Conversations that Change Lives

Let’s Repower Scotland’s Health and Wellbeing

Conversations connect people and build relationships. They bring people together as equals to share their stories and lived experience, to offer advice and information, or to exchange knowledge, skills and resources.

Sections in this page

Karen Maclachlan, participant and volunteer, InS:PIRE Programme, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

“Being really ill can be very lonely, it’s amazing to have a connection with someone who knows how you’re feeling.”

Kirsty Gibson, a nurse who lives with multiple long term conditions

“It [social media] gives you that empowerment because you’re sharing experiences and having conversations. I know I have the back-up of other people’s experiences to draw on when I visit my consultant.”

This resource explores why our conversations are important and describes steps that you can take to have good conversations: whether these are face to face or through social media; conversations between professionals and people who use supports and services; between individuals, in groups, or in the wider community; or between people from health, social care, housing, voluntary and community groups.

Create the right space

There is a healing and therapeutic value in conversations that enable people to make new connections, discover new aspects to their community or become more aware of their own strengths and talents. It is important to find or create a ‘non-threatening’ space where people are able to relax and feel comfortable, show mutual understanding and respect, and where different professionals can work together.

Offering refreshments, playing music or using pictures as visual touchpoints encourage good conversations to flow.

Mapping community resources that help people stay well is a simple group activity that promotes conversations and builds relationships.

Mary Jane Roberts, Student Nurse, Auchinlea Mental Health Resource Centre, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

“The Keep Well Café event helped me get to know the people who attend Auchinlea in a more casual/ relaxed forum. I learned more about the patients and not just their treatment, which helps build a positive therapeutic relationship with the people in our service.”

Start with what matters

Open questions prompt people to think about what they want to achieve for their health and wellbeing. Enquiring ‘what matters to you?’ and ‘what helps you keep well?’ are useful conversational prompts to help professionals understand what is really important to the person, to explore their role and discover how to help people stay well.

Joanne McPeake, Project Lead, InS:PIRE Programme, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

“Ask patients how can we work together, and how can we support you?”


NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Personal Outcomes Workshop Participant.”

“I will build my approach differently, starting with open questions, listening to key words and hopefully getting to positive outcomes.”


Listen more, assume less

Good conversations are less about what you say, and much more about how well you listen. Don’t assume that you know what is concerning the person or their family. You may be wrong and jump to the wrong course of action.

Practitioner, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

“As soon as I knew what was wrong, I already had a plan. Now I stop, listen, not assume.”


Learn to listen more deeply to understand what the person means. Ask more questions about their current situation, and explore what would be a better future. First impressions can be misleading. Don’t assume you know the best solution for someone else without exploring more deeply.



Joanne McPeake Project Lead, InS:PIRE , Glasgow Royal Infirmary, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

“When we asked why she didn’t go dancing anymore we learned that it was because she didn’t look the same. Exploring that deeper she told us that she had a frozen shoulder and couldn’t reach her hair. Just five weeks later she was able to reach her hair, had been shopping and planned to go dancing.”


Learn to let go

When people have control and are involved in setting their own goals they discover that they are able to draw on their own strengths. In doing so they will achieve better outcomes

Encourage people to set personal goals that they can achieve over a short period of time. Even a brief positive interaction can help people take control of their life if you focus on what they can do.

Ian, participant on the InS:PIRE programme, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

‘’The whole idea was set yourself five goals and let’s see what we can achieve over this short period of time. Well I achieved all my goals, because by achieving some of them, it wiped the other ones out.”

Share something of yourself

When we step out of our professional persona, our conversations are often more honest and personal. Don’t be afraid to show your compassion and to share a little of how you feel – we are all humans with personal experiences and emotions that make us more authentic practitioners.

Reflective and compassionate conversations also support professionals and teams to work more effectively together and help them achieve shared goals with the people that they support.

Senior Charge Nurse

“…it creates trust. The patient looks out for you, the family say “there is that nurse we can speak to her” or “there is an issue we are worried about.” You will understand it because you have something of an understanding.”

Family carer, InS:PIRE Programme, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

“The breakdown of the barriers was amazing. They were people – not just doctors, nurses and therapists and showed they really cared about us.”



Sources of inspiration:


People Powered Health and Wellbeing ‘Shifting the Balance of Power’. An ALLIANCE programme co-produced by members and stakeholders.

Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland
349 Bath Street
Glasgow G2 4AA
Tel 0141 404 0231

Twitter logo@alliancescot Registered in Scotland
No. 307731 Charity number SC037475

The ALLIANCE is supported by a grant from the Scottish Government