A car journey has always been one of my best places for a conversation with my teenage children. Those regular ten-minute trips to the station. Picking them up with friends from a party. Or a four-hour trip up the motorway to watch Brighton v Liverpool.
Whatever time we have together is a precious moment to check in. To really talk. To bring up those tricky subjects that we’d rather avoid. To show them that I care.
The environment in which we hold our conversations – the physical space and the psychological space – plays a massive part in their quality.
How open and truthful we are in sharing our thoughts, feelings, or what we might be struggling with, will depend on how psychologically safe we feel in any conversation, on where and how we are having the conversation.
One in ten of us have hopped into the car to take a difficult phone call, although more of us – around one in eight – have used a car journey to have a tricky chat with another person, according to an Aviva survey1 .
So, what is it about being in the environment of a car that seems to make it a great space for having a real, ‘get to the heart of the matter’, conversation? Especially with a teenager.
- Fewer distractions – there may still be the mobile phone, but they won’t be heading out the door with a friend, or to the kitchen to tuck into another bowl of cereal. Giving someone your complete attention is very reassuring and shows them that you respect and value your conversation with them.
- No direct eye contact – sitting side by side helps to ease the parent-child power dynamic and make it easier to talk more freely. It can also feel less threatening.
- Being in close proximity – we are human beings and being near someone physically encourages both of you to be more open in your conversations than you might otherwise be.
- Movement – there is something about changing scenery outside that can influence the quality of a conversation. When we’re in movement, it helps create the sense that we’re not stuck with a problem.
Don’t just leave it to chance.
Being conversationally wise, whether at work, or as a parent, means being intentional about the environment where you have your important conversations.
The car could be one of your greatest opportunities.
To find out more about having better conversations at work, get in touch.
We’d love to have a chat.
1 All statistics relate to a survey carried out by Censuswide research in January 2022 on behalf of Aviva, polling 4,008 UK adults including 2,908 drivers.
By Sara Hope