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 speech-language pathologist 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. www.speechtherapycentres.com