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Blog: It's good to talk...but it isn't always easy!

Julia

When we start working with a young person we make a promise that we will always listen to them and we will be with them every step of the way on their journey with us. That hasn’t changed, but how we do it has.

Social distancing has forced us into our homes and out of our comfort zone in hundreds of ways. How we have conversations and sustain relationships is a huge part of that. Phone calls and video calls can be awkward for anyone – conversation just isn’t as natural as it is when you’re actually with someone.

So, it’s completely understandable that trying to engage a young person on the phone for longer than three-and-a-half minutes can be a challenge that even the most accomplished chatterbox would struggle with. And it’s not about keeping young people on the phone for the sake of it; we really want to have meaningful, supportive conversations with them – that’s why we’re here.

However, if there’s one thing that this bizarre lockdown situation has taught me, it’s how to be creative. As I trawled through the internet looking for ideas on how to make a phone call fun and engaging, I came across some very simple – but very effective – games to play.

I played a great communication game that encouraged a young person, who is usually very quiet, to talk. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen. We took it in turns to think of an object and then gave instructions on how to draw it, without saying what it was. Once finished, we would guess what it was supposed to be. Sometimes the drawings were pretty accurate - other times hilariously wrong which resulted in lots of laughing. It’s a really fun game, but it also helps to illustrate the importance of good communication and how hard it can be to give clear instructions as well as how hard it is to listen. It can also show how things are easily misunderstood and misinterpreted.

One of my favourite games is Guess The Sound. I found a great website with lots of categories to choose from and short clips of different sounds. The young person chose the category and I’d play each clip. We both wrote down our answers and would see who won at the end. This is a fun game to play to develop listening skills and it really encouraged the young person to speak when we were comparing each other’s answers at the end.

Another good activity was the ‘20 questions’ game. Games like this are always good when you’re trying to get to know someone better. There are lots of example questions online but the ones I used were taken from a post I saw on Facebook. I particularly liked this set of questions as they combined light-hearted ones, such as ‘what did you last watch on TV?’ to more emotive ones, such as ‘when did you last cry?’. We both took it in turns to answer all questions and it was a really productive way to get to know each other and to build up trust.

Last, but not least, the Personality Quiz. This was perfect for a young person I’m working with who is particularly interested in peoples’ different personality types and characteristics. We both did the quiz together and compared our results afterwards. It opened up a conversation about how accurate the test was and encouraged the young person to discuss how they felt in various situations. There are lots of websites offering online personality quizzes, but my two favourites can be found here and here.

As time goes on and restrictions ease to a point when we can resume more and more face-to-face work, I’m confident that I will look back at many of these games and activities and continue to incorporate them into the ‘A Better Life’ work I do with young people in future.

But, for now, I will keep my creative thinking cap on and hopefully continue to have phone conversations that are two-way, fun and productive!

Julia, Assistant Project Worker, Aberdeen

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