they can be passive about devoting feedback to their managers.

Theres a lot more interest now in how to manage up, and a lot of embarrassment about what that really means. It comes down to being able to put yourself in your bosss shoes. Whats the best time to speak to your boss about important issues? How do they like to receive information? Does your manager have his or her own manager to be considered? Its about empathy.

If you want to negotiate for a pay rise or promotion, dont springtime it on your boss. If it comes as a shock, youve already set up a combative situation. The adversarial method is rarely effective; I know a lot of boss who say that when someone threatens to leave if they dont get what they want, they call them out on it. Maintain it civil, and remember your boss might need to refer that decision to their boss, so attain your business lawsuit as strong as is practicable. Be clear what both your debates and the counterarguments are.

Theres an overreliance on email in most workplaces; Id always question whether its the best way to put your point across, especially if you need to deal with something problematic. Its so easy to misunderstand what person tells and turn a straightforward issue into a conflict. And avoid copying people in halfway through an email discussion, even if you want to bolster your debate. It can be a very passive-aggressive way of communicating.

How much should be used share with your boss about your life outside run? It depends on your workplace culture, but dont presume that merely because your boss has a relaxed management style, theyll be less professional. As a good rule of thumb, avoid being too candid. Your boss may be friendly, but that doesnt mean theyre your friend.

Always question whether you should send an email, or say it in person. And avoid passive-aggressive copying in.
Try to believe from your managers perspective: how does what you need to say affect them?
Remember that your boss may not be the one constructing the final judgment, so you might need to convince them to convince others.

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