I’ve been lucky enough to spend plenty of time with our granddaughter over the last few weeks and I am struck by how different our conversations as adults might be if we applied the same principles.

Create a safe environment.

For a one year old this means one in which they are physically safe to explore their world, and one where they feel secure. For an important conversation it means choosing a time and place where both of you can be fully present.

Pay exquisite attention.

We naturally pay exquisite attention on what they are doing because we revel in their learning and discovery – and they reward us by doing more or getting further with every attempt. For an important conversation this means paying attention to your partner and eliminating distractions.

Repeat what they say.

Despite the fact that it makes no sense to us we happily play back to them every utterance. This lets them know they’ve been heard them and they get to hear their outputs again. They use this feedback loop to develop their language skills. Checking back with your partner that you’ve both heard and understood what they said is the best way of keeping a conversation on track.


Within the context of keeping them safe, whatever they do we praise and encourage them. What would happen if we had a similarly positive approach to more of our adult interactions?

No judgement.

At this age we don’t scold or criticise, we stay resolutely positive about everything they attempt. We build on what works rather than try and change what doesn’t. What if we invited change in our conversation partners rather than try and persuade them of our point of view?

Trust them and ourselves.

We trust them to know what is right for them. When they decide to go to sleep in the middle of a story we don’t take umbrage – we think of it as a job well done. Are we as accepting when others seem to have their own best answers?

Finally of course there is the big advantage of being a grandparent – you get to have all this joy and then their mum and dad have them back for the sleepless nights. Similarly our conversation partners have their own worlds that they go back to.

It would be great to hear if any of this chimes with you and how your experience is different.