Psychologist shares 5 top tips for good conversation as Brits crave conversation

Six in 10 adults miss “ordinary” conversations such as small talk about the weather and celebrity gossip, a study found.

Researchers among 2,000 adults found 60% time for appropriate conversation, something they felt they had been starved of throughout the lockdown.

And nearly half think a good conversation improves their mood and benefits their mental health – in fact, three-quarters said a decent chat makes their day.

But despite the need to chat, 24% admit it’s been so long since they last had one due to the lockdown, they’re now more afraid to talk to others.

It was also found that the key to a satisfying conversation is discussing common interests (63%), discovering something new (53%) and feeling valued (51%).

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We can all suffer from a feeling of isolation when in confinement (stock image)

The study, commissioned by giffgaff as part of its ‘Have a Good Conversation’ campaign, also found that the typical adult currently only has about seven decent conversations per month.

The initiative calls on the nation to have a conversation with someone who really needs it in a bid to create Britain’s “least lonely hour” – between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 18.

Simone Bose, psychologist and relationship therapist, said: “When it comes to our happiness, talking to each other is essential to feeling connected.

“Our brain reacts when we hear the voice of a loved one and our body triggers the production of oxytocin, the hormone of love and bonding.

“This is why talking on the phone can be so beneficial, it reduces cortisol levels and therefore stress.

“The more meaningful the conversation, the drastically reduced cortisol.”

Close up woman and man sitting in cafe, holding hot coffee cups on table
There is no substitute for a sitting cat (stock image)

The study also found that young adults seem to find the prospect of a conversation increasingly intimidating.

Half of 18-24 year olds said they started to feel more apprehensive in the past 12 months – more than the number of adults who feel this overall.

Conversing is also a challenge for young adults – 58 percent of 18-34 year olds admitted they found it difficult, compared to 36 percent of over 65s who felt the same.

And 46% of all respondents said they find it harder than ever to think of topics for discussion.

Again, this is particularly prevalent among 18-24 year olds (60 percent).

There also appears to be a gender difference, as more women (52 percent) than men (39 percent) have struggled in this regard.

Psychotherapy session.  Patient talking to a mental health professional.
Talking about things can really improve our mental health (stock image)

As a fallback, 27% of respondents will typically wait for others to engage in conversations – rather than the other way around.

But 57% fear the art of conversation is on the decline.

Conducted via OnePoll, the study also found that the typical adult only has three people they can really open up to.

Perhaps as a result, 47% said they had become more likely to come into contact with someone they had not spoken to for a long time in the past 12 months.

Businessmen in informal discussion
Face-to-face conversation can boost morale (stock image)

Ash Schofield, CEO of giffgaff, said: “giffgaff is built on community and that means we support, help and learn from each other.

“Understanding the growing problem of isolation and loneliness felt by so many people, we wanted to encourage people to ‘have a good conversation’.

“Empowering people to help create Britain’s Least Lonely Hour, because we know the power a conversation can have to lift morale and stay connected.”

You can find more information about “Have a Proper Chat” at the giffgaff hub.

Simone Bose’s tips for a good discussion

1. Enjoy and be present with your conversation.

The best way to be fully engaged is to really listen and take an interest in what the other person is saying, and not waste time thinking about what to say next.

2. If you are wondering where to start, have in mind some topical stories that you can share with the person you are talking to.

But also make sure you don’t choose insensitive topics that might make the other person uncomfortable.

3. It’s a balance, don’t forget to share a part of yourself and find things that you can connect with with the person you’re talking to on the phone.

People will feel closer to you if you are also more vulnerable in the conversation, it allows them to be the same.

4. Consider where and when you are in a conversation.

If you are going for a walk and have time to talk, then you can take the time to talk about deeper topics.

If you have a short but sweet conversation to say hello to someone, stay lighter.

5. Take cues from the other person – actively listen to what the other person is excited to talk about and what is important to them or what bothers them.

And notice the inflections, pauses, and emotion in their voices.

All of these are great ways to pick up on things the other person will like to talk about.

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