If we call a conversation ‘difficult,’ then it probably will be.

Our own anxieties and agendas crowd into our minds, and they distract us from the task of communicating.

What’s the secret of communicating well? It turns out that it’s not so much what we say as how we behave, and the most important thing of all is the way we listen – really listen – to the other person.

After the publication of With The End In Mind, I was inundated with letters and messages from people wondering how they could begin conversations about some of the trickiest subjects of all: death, dying, love, forgiveness, apology, legacy.

‘I don’t know what to say’
     ‘I don’t know where to begin’
          ‘What if I get emotional?’
               ‘What if I make the other person upset?’

So here’s the secret: forget about what to say.

Instead, focus on listening to the other person. Listen, not to reply, but to understand. It sounds so simple, and yet it is the single most powerful thing you can do. Create a safe space, where the other person feels that they can speak their heart and be really heard.

That’s the basis for Listen: how to find the words for tender conversations. It’s my synthesis of all the wisdom I’ve learned from conversations with people at some of the most difficult times in their lives in my work as a palliative care doctor, a psychotherapist, a service lead, a trainer – and as a friend, family member and neighbour. Because these aren’t just conversations about dying, they are the conversations we have (or avoid) with colleagues and friends, family members and clients, people we serve and people we think of as more powerful than we are.

  • “ The book’s greatest strength is … the pure humanity it shows ”

    The Times
  • “ Listen has quietly changed my life ”

    Sonia, Goodreads
  • “ Gentle-hearted, engaging and intimately readable... ”

    Nigella Lawson
  • “ This is a book for everyone … I actually feel listened to by reading it ”

    Philippa Perry
  • “ a book for understanding how to approach every difficult conversion you are avoiding or dreading... ”

    Walter, Goodreads
  • “ like having a long and rewarding conversation with a really good friend. ”

    Joanna Cannon in The Guardian