Group Conversations

Tips and Tricks for Navigating Group Conversations

Group conversations can be difficult. Competing voices, quickly-moving speech, long stories, and complicated ideas can be hard to manage when you have aphasia. 58 people showed up to commiserate and share tips and tricks during our last Aphasia Cafe. Moreover, we also shared whether we used the same technique, voting “yes,” “no,” or “sometimes” in a poll after many of the questions.

Here are some of the tips and tricks we discussed, as well as the ones we didn’t get a chance to cover due to time.

Tips and Tricks for Group Conversattions

Ask: “Say again, please?” or “Excuse me, one more time, please?” —Kitti

This is a good tip to slow down the conversation, even if you heard and understand.

Ask people to repeat/slow down. —Jugal

This is a little more direct, but it’s always good to ask people to repeat themselves or slow down

Compose your sentences and then wait for a break in the conversation. —Robert R

By thinking ahead, you can also note if you run into a word you don’t remember. Chad told a story about his mother opening her phone and showing him a picture when she couldn’t remember the word “vaccine.” Planning means you can use alternate forms of communication to get your point across.

Hand gestures and directed facial expressions – to indicate that an answer is being processed and to stop/direct people who speak over me. (Or try to.) —Oren K

Even people without aphasia use this technique to indicate that they’re not ready to speak. For instance, if you just took a large bite of food, you may hold up your hand to ask the other person to wait while you chew. Use this technique to let other people know that you need extra time.

I always start questions with, “Please help me understand…” Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I keep a small notebook with me to jot down the questions I want to ask later. —Yosette

Keeping a notebook with you gives you a place to jot down ideas.

I just keep quiet and wait for someone to ask me something. —Bruce

Sometimes being quiet says a lot. It allows other people to realize someone is missing from the conversation.

Limit my two-way conversation. I’d rather text or email than speak one-on-one or in a group. When I speak in Toastmasters, generally it is a delivery or one-way presentation with notes. —Mert R

Knowing other people’s speaking habits gives you a chance to choose a different way to communicate with them. Mert gave the example of someone who is known for interrupting. She chooses instead to text or email with that person rather than try to have a group conversation with them.

Write out your answer to the question if you have a lot of trouble. —Donna B

In this case, writing out your answer gives you a chance to slow the conversation down while people wait a moment.

Hmmm… What I do is just “Do it!” You’re NOT being graded, so have a good time and find new friends! —Kevin K

We loved this point! You’re not graded on group conversations. Don’t stress and try to have a good time.

Additional Thoughts

No background noise and pay attention without distractions. —Trazana

Repeating back what has been said to understand. —Abby G

Wait for my opportunity to speak and let myself be heard. —Marcus R

Allow people additional time to respond, try not to let one person dominate the conversation, and find ways to include those who are less talkative. —Shaparak

Be confident. —R. J. R.

Clarify with the group what they mean or what you understand of the topic they are discussing. —Eileen

Don’t get discouraged. People want to hear what you have to say. —Melissa

Give others space to talk, but don’t wait too long to speak up. Put your hand up if you’re worried about talking through someone else. If you talk through someone else and they let you speak first, ask them what they wanted to say when you’re done. —Nina

I listen for a break in the conversation before asking questions or adding comments. I physically nod to show engagement with the speaker. —Kathy

I try to keep a piece of paper handy so I can jot down thoughts. —Cheryl

Just go as slow as you need to. —Barbara

Looking directly at a person when they speak. —Mildred

My speech therapist and I are working on picking out keywords in conversations so I can focus on content. I also like to use gestures, like a thumbs up. —Mac

Raise my finger. —Rob

Rephrase my statement. Confirm the sentence they were saying. —Librenda

Speak in a normal tone and ask questions with not too many options. Encourage independence and don’t be overprotective. When giving instructions, break them down into simple steps. —Cheryl

Speak slowly. —Roy

Take your time. —Deidra

Taking notes. —Brooke

Talk slower. —Carter

Try and practice phonation. —John

Use index cards to map the initial question, answers, and follow-up replies. —Ed

Use simple tools to communicate (writing board/notebook). Try sound out with a mirror. Take your time. —Doreen

Write down before I talk. —Joe

The Optimal Position

It seems that I’m in a situation.
Looking at me like an inquisition.
But I will not just sit in frustration.
I’ll turn to the optimal position.

I will set the stage, it’s my creation.
And you don’t have to be a magician.
Great attitude and inspiration,
To turn to the optimal position.

Ask to limit the group and location.
Ask for patience with time in addition.
Ask with yes/no/maybe confirmation.
Ask and seek for the optimal position.

Think before speaking, a new foundation.
Conversation isn’t a competition.
Your turn – my turn and that’s the rotation.
So turn to the optimal position.”

—by Aphasia Cafe participant, Mark H.

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