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How to talk about difficult topics

Your Life
Wednesday 01 November 2017
Sometimes it can be hard to start a conversation about what’s on your mind – and the fact that you’re speaking to someone you care about doesn’t always make it easier. Bringing up a subject such as sickness, funeral arrangements or end-of-life-care can be difficult, especially if you know that the person that you’re speaking to might feel that it is “too morbid”, or tell you that they don’t want to think about it.

The same thing can happen with money, especially if you feel like discussing money worries would be a taboo conversation. But these conversations are actually extremely important, and could help you and your loved ones avoid leaving important things unsaid.
  • Do you know how you want to be cared for at the end of your life? If you find yourself in a position where you’re no longer able to express your wishes, it will help to know that they have already been passed on.
  • Talking about funeral arrangements in advance can help the family to avoid stress, and prevent disagreements about how you would have wanted things.
  • An earnest conversation about money might allow you and your family to support each other more effectively.
  • Similarly, some people avoid talking about health worries – perhaps because they don’t want to concern others, or “cause a lot of fuss over nothing”.  Again, though, talking to the people who care about you, even when it’s uncomfortable, can prove both practical and therapeutic for everyone involved.


Have you considered a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A conversation with loved ones is a great start, but with a Lasting Power of Attorney you give them the ability to carry out your wishes should you become unable to express yourself.

Download guide


Starting the conversation

We can talk about how important these conversations are all day, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to know how to start. Here are some practical tips to help you have that conversation you’ve been putting off…
  • Spend some time thinking about what you want to say before jumping in. If you’re nervous about approaching something, preparation is essential; if you know what you want to say then you can push through the nerves by sharing exactly what you prepared. If you’re finding it particularly difficult, you might even want to consider journaling beforehand, writing down your thoughts in order to turn abstract ideas or worries that you have into something concrete.
  • Schedule the conversation, rather than simply springing it on your loved one – especially if you think they’ll find it uncomfortable. So, for instance, you might say “I’d like to talk to you about [topic], would you be free for a chat this weekend?” They may have been worrying about the same thing, and this gives them a chance to prepare.
  • Don’t avoid the elephant in the room: acknowledge that it is an awkward or difficult conversation to have. Say something like “I know that this is uncomfortable, but I think we would benefit from discussing [topic]”.
  • Use ‘I’ statements when you’re talking to help your loved one understand how the subject affects you. For instance, ‘I feel concerned about…’, or ’I’m feeling scared about [topic] and I need your support’.
Once you’ve made the initial step and broached the topic, it often gets a lot easier to actually say everything that needs to be said – so don’t be scared to take those tentative first steps towards opening up communication. 
Page last updated: Friday 07 September 2018