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What to do when the conversation goes wrong

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Video transcript

Jas: Hi, my name is Jas, and my pronouns are they/them or she/her.

Jo: Hi, i’m Jo, and my pronouns are she/her or they/them.

Nadia: Hi, My name’s Nadia, and my pronouns are she/her.

Jas: We’re all young advisors for healthy teen minds and together we have worked to build these guides.

Jo: ‘So you want to talk about risk?’ We’re going to be taking you through this guide which has been created with insight from young people across England.

Jas: We all accept that risk exists and is sometimes scary to talk about. In this guide we are going to talk you through how we can be honest with each other about risk and how we can approach this subject in a way that feels safe. 

Jo: Before we start talking about risk, let’s discuss some of the ways that you can bring the conversation back if something has gone wrong. 

What to do when the conversation goes wrong

Jo: So, the conversation has gone wrong. Maybe we have stopped talking, clammed up, disengaged or we want to leave. Maybe you’ve said something, or done something that’s upset us. Now what?

Nadia: Everyone makes mistakes – we are all human! Sometimes you will say something or do something that is upsetting to a young person. We want to let you know that 

there’s always opportunity to turn the conversation back around and make the experience a positive one again. 

Jas: Acknowledge when you feel that you’ve messed up or done something unhelpful. It’s actually really comforting and helps us to trust you when you can admit you’re wrong and take accountability. We understand that no one is perfect. Give us space to express what we are feeling, and try to remain open minded to the issues that we may be telling you about. 

Jo: If something offends us, it means that it’s important to us. Please don’t keep saying that offensive thing. If you don’t understand something, tell us. And if you need further clarification, just ask.

Nadia: Allow the young person to be the expert in their experiences and mental health. 

Jas: A meaningful and heartfelt apology can go a long way however, apologizing and then not adjusting your behaviours becomes an empty sentiment. 

Jo: Work towards adjusting your behaviour and improving your understanding. You can ask us what might be helpful, or for the correct way to discuss the topic at hand. If we can see that you’re making a genuine effort to make things right, it builds trust. And, if we’re able to explain what you’ve said or done that’s upset us, thank us, and be sure not to repeat that behaviour. 

Nadia: This could also be an opportunity to further educate yourself in your own time. If the issue is discrimination, it could be really hard for us to stand up for ourselves, and educating you in that moment could be something that we don’t feel able to or want to be in charge of. If someone is open with you about something you said offending them, maybe do your own research, and work on your understanding away from the young person, so that next time, both you and the young person can have a better experience. 

Jo: Everyone makes mistakes. But the fact that you’re here, engaging in this learning shows that you care, and that you want to provide meaningful support to all the young people that you see. So thank you for wanting to learn and hear our perspective. 

We hope that this video has provided you some tips on how you can make risk conversations with young people, less scary, comfortable, safe and honest

Remember that, everyone makes mistakes or conversations can sometimes not go as planned. When this happens, acknowledge and apologise when you feel that you have messed up. It is comforting, helps maintain the trust you would have worked hard to build with the young person and shows you can take accountability for your actions.

Allow space, for the young person, to express what they are feeling and remain open minded about the issues you will hear.

Ask questions, for further clarification, and allow the young person to be the expert in their experiences and mental health, throughout the conversation.

You can ask us what might be helpful, or the correct way to discuss a topic. If someone is open about something you said offending them, especially around discrimination, it is a learning opportunity for you and possibly a brave moment for them.

We provided some further research resources in What we need you to know, which will shed some light on discrimination faced by young people accessing care and how to create a positive experience

Reflection space

What verbal or practical tools can you use when the conversation goes wrong? What are some of the topics and factors which can increase the likelihood of things going wrong in the conversation? Are there any topics conversations you feel are more likely to go wrong? Is there any support available to build your confidence?