5 Ways to Start a Conversation with an Ear

Ever wanted to call E4P, but not sure what you wanted to say? We know that sometimes you want to talk, and maybe you have a lot to say, but you aren’t sure how to start the conversation. You aren’t alone– I sometimes can’t even figure out how to start a conversation with my closest friends, let alone a complete stranger. Instead of directly saying, “Hello, I have x problem and it is bothering me,” it comes out more like, “Good hello, me hands are bread loaves, help can you offer?” Or it comes out as a strangled “nyyeeeeehhhh” noise. Either way, I feel you. Talking is hard!

So, instead of letting you fret about what to say to us, I’ve come up with this great guide for how to start a conversation when messaging or calling Ears. Here are 5 methods you can use to start getting where you want to go on a call or message.

1. Wait for us to ask questions.

When Ears answer the phone, we’ll usually say something along the lines of, “Hi, Ears for Peers!” After this, some people are able to launch into whatever they want to talk about, and we don’t have to push further. However, if you answer our greeting with nothing more than, “Hi” or “Hello,” we aren’t just going to sit there in silence with you for an hour. If you wait a few seconds after saying hello, chances are we’ll start asking you simple questions to help get you started. For example, we might ask how your day was, or what’s on your mind that evening. We’re trained in how to get people to talk about themselves, so we aren’t just going to leave you hanging.

2. Free associate. 

If you’re not familiar with the term, free association means just saying whatever comes to mind. If this means blurting out your deepest, darkest secret, go for it. If this means naming the first thing you see and then giving your thoughts about it, go for it. I’d love to have a conversation with you about your thoughts on mechanical pencils if that’s the best way for you to get started. We honestly do not care if you spend 15 minutes talking about absolutely nothing–if it’s helping you get somewhere, we’re up for it.

3. Ask us questions. 

Asking someone simple questions is a really great way to start conversations. Although we can’t answer super personal questions that might give away our identities, we can answer any questions you have about Ears, general feedback about our days, or our opinions on random things. For instance, I love when people ask me why I joined Ears, and I could definitely talk with you about my opinions about characters on The Office if that’s how you can get yourself going.

4. Start small. 

If your problem seems long and complicated, start at the very beginning of the story instead of trying to start with the hard parts. For example, if the problem is that you’re a first-year failing a Biology course, you could start with something like “So in high school I discovered that I really liked Biology. I liked it because xyz… (middle details)… and yesterday I got a 40 on the quiz and I’m lost. What do I do?” Starting with the pieces of the story that aren’t as difficult to talk about right off the bat can ease the pain of talking about it. And while you’re telling us the whole story, you can count on us to be great listeners and provide feedback to what you’re saying, so you don’t feel like you’re talking to a brick wall.

5. Just be honest with us.

If you start the call by saying some version of, “Hi, I do not know how to talk about this but I need to talk about it,” we can work with that! You can straight up tell us that you don’t know how to talk about hard things, and we can process that with you and figure out what the best course of action is, whether it’s talking to us, a friend, or another resource. Our job is to help you in whatever way we can, and you can trust us to do that 100%. Let me repeat that: you can trust us. We are a confidential resource available to everyone in the Tufts community, and we want you to feel safe coming to us. If there’s a reason you don’t, consider filling out this form, and we will do everything we can to make things better for you and for everyone. We appreciate you, we support you, and we are here for you.