How to have a good conversation?

In my previous blog, I wrote about the importance of being seen, heard, and appreciated. This is important for everyone, but especially for young people, who are searching for themselves on their way to adulthood. To be seen, heard, and appreciated requires more than a standard question like "How was school today?" or "How was work?" It is about asking questions to each other about what you really find important in life. But, questions in that direction are not just asked at random, there has to be a proper context for them. 

So what do you ask? 

You can create the right context if you show interest. That is quite difficult with an adolescent, I hear all those fathers, mothers and teachers think, because they are not that open. That is quite true. That is why I usually start by observing them. I look at what they are doing. Very often it is their mobile phone, with earphones in, of course. But I don't let that stop me from asking what they are doing on their mobile phone. Sometimes it's texting someone, other times they are watching a movie, or listening to music, or posting something on Instagram for example. 

Further questions

If they don't want to be disturbed in what they are doing, I notice that soon enough, but if not, I ask further. For example, who they are communicating with on their phone, what film they are watching or who they are listening to. If they tell me, for example, who they are communicating with on their mobile phone, I ask more questions. If it is a friend, I ask how she is doing, if she is having a hard time with the lock-down and when they last saw each other. Then, for example, why she likes this friend so much or what they like to do together. After that, a conversation can unfold about friendship and what we both think is important in friendship, and so on. 

Another time, I ask about what they are posting. My eldest daughter has an Instagram account where she collects and shares design from all sorts of designers. I like to look at it with her. We share what appeals to us and why or why not. I then ask her how she uses all this inspiration to come up with new ideas herself. And I talk about what inspires me in life and what I do with that. Sometimes we also talk about new design possibilities in the future, for example 3D printing. 

Conversation on core values

Starting with questions about everyday things, a connection is created; mutual interest and appreciation. And this creates a context, an atmosphere in which you can talk to each other, including your teenage son or daughter, about the things that are really important to you in life. Then you can talk about what is valuable to you: friendship, curiosity, entrepreneurship, inspiration, sustainability, happiness, and so on. And then, suddenly, the conversation turns to core values. 

It can also be easier

We created a Core Values Game to make conversations between young people, parents and teachers, or between friends and colleagues about essentials in life easier. All you have to do is ask "Do you feel like playing a game with me?" Through the game, you come up with topics that resonate with the players in an almost natural way. As a result, you have to put much less effort into asking through in the way I described in the two examples above. And you talk to each other much more quickly about the things going on in everyone's lives and about what you really care about. 


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