The Sit-Down Meal: Table Talk Do’s and Don’ts

Table Talk Do’s and Don’ts.

Open conversation is important during a sit-down meal.

Open conversation is important during a sit-down meal.

Lots of recent studies have shown that children who engage in meaningful talks during a sit-down family dinner grow to become well-adjusted citizens. But some find it difficult to talk openly with others, especially the teens I have worked with.

Someone told me years ago, “It takes different kinds of people to make ‘people.'” Some are outgoing, others withdrawn, bold or reserved. There are many who prefer to just listen and let others dominate every conversation. Everyone is different. But at the dinner table, there are some strategies that help stir conversation.

It’s important that everyone feels comfortable enough to share ideas and switch roles as talker and active listener. Here are a few ideas to think about as you, the adult,  step up to the table and engage in meaningful conversation with your family..

  • Be an active listener. Giving eye contact to the speaker and nodding your head shows you understand. Saying  “I see,” and “I agree,” tells them you are engaged in the talk.
  • Listen to the whole story before talking. It is said that most people can only listen for 17 seconds before talking. And when you do respond, try to add to their topic rather than change the subject.
  • Ask probing questions to keep the conversation going.
  • When you have the floor, finish your talk with a question. It encourages others to talk and share their point of view.
  • Every child’s ideas have value, even if just being silly. Enjoy the moment and laugh a lot.

As for the don’ts? Focus on the do’s and there will be no problems.

Looking Ahead: We’ll share some sure-fire conversation starters that will keep them talking into the night.