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CHAPTER 1 2. Pick your moment


Don’t try to speak when people are watching TV or spending time with grandchildren; instead, select a time when they are able to absorb what you have to say. Try joining in with what they’re doing, whether it’s reading the newspaper, or strolling in the garden -- these can be good times to have an uninterrupted, private conversation.


3. Find your opening


Beginning is everything so work out how you’re going to initiate the conversation. For example, if you want to discuss your parent leaving the family home, you could say, “I’d really like to talk with you about something that matters to me a great deal and could help you. Is now a good time?”


Practise saying the words out loud so that you’re confident and relaxed and check that the words you use are appropriate. You don’t want to worry them by sounding tense. Nor do you want to come across as talking down to them. The more they feel they have an equal part of the conversation, the more positive their response is likely to be.


4. Acknowledge feelings


Emotions can run high in such conversations, so provide reassurance. You might say, “We want to make sure that you’re cared for as you get older -- so I’d like you to talk with me about what support will be best for you”.


If there’s a topic you want to bring up that might be uncomfortable, share how you feel as simply as you can without dramatising it. For example, “I feel concerned that if we don’t talk about this, our relationship will become more difficult for us both”. You might go on to say, “When I found out about your decision to sell the family home, I felt sad that you hadn’t discussed this with me first.”


The more authentic you are, the more you encourage the other person to open up. While it can feel risky to state how you feel, it’s the only way to have a real heart-to-heart.


5. Ask questions


Instead of giving advice or stating your opinion, focus on finding out what matters to the other person. Critical questions could include, “What is it that you really want?” and, “What can I do to help?” Once you’ve asked them what’s right for them, then listen -- and keep listening.


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