Have you ever encountered a time when the person you came to visit wasn’t contributing much to the conversation? We all know that a common way to get a conversation going is by asking a few questions –right? But after a few of your go-to questions, you just aren’t getting anywhere. So, you ask a few more questions...
Now you start feeling more like Barbara Walters than yourself and you’re wondering how she is feeling about all the questions too! Yikes! This is not the direction you hoped for. What to do?
Let’s step back and see what we can notice about this situation.
The person you are visiting may be more on the introverted side, maybe a little shy if you are new to her, or maybe she is feeling a little anxious because she’s having trouble finding the words to match her thoughts. Perhaps she is having a tougher day with more confusion and answers are harder to find. All of these can be challenging for her and for her visiting Friend.
Perhaps there are possibilities available that can direct a visiting Friend.
Sitting together with her in the common area of her care facility means there is usually a lot of different things you can look at together. People watching is always interesting. It can be a good way to engage in a variety of short and simple topics to observe, discuss and comment on. Pretty colors, stylish clothes, what others are doing to name a few. This can spark memories and open-ended questions. For someone introverted, it means the focus is not on her. For someone having difficulties expressing themselves, this can be an enjoyable activity that makes her feel included without the pressures of having to “know the answers”.
You can try an experiment like “going fishing”!
I’m not talking about bringing Hip Waders and tackle to your next visit. What I mean is to bring along something that is interesting and active –say knitting or a simple but repetitive craft. Something that involves action while being seated and some sort of materials. [This is baiting the hook.] Sitting at a table together in a common area, you take out this activity and invite her to join you. If she declines but is interested in what you are doing, that is fine! Keep doing it. You will find in a short period of time other residents will be attracted to your table. [Reeling them in.] They will be curious to know what you are doing. With these additional people around, the conversations will take off. You and the one you are visiting will be engaged and it will be on her own terms. The pressure will be off her and there will be lots to enjoy and take in. Including her in the conversation, gives others a chance to get to know her. Giving her time to speak up and share if she wants to, takes the pressure off, and makes it a wonderful and inclusive time for her, for you and the others. You are creating an opportunity for her to be part of something bigger. This is especially good if she was having troubles meeting others or was new to the facility.
So, save your questions, notice what cues and clues she is giving you and don’t be afraid to try some experimentation. A little creativity can open a whole new world for her and you both will have fun!