My new book, ‘Listen,’ will be out on 16th September. This book is a guide to tender conversations about the things that matter most to us.
There has been a huge correspondence from ‘With the End in Mind.’ If you are one of the hundreds of people who has made contact, thank you. Thanks for trusting me with your story, for asking your questions, and for telling me about the impact of knowing more about the process of ‘Ordinary Dying.’
Many questions and comments are about the difficulties of starting those important conversations. People feel anxious to talk about end of life preferences with people they love, so they delay. Some messages are from people approaching the end of their life: perhaps through illness or perhaps simply recognising that their age means these conversations are now a sensible thing to do. This group find that their younger or fitter family and friends shy away from the conversation because they feel so uncomfortable. ‘How do I engage them?’ is their question.
Other messages are from supporters of people approaching death; adult children wanting to know their elderly relatives’ preferences, or the close supporters of a person with a terminal illness. Some fear causing distress by opening the conversation. Others find that the person wants to defer the conversation, so the people writing to me fear it will soon be too late.
There have been so many letters and messages like this, and many others about how to talk about difficult, emotionally-laden issues with tenderness and compassion. This got me thinking. I have been engaging in conversations we see as ‘difficult’ throughout my career. Generally, they turn out not to be difficult at all. Very often, it’s a relief to start the conversation. People feel better for having shared their concerns. Talking eases the burden. But only is somebody listens, and listens well.
What is listening well? Well, it’s about generosity with time and about creating a safe space. It’s about not getting in the way with our suggestions. It’s about accepting the other person’s view as reality as they see it. It’s even about not offering reassurance and solutions: instead, we step into the difficulties alongside the other person, as a companion in distress.
These reflections led to the writing of this new book. It’s stories-based, like With the End in Mind. It deals with the art of the tender conversation across a variety of situations from supporting teenage identity anxieties to talking about end of life care. This book is a guide to tender conversations about the things that matter most to us.
I hope you will enjoy it. Here’s a link to pre-order.