Handle awkward date silences, over a conversation with a stranger – plus chat lớn your children, your parents & your boss. Our panel shares their secrets

How lớn talk to… children and teenagers, by family therapist Karen Holford

Children often don’t have the words lớn say what they’re feeling, và they don’t always understand what we’re looking for when we ask them questions. So if you ask, “How was your day?” and you’re met with a grunt or a shrug, it’s not because your child is trying to hide something from you. It’s because they don’t see why you could possibly want khổng lồ know, or which part of their day you’re interested in. It can help lớn make 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 don’t give children our full attention.

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Try to lớn meet your child’s emotions, rather than telling them how to lớn feel. If your child comes trang chủ saying, “I hate everyone in my class”, your first reaction might be, “That’s not a nice thing to lớn say”, or, “Things can’t be that bad.” Try to pay attention to the feeling rather than the content. Help them find other words to lớn draw out their emotions – “It sounds like you had a really bad day” – so they can talk about it in a different way.

Teenagers often respond better if you’re doing something alongside a conversationWith younger children, visual cues & games can be a helpful way of piecing things together. If you’re trying to lớn find out who they play with at school, you might get them to draw a picture of their friends, say. Repeating back to a younger child what they have said makes them feel heard. Và if you’re talking about difficult topics, break them down into manageable chunks.

Teenagers often respond better if you’re doing something alongside a conversation, so they don’t have to give you a lot of eye contact, even if it’s just washing up or talking when you’re in the car. Using a bit of humour can help lớn defuse the tension, & watching films with older kids can be a good way lớn broach difficult subjects.

TipsUse visual exercises with younger children lớn help them explain what’s going on.Respect the importance of what they’re talking about; avoid saying, “It’s just a silly worry.”Model good ways of communicating with other adults. Let children see you argue và make up.

How khổng lồ talk to… strangers, by Susan RoAne, author of How lớn Work A Room

Most of us find the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers daunting. Instead of thinking, “Who will I have lớn talk to lớn tonight?” say to lớn yourself, “I wonder who I’m going lớn get to lớn meet tonight.”

There’s a phrase I lượt thích to use: “The roof is an introduction”, which means that if you’re in the same place, you always have something in common. Remember that most people in any room feel uncomfortable. If we can be aware of that, and think, “What can I vị to make other people feel comfortable with me?” that’s not just a great strategy for socialising – it’s a kindness.

I often borrow stories. I’m not a dog person, but if someone else wants lớn talk about dogs, that’s fine. I just mention something my friend Jim told me about his dogs. I don’t pretend it’s my story, but just mentioning that I have a friend who loves dogs helps us to lớn relate.

Remember that most people in any room feel uncomfortableThe number one question people ask me is, “How vị I exit a conversation?” and it’s a good point: you’re not there khổng lồ monopolise one person all night long. If the other person is getting a little squirmy, they’re ready to move on. Interrupt yourself, not them: “It’s been so nice talking to lớn you. I so enjoyed talking about…” và there you can let them know you’ve been listening khổng lồ what they’re saying. Then don’t just turn your back on them – it’s too abrupt. Instead, walk a quarter-length of the room away to another group or, better still, lớn someone standing alone.

TipsAsk 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 someone says they just lost 10lb, don’t tell them how you lost 20.Borrow stories. If you don’t have children but you’re talking lớn a new parent, can you nội dung an anecdote that a friend has told you?


Illustration: Nishant Choksi for the Guardian

How lớn talk to… your doctor, by Dr Ayan Panja, GP and resident doctor on đài truyền hình bbc World News

The key thing is that you know why you’re 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 they’re scared. But it really doesn’t help if you get to the over of your 10 minutes, then say, “Oh, by the way, every time I mow the lawn, I get this pain in my chest that goes right up to my jaw – that’s nothing khổng lồ worry about, is it?” Actually, it could mean you’ve got angina.

I find, increasingly, that there’s a generational difference in how people speak to doctors. Younger people are more likely khổng lồ say, “I just feel shit.” Try khổng lồ be descriptive. If you have a pain, is it dull or sharp? Does it burn or throb? If you have new symptoms, make sure you mention them. The timeline is really 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.

Your doctor won’t mind if you say, "I know I’m being stupid, but I’m worried this is a brain tumour"For doctors, half the trò chơi is trying to figure out, “Why is this person really here?” bởi they want medication, or tests? bởi vì they want to be signed off work? 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 doctor won’t mind if you say, “I know I’m being stupid, but I’m worried this is a brain tumour.” We’d rather discuss that than waste time wondering what it is you’re not saying. Just be honest. The whole consultation is really about the connection between two individuals and, in an ideal world, it should be based on mutual respect and trust.

We live in a convenience culture, but medicine doesn’t work like that. People often say, “It would be great if I could just e-mail my GP.” But if you can’t examine someone, you don’t have an accurate picture. We can’t always refer you immediately for the complicated tests you’ve seen on TV. Và we can’t always solve everything in a 10-minute appointment.

TipsStart with the thing you’re most worried about. Don’t make your doctor guess.Be as detailed và descriptive as you can when explaining your symptoms.

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Have an awareness that you’re talking lớn a human. We try lớn leave the emotions of the last appointment behind us, but it’s 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 gets nervous about dates, & everybody is worried that the other person won’t lượt thích them. There’s an assumption that you are on the back foot, and the other person holds all the power. One of the best ways of dealing with that is to lớn focus on what you want. Ask yourself, “Is this person a good fit for me?” rather than the other way round. It helps to lớn lessen the fear of rejection.

Pay attention lớn what people talk about. If your date is sharing a lot of negative information – talking about their acrimonious divorce, say – it might be their way of expressing fear of the present dating situation. The same goes for what you disclose. It’s nice to show a certain openness, or vulnerability, but not lớn be needy. So talking about a work conundrum could be good, but discussing therapy on a first date is probably a bad idea.

Silences can offer an opportunityA lot of people are anxious about silences: there’s a fear about what’s going on in the other person’s head. But silences can offer an opportunity. See how the other person reacts. For example, you might say, “I’m feeling a bit nervous.” Does your date help you out và respond positively, or not? It’s another way of judging, “Am I having a good time?” và that’s really what it’s all about.

TipsPay attention to the negative information your date shares with you. It could be a sign that they’re not ready for a relationship.Try not lớn focus on “Does this person like me?”; instead, ask yourself, “Do I lượt thích them?”Think of your date as a team-building exercise: you’re both gathering information khổng lồ work out whether you’ll fit well together.


Illustration: Nishant Choksi for the Guardian

How lớn talk to… your parents, by clinical psychologist Linda Blair

When you hit adolescence, the drive lớn belong lớn your peer group rather than your family kicks in. So by the time you’re a young adult, you may have spent a lot of time trying khổng lồ get emotional distance from your parents. Mother-and-daughter relationships, in particular, suffer a lot, with the mother pushing for information và feeling marginalised. Whether you’re a grownup daughter or son, remember you will probably need lớn initiate the conversation. Your parents have become cautious; they don’t want to lớn interfere with your independence. The best way to re-establish a relationship is to lớn give them regular updates on everyday details of your life.

Your relationship with your parents is not a friendship – or, rather, it’s not just a friendship. It’s also a nurturing relationship. It’s becoming more common for children lớn feel in competition with their parents. Parents are more likely now to be as active at work and in life, và many adults today can expect to be poorer than their parents. All you can bởi vì is try to lớn be tactful on both sides, & don’t ask too many questions that are going to make you feel resentful: “So when’s your next holiday, Mum?”

Your relationship with your parents is not just a friendship. It’s also a nurturing relationshipAs parents get older, one of the most commonly expressed emotions from their children is irritation – irritation that their conversations seem more rambling, or even confused. That irritation is a cover-up for fear. No child wants to thua trận the relationship they had with their parents. & for the parents, who are getting towards the over of their lives, there’s an overwhelming need khổng lồ feel as if they have lived for a reason, to lớn make sense of the story of their life. It can be very therapeutic to make time for those stories, to nội dung them with each other. Good conversations are really about good listening.

TipsConversations with parents tend khổng lồ be one-sided. It’s easier to tóm tắt details from your life than hear about a lot of intimate details from theirs.Envy of parents is increasingly common, but remember it’s not their fault, and try not khổng lồ let it cloud your relationship.Your position in your family (whether you’re the eldest or youngest child) can affect the kind of conversations you have with your parents, so don’t assume your siblings will have the same experiences as you.

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

Most people, whether they’re the quái thú or the employee, want more contact. Employees often feel out of the loop, particularly in times of change, but they can be passive about giving feedback to lớn their managers.

There’s a lot more interest now in how lớn “manage up”, and a lot of confusion about what that really means. It comes down to lớn being able to put yourself in your boss’s shoes. What’s the best time khổng lồ speak lớn your boss about important issues? How vì chưng they like to receive information? Does your manager have his or her own manager to think about? It’s about empathy.

If you want to negotiate for a pay rise or promotion, don’t spring it on your boss. If it comes as a shock, you’ve already phối up a combative situation. The adversarial method is rarely effective; I know a lot of bosses who say that when someone threatens to leave if they don’t get what they want, they hotline them out on it. Keep it civil, and remember your boss might need to refer that decision to their boss, so make your business case as strong as possible. Be clear what both your arguments và the counterarguments are.

Your quái thú may be friendly, but that doesn’t mean they’re your friendThere’s an overreliance on thư điện tử in most workplaces; I’d always question whether it’s the best way to lớn put your point across, particularly if you need to khuyến mãi with something problematic. It’s so easy to misconstrue what someone says & turn a straightforward issue into a conflict. Và avoid copying people in halfway through an email discussion, even if you want to bolster your argument. It can be a very passive-aggressive way of communicating.

How much should you chia sẻ with your quái nhân about your life outside work? It depends on your workplace culture, but don’t presume that just because your boss has a relaxed management style, they’ll be less professional. As a good rule of thumb, avoid being too candid. Your quái nhân may be friendly, but that doesn’t mean they’re your friend.

TipsAlways question whether you should send an email, or say it in person. & avoid passive-aggressive copying in.Try khổng lồ think from your manager’s perspective: how does what you need to say affect them?Remember that your monster may not be the one making the final decision, so you might need to convince them to convince others.