How to Talk About Difficult Subjects
Sometimes, the most important conversations are the hardest to have. Whether we’re concerned about a child or an adult, knowing how to talk about serious issues goes a long way toward eventual healing. Here are some tips for bringing things up and keeping the communication open.
- * For small children, find a storybook related to the subject. You’d be surprised how many topics have been covered in children’s books! After reading together, ask questions about the story itself. As the child becomes comfortable, bring the conversation to real-life. Has he had things like that happen to him? How did the story make him feel? Asking gentle questions lets children know it’s okay to talk about sad or scary things.
- * For older kids, you might use a similar approach after watching a TV show or movie. Or, you can bring up the topic generally with questions that ask for their opinion or advice. For example, “If my friend were depressed, what do you think I could say to help her?” Again, once a comfort level is reached in the conversation, ask gentle questions about the child’s own experiences.
- * Adults may appreciate the same sort of roundabout conversation openers, but this will depend largely on your relationship and their personality. For some, a more direct approach works best, although it’s still important to do so gently. Try something like, “I care about you and have noticed things that worry me. No matter what’s happening, I’m here to help or just listen.“
- * In all cases, listening is even more important than speaking! It’s difficult to find the right words or the courage to discuss tough issues. Your patience and attention, even when words are hard to come by, can give comfort and strength.
- * Assurances of safety, trust, and non-blaming are crucial to keep the discussion going.
- * It may take multiple conversation “sessions” to tackle the most difficult subjects. Be aware of how the talk is going, and try not to push beyond what’s comfortable for the other person, unless of course there’s an immediate danger and the discussion just can’t wait.
Having these tough talks isn’t easy, but compassion has a way of helping even the deepest hurts to heal. Check out Carrier’s Connections Video Series for information about some difficult subjects. For instance, watching a video about Childhood Sexual Trauma can be a conversation opener.
Clinical papers are also available in our Information Center. Click the links below to read about some of the difficult subjects we address: