A post from our Project Manager @rosiehopes for #TimeToTalk Day.
Are there any four words in this world more frightening than “we need to talk“?
I know how important it is to talk about the things we struggle with, but I’ve always been more likely to run away than open up if someone wants to “have a conversation”.
On the other hand, some of the best, most intimate conversations I’ve had, have happened over a shared activity. It sounds odd, but for me, a good conversation means a lack of eye contact and an easy means of distraction.
I did my undergraduate dissertation on female genital mutilation. It involved having very intimate conversations with women about their most painful and traumatic memories and their most private and stigmatised body parts. The idea that I would have sat down across a table with a notepad and pen and started asking them questions was just impossible for me. So instead, I offered to help them cook.
It was amazing how shifting the focus to an activity helped the women to open up and share their stories. We were working together to create something. The women were in charge. We had something to do with our hands. The conversation flowed naturally. And when there was silence, the activity made that comfortable too.
I learned a lot from that (including some great recipes) and I’ve found it helpful in my private and professional life too. Car journeys. Washing up. Tidying out the stockroom. The school run. They’ve all been the setting for some of the most productive and helpful conversations I’ve had about mental health and wellbeing.
We don’t have to wait for a special space to have these conversations. In fact, in my experience, it’s best not to.