Holiday time is an exciting time for everyone: celebrations, food, and time with loved ones. With many families and friends coming together and reuniting, often after long periods of time, come many loud group conversations. These conversations can feel quite overwhelming to some people, especially those with acquired brain injuries (ABI). Many clients with ABI find it difficult to attend to the conversations, keep up and/or add meaningful information to the conversation, or remember what has been discussed.
Some tips for keeping up in group conversation:
- Prepare. If you anticipate that it will be a long night, take a proper rest and cognitively prepare yourself. This could include deep, relaxation breathing or going for a brisk walk.
- If you are nervous that people are going to be asking you about your injury, plan a script ahead of time and try to re-direct the conversation back to the speaker. This will help you feel more comfortable and confident, knowing that you have anticipated this exchange in advance. E.g., “It’s been a long year but things are moving along, thank you. And how is Johnny enjoying college?”
- Try and eliminate background noise– if you are hosting the party, keep the noise to a minimum e.g., turn music low, turn off the television. If you are attending a party, ask the hostess if they do not mind to turn down the volume.
- Seating is important. Try and sit close to the person you feel comfortable conversing with. Try and seat yourself away from distractions e.g., away from the kitchen, or washroom.
- If you are finding it difficult to carry on a large conversation, try and create a smaller sub-group conversation. Smaller conversations are much easier to maintain and require less brain energy, than those larger, louder ones.
- If you are having trouble concentrating, ask 1-2 people if you can go in the other room to talk. It may be easier to have a productive conversation when you have decreased the amount of distractions.
- Repeat the question back to the listener. This helps you remember the information shared and also shows the listener that you are following the conversation. E.g., Q-“What do you plan on doing during the holidays?” A-“What do I plan on doing during the holidays? Well this week….”
- Summarize the information back to the listener to confirm your understanding. E.g., “So you are leaving to Mexico next week and going with the family for 7 days. What a nice time!”
- If you are stuck and are having trouble keeping the conversation going, transition to another topic. You can use the surrounding context if you are having difficulty choosing a new topic, such as commenting on the food, decorations, host or hostess, holiday plans.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for repetition! Everyone needs clarification sometimes, and your participation matters.
Use these strategies to help communication during the holiday season! The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada hopes to make your holiday conversations enjoyable and successful. Speak with your S-LP for more social communication strategies.
Ashleigh Wishen, M.H.Sc. S-LP (C)
Speech-Language Pathologist, Reg. CASLPO
The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.
Think back to a recent cocktail party you attended with distant relatives or unfamiliar co-workers in a new job setting…did you dread getting ready for the event? Did you feel awkward trying to start a conversation with your distant Aunt? Did you feel your heart pounding faster and harder as your new boss approached? Welcome to the world of many adolescents and adults, especially those on the Autism Spectrum or with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). Similar to those cocktail parties, social settings that require conversing, initiating and keeping conversations going can lead to feelings of anxiety, anger, confusion and even depression.
At the center of all our interactions lies the foundation of communication: to flourish academically, to build successful friendships, to develop professional relationships, and to create intimate bonds with our partners. However, the fundamental requirements of successful social communication are far from basic. One must have: the motivation to interact, be aware of their surroundings and how to modify them appropriately (eliminate distractions), recognize their own intentions, have the flexibility to shift perspectives, understand the “hidden”
social conventions appropriate to different contexts, and formulate their response in an organized manner.
A Speech-Language Pathologist works with individuals who have difficulties with social communication using a one-on-one direct model, or through group programs. You start increasing your or your child’s communicative competence by:
- Anticipating topics and/or vocabulary that will come up during the social interaction. Predicting conversational topics allows you to prepare ahead of time and thus increase your social confidence. E.g., if you or your child is going to a sports event;
research about the teams, rules, scores, and players or if you will be attending a work conference; read about the lectures ahead of time and familiarize yourself with the content of the day.
- Using ice breakers that you find helpful in starting conversations, such as “it’s a beautiful day today” or “how is your day going?”
- Practicing the tricky skill of making small talk. You can do this in the car on the way to an appointment, in a coffee shop or even at the dinner table.
- Using surrounding context to guide the conversation, especially when stuck on what to say next to keep the interaction going. For example, if you or your child are at a baseball game, comment on their favourite player, the uniforms, a great pitch. If you are at a wedding, comment on the bride and groom, the food, their opinion of the band.
- Shifting the conversation back to the speaker. Many clients with ABI dread answering questions about their accident or the details of their recovery. Instead of going into detail, briefly state how you are doing and then divert the conversation back to the partner, for example, “I am doing well, thank you. I heard you started a new job, and how is that going?”
These are a few tips that can help build communicative competence. If you are concerned about someone’s social communication skills, speak with a Speech-Language Pathologist for additional suggestions, recommendations and/or strategies.
The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada
M.H.Sc. S-LP (C)
Speech-Language Pathologist, Reg. CASLPO
Social communication is the way that we relate, understand someone else’s perspective, make connections and develop meaningful relationships. Being able to communicate effectively is vital to being a part of the world around us and
Speech Language Pathologist
The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada
feeling included. For many children delays in social communication, even the
slightest and most subtle delays, can wreak havoc on their ability to
participate in peer games and interactions on the school yard. For many children being included is much more important than their grade on the last math test. Feeling lost in a social environment can leave children feeling alone and can have negative impact on their self-esteem putting them at risk for bullying. Speech-Language Pathologists can offer strategies to help students develop social communication skills. Depending on the child’s age, focus may be on conversational skills such as starting a conversation and turn taking, or non-verbal skills such as understanding facial expressions and emotions. Understanding someone else’s perspective, learning how to deal with negative communication in a constructive way and discovering the nuances of peer interactions can help give your child the right strategies to join in. Having
strong social communication skills leads to increased confidence in social
settings making interaction with peers easier and more enjoyable for your
child. Social communication may be the link your child needs to make those
connections on the playground.