This week marks National Conversations Week in the Awareness Diary and I need no encouragement to do just that. When out and about with my family I am often asked, ‘do you know that person’ to which I answer ‘No, just met them!’ I basically just like to chat.

I have to say in all my years in business this trait has served me well for you never know who you might encounter when you open a conversation. Many years ago, at an expo in Bristol I bumped into Apprentice Winner Mark Wright, since then not only has he become my business mentor but a friend too. On another occasion I was on the tube in London, who talks on the tube, yep me, and almost knocked out a gentleman sat next to me. I said sorry and a long conversation around mental health followed, as he gave me his card to keep in contact, I discovered this lovely chap was indeed Lord Cashman, aka Colin in Eastenders in the 1980s.

In my years working in the mental health arena, I have discovered more and more how conversations really matter and how by holding them we can really reach out to those in need. Last week I read a social media post from a friend who had been out for a walk with his dog; As they walked along he came across a gentleman sat on a bench, his lovely dog must have sensed this person was in need as he immediately approached him, popped his front paws on his lap and looked at him intently. My friend decided to follow his pet’s lead and sit down next to the gentleman, as they started the conversation it came to light that this stranger really needed a listening ear. As he opened up about some issues in his life, it turned out that just by chatting and listening my friend was able to offer space for him to feel a lot better than he did at the first moment of encounter.

I truly believe that communication is a form of medication, some days you may come across someone who just needs a friendly smile and a hello to brighten their day. Allow your smile to light up your eyes and shine kindness on those you meet. As I explained to someone once your smile and cheery hello may be the only one that the person encounters in a day.

I realise it isn’t always easy for everyone to chat, in fact as a child I was the shyest one in the class, that soon change as I left school and realised that having a voice was there for me to use; I do however believe that within us all we do have the ability to just say hello, maybe wish the person on the till in the shop a good day or indeed chat to someone you meet in the queue.

As I am out and about, I am dismayed how many young people (and not always young) I see walk about with their heads down looking at the screen on the phone, it actually makes me sad. What has happened to chatting to the person you are with or smiling at a stranger, it seems the art of social skills is slowly dying as technology takes hold, please don’t let this be you.

So, as it is National Conversation Week, I urge you to hold at least one stranger, who knows they could turn out to be that friend you haven’t met yet!