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Healthy Conversations

Everyone needs someone to talk to sometimes. We all want to feel heard and understood. If you're worried about someone, having a conversation and talking through what’s happening for them is a great way to connect and share the load. Even if you’re not sure what to say, or how to help, one of the best ways to offer support is to just be there to listen. 

If young people know they have someone they can turn to, who will listen to them patiently and without criticising them, it’ll be a lot easier to ask for help if they need it.

If someone’s safety is at risk or they have come to you about a dangerous situation, you will need to step in and help. Have a look at the NEED HELP NOW page to find people who can support you.

Bringing up a difficult topic

  • Plan what you want to say. It might help to write down what you want to talk about. If you don’t know much about a particular topic, learn a bit about it first
  • Choose a quiet time and space. Find a time when you are both calm and able to listen to each other. You could try sitting side by side, or going for a walk or a drive
  • Use “I Statements” to say how you feel about a behaviour or situation: “I’ve noticed that…” “I feel…” “I’m worried about…”  This is a good way to say what you think without blaming or criticising
  • Talk about the behaviour. Talk about the specific behaviour you are worried about, and show that you are concerned: “I’ve noticed that you aren’t eating as much as you used to and I’m a bit worried” 
  • Keep calm. Speak in a calm voice. If you feel yourself getting angry or upset, take some deep breaths. You might need to take a break from the conversation and come back to it later
  • Be patient. They might not want to share things right away
  • Let them know there are people they can talk to. Tell them you’re there to listen to them about whatever’s on their mind, and talk about who else they could speak to – who's in their support circle. Don't take it personally if they don't want to talk to you. They may not want to upset you and it might be easier to open up to someone else

If they want to talk about something

  • Listen well. Stop what you are doing and listen to what they are saying. Don’t interrupt, and let them say everything they need to
  • Be aware of your body language. Have a relaxed posture, don’t fold your arms or cross your legs and do make some eye contact. Show that you want to listen
  • Try to understand it from their point of view. Listen to them. Show them you’ve heard, and you understand what they’re saying. You could say things such as “I understand that you are feeling …” or “It sounds like you feel …”
  • Try to respond without judgement. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with what they are telling you, just try not to judge whatever it is that’s going on 
  • Acknowledge them. It probably took a lot of courage to tell you whatever it is, so let them know you’re glad they spoke up
  • Believe them. No matter what the issue, take them seriously. Do not ignore the problem, or tell them it’s not important
  • Say it’s okay. Tell them it’s okay to be feeling whatever they’re feeling. You could help them name the problem or emotion. Sometimes just saying what the problem is will help them start to understand it more
  • Use open-ended questions to encourage more conversation. “Do you want to tell me a bit more about that?” or “Oh, what happened next?” These questions can help them open up, and help you understand the situation better. Ask them with a genuine interest in what’s going on
  • Encourage them to find their own solutions if it’s appropriate. Help them figure out what options they have and what will make them feel better
  • Offer to find help. You could offer to go with them to a doctor, or counsellor, or go together to talk to a support person or someone they trust about the issue
  • Let them know they have someone to talk to. Tell them you’re there to listen to them about whatever’s on their mind. You might not be the right person for them to talk to, so help them find someone they can talk to about whatever is going on


  • Avoid lecturing - try to discuss the situation with them instead. Know that when you’ve said what you need to, sometimes it’s best to just leave it and give things time to settle in
  • Manage your own emotions. If anger, worry or distress get the better of you when you’re upset, find a way to calm yourself down before dealing with the situation. You could take a five minute break, walk into another room, get some fresh air, get a drink of water or take some deep breaths before you return
  • Apologise and mean it when you know you are wrong. We don’t always get it right and no-one can be expected to know everything. Be responsible for your own actions and mistakes
  • Respect their privacy. You might be the only person they’ve told and they may not want to tell others yet, so don’t share the information - unless their safety is at risk

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