Can you help with a study on difficult conversations?

Have you ever found it difficult to talk to someone about your cancer diagnosis, miscarriage, or bereavement? My research team is currently looking for people over the age of 18 who have recently (within the past 5 years) experienced one of these difficult situations (i.e., cancer diagnosis, miscarriage, bereavement). We want to understand your experiences in talking to other people about your situation, so that we can help people figure out what to say in these difficult situations. Participation involves an online survey which will take 15-25 minutes, and may help you reflect on your own experiences. Results will be posted here.

A confession:

I talk to strangers. Even on the Tube in London. I haven’t always done this, but I’ve always seen it – both of my parents regularly talk to strangers. I admit, I found it a bit embarrassing as a kid. And annoying: going grocery shopping with my Dad was torture, because it would take SOOOO long. But I could see how much my parents enjoyed it, and how much the people they talked to enjoyed it, and how we sometimes learned new things. I also learned that you can develop skills; my Dad often uses the same opening lines, especially when talking to kids, because he’s learned that they get people talking.

The first time I remember deliberately starting a chat with a stranger was on the subway in Toronto. It was at a time when there was a wave of amazing cupcake shops, and this lady on the subway was carrying a beautiful cupcake. I started talking about the cupcake, but ended up learning from her that people can ride ostriches! I was hooked. Since then I’ve had many adventures #Talking2Strangers, and I’ve made it a central topic of my research.

Contact Me

Department of Psychology
University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, U.K.

Email: gsands (at) essex.ac.uk
Google Scholar profile

Educational Affiliations

University of Essex (Current affiliation)
> My profile at Essex

University of Cambridge (Post-doc)
> Dr. Jason Rentfrow
> Dr. Cecilia Mascolo

University of British Columbia (PhD)
> Social Cognition and Emotion Lab (Dr. Elizabeth Dunn)
> Social Identity Lab (Dr. Toni Schmader)

Ryerson University (Masters)
> SMART Lab (Dr. Frank Russo)