What does make a conversation useful?

What does make a conversation useful?

I have been meaning to put something up for some time about this.  Shortly I will put up an article based on a workshop I recently did for the Youth Action and Policy Association here in New South Wales.  In the meantime, I have tried to detail some of the ingredients I think make for a useful conversation between young people and those who seek to help them. And they are these:

Being unexpected, unusual. Something which catches the person’s attention, because ‘same-old same-old’ is unlikely to work

The ‘attention catching’ is meaningful, not just amusing or clever

Which means it is interesting for this person

And it needs to be relevant and deal with what is on the person’s mind, not only what others might be concerned about

The nature of the conversation needs to ‘fit’ for the person. It needs to be chatty if this is their style, or possibly brief and reflective if they are less verbal; playful or serious; more abstract andconceptual or more concrete in style and focus; more public(chat) or more private (reflection)…

 Old unhelpful behaviours, ways of thinking and feeling need to be ‘contained’. They find little place and little expression…

Because the conversation explores new meanings to old stories

Or overlooked stories…

Or forgotten aspects of old stories

So that new possibilities appear…

And as they appear there is choice as to what might be explored further

In equal measure there is support and challenge, comfort and adventure…

With the aim that a person might experience themselves in some new way, which means a new thought, feeling or action

And with a good eye and total honesty, there is a quite deliberate attention to and a focus on a person’s existing strengths, qualities, triumphs

And with the same good eye of perception there is a noticing of and drawing attention to the exceptions to behaviours and ways of being which are less wonderful for the person and those around them. There is attention to the contradictions and contrasts as these suggest there are choices about how to be in the world

And a conversation intentionally or by natural progression will tend to explore what research and experience tell us are likely to help a person grow well in life:

  • Connection and belonging
  •  Solid relationships
  •  Being in charge of life
  • A clear and positive sense of self and identity


And finally, it is the task of all involved parties, but particularly the worker, to monitor with integrity the process of the conversation to ensure that it genuinely embodies and mirrors each of these ideas.

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