Two students walking and talking
October 16, 2018
2 mins read

How to start a meaningful conversation

Most of us are never taught how to have conversations, especially ones that go deeper than surface level. At this point in our lives, it’s kind of assumed we know how to ask for help when we need it.

It’s so common for us to talk about grades or exam questions or weekend plans, but what if you need to talk about something more serious? What if you feel like you’re struggling?

Talking about “basic” student problems is actually a great segue to discussing your deeper personal challenges. Whether you’re feeling a bit envious of your friends, afraid of falling behind in a class, having trouble adjusting to campus life, or something more personal—you deserve to be heard.

Looking back on my own friendships, I can pinpoint the times when I became emotionally closer to my friends. Those times can be narrowed down to specific conversations when I opened up about my problems.

As a bonus, I’ve gotten great advice from some unexpected people. I’ve learned that a caring friend can give a perspective I usually haven’t thought about.

It might be worth reaching out if you’ve got something on your mind, too. Here are some strategies and simple sentences you can try to start a meaningful conversation.

Set the tone that works for you

“I’m going through a tough time and I feel like I can trust you. Can I talk to you about it?”

  • This question sets the tone for a more serious discussion, whether you want to talk about a personal challenge or check in on your friend.
  • Don’t take it personally if they don’t respond well. It’s hard to know what someone else might be going through that can make it hard for them to talk or listen. Respect their boundaries and learn how to set healthy ones in your relationships, too.

Ask for what you need

“I’m feeling (overwhelmed/anxious/useless). I don’t really know what I want, but I would like some company right now.”

“I’m not having a great day, and could really use a break. Can we grab dessert together?”

“Things haven’t been going great lately, I’m going through a lot. Can you check in with me once a day to make sure I’m taking care of myself? If you want, I can check in with you, too.”

  • Even if you don’t know what you need, being direct is helpful for you and the other person. The people who care about you probably want to know how to help you.
  • If you’re feeling hopeless or thinking about harming yourself, it may help to read this personal account about what you can say to ask for help (please be aware that this article contains content related to suicide).

Reach out to a professional if you still feel like you can’t cope

If you’re having trouble talking with a friend, or you feel like your challenge isn’t getting easier, professionals are there to listen and help you.

Whether it’s a personal problem or if you’re concerned about someone else, reach out to a trained professional.

Remember: relationships work when both sides are open and supportive of one another. Emotional times and deep conversations between people are ultimately what strengthen relationships.