I have noticed in myself and in others that as much as we often want to have meaningful conversations, sometimes we don’t know quite how to structure them. Sometimes stories flow easily and we are able to share our life experiences with our friends and family members, but it can be helpful to keep some images in mind to serve as guides to better open up to each other.
This can also be very true for children, especially in today’s world of Instagram and Facebook where cryptic and often global or absolute language predominates.
Some people complain that the art of real conversation seems to be dead or dying. Maybe we need to bring more awareness and intentionality into conversations that are without depth. We need to develop the ability to talk about struggles and challenges as well as things we are celebrating.
This becomes especially important in today’s world where we have been so socially distanced from each other and have had to struggle with times of anxiety, stress, sadness, frustration and other challenging feelings. What those versed in studies around mental health will tell us: it is essential to have safe places in which to candidly share life experiences and how they are impacting us. We need to tell our stories. We also need to be able to receive the stories of others.
A good friend and trainer for Lakeside Global Institute recently shared a tool she discovered on a website that provides a guide for conversations that have depth and allow people to share on several levels. The images are of a rose, a thorn and a bud. In no particular order, a person uses each to describe something that has gone on in their life:
- Roses are positive experiences and successes a person is celebrating
- Thorns are the challenging and/or painful experiences.
- Buds represent possibilities and opportunities a person is anticipating.
Here are some sentence starters to serve as guides:
- “I am really celebrating … Let me tell you about it.”
- “What happened to you recently that you are happy or surprised about? I would love to hear some of the details.”
- “Something happened to me recently that was very painful. It all started when…”
- “It often seems like we can only share positive things in our life. I’m sure there’s been a lot of struggles in your world. Would you like to tell me about them?”
- “As I look back over the past year, as much as there have been so many times of pain and struggle, I see some things that are actually improving my world and my family’s world. I am starting to be optimistic that… Is going to happen”
- “With everything that’s happened to us over this past year, are there things that are making you feel hopeful about your future and the future of your family?”
We all have the options of describing the three images (roses, thorns, buds) that can serve as a guide for conversations. Being free to share meaningful things about our lives with people who are important to us and to receive their stories can contribute greatly to our mental health and to the strength of these important relationships.
Invitation for Reflection
- Have you ever considered some of the images you could use to guide you to have meaningful and more in-depth conversations? If so, what are they?
- Can you envision yourself using the images of a rose, a thorn and a bud to serve as guides for having meaningful and more in-depth conversations?
- How might having these kinds of conversations be helpful to your mental health? To the mental health of your family members and others who are important to you?
Diane Wagenhals, Director, Lakeside Global Institute