Conversation skills are so important! Many children today have not had the opportunity to learn the importance of reciprocity in conversation. Some will naturally figure it out when they get older. But I figure there’s no time like the present for children to learn a skill that can help parents and children connect, and help children interact with peers in a deeper way. By overtly discussing how conversations help deepen our relationships with others, expanding emotion vocabulary, and role- playing, children’s eyes are opened to the connectedness available to them through simple, reciprocal conversations.

It is natural for adults with good conversation skills to “meet the child more than half way”–often 90%–during conversations. That might sound something like this:

Mom: How was your day? 

Brianna: Fine.
Mom: What did you do?
Brianna: Nothing.
Mom: Did you have gym today?
Brianna: Yes. 

If the conversation is to continue, who is responsible for making it happen? The mom wants the connection–understands the importance of language as a tool to connect emotionally–so, with a “resistant” partner, this “conversation” becomes a barrage of questions that can often leave both parties frustrated.
I am currently working with a fourth grader and a freshman in high school on expanding conversation. Over the next few weeks I’d like to share what we are working on.

Both boys needed work on expanding vocabulary for emotions. “Good”, “bad”, “happy” and “mad” don’t help the partner understand the nuances of how they are feeling. Here is a sample of the type of intensity graph I use to work on this objective: 

These pictures were obtained from sites such as dreamstime.com andshutterstock.com, and placed in organizers using Inspiration software. 

Next week, I will share about the “Road” technique, where I concretely, visually demonstrate the expectations of both parties involved in the conversation. Just practicing this skill alone can have a significant impact on the quality of conversations.