Starting Meaningful Conversations

How well do you know the important people in your life?  Have you spent time talking to them about their memories - favourite holidays, highlights in their lifetime, a time when they laughed until they cried?

Chances are you know many of the major milestones like wedding days, perhaps a school they intended or where they grew up, but have you had the opportunity to sit down and ask about how they felt when they walked up the aisle?  Who the teacher was who most influenced their adult life?

The things you learn from these deeper, more meaningful conversations will provide you with an insight into the full tapestry of your loved one's life - and you will gain an even greater appreciation for your family history and the individuals who have come before you.

Sometimes using a visual prompt, such as a photo album, souvenir or memento, can be a great way to start a conversation.  Memorable occasions such as the church where your loved one was married or a favourite park can also help someone begin to open up and share their story.

You could share a memory about a holiday you took together and will always remember, a piece of advice you cherish, a song that reminds you of them or the ways you will never forget them.  

You may wish to take notes during or after your conversation, or make an audio recording.  You should choose whatever method seems most appropriate and comfortable given the setting of your conversation.

Some questions you could ask to start the talk are:

  • What is your proudest achievement?
  • What was the one piece of advice you received from your parents or grandparents that you never forgot?
  • Tell me about the most memorable summer you had growing up.
  • Tell me about your favourite teacher; what did you learn from him or her?
  • If you could spend a day doing anything you like, what would it be?
  • Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Ask open ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer.  The question "what memories do you have of a favourite childhood holiday" will result in a longer conversation than "did you enjoy your holidays as a child?"

There's no right or wrong way - the important thing is to start.  You don't need to cover everything in one sitting, you don't need to use these questions - the aim is simply to share memories, enjoying time together learning about the past and hopes for the future.  Every person has a story to tell.

Go back to read our other articles