Advertorial from Citroën

Why the car is such a perfect safe space for big conversations

Discover how the Citroën ë-C4 electric enhances emotional and meaningful conversations during drives. Join Vicky Parrott as she explores the unique comfort and privacy offered by the ë-C4, making it the perfect setting for opening up and connecting with loved ones.

This image shows two women inside a car during a daytime drive. The driver, wearing an orange sweater, is focused on the road while operating the car's controls. The passenger, in a red jacket, sits relaxed with her hands folded in her lap. The car's interior features a modern dashboard with a digital display for navigation. The view through the windshield shows a quiet, suburban road lined with greenery under a clear sky. The scene captures a moment of travel, possibly engaging in a conversation, in a comfortably appointed vehicle.

Alison Blackler and Vicky Parrott talk in the fully electric Citroën ë-C4. Photos: Stuart Price

Advertorial from Citroën

It started on a mundane drive to my seven-year-old daughter’s swimming lesson. We were trundling along when out of the blue she told me that she hadn’t had a great day, because another child at school had been distracting and annoying.

This was unusual. She seldom complains about school, but also because any revelations normally arrive in a stream of unstoppable chat just before bedtime. Yet, when I thought about it, the car is often somewhere that she opens up.

Shared Stories

A quick survey of friends and colleagues showed similar experiences. “After my best friend’s particularly rough relationship break-up, we were on a long drive to a weekend away in the countryside when she finally opened up about how she was processing it. Maybe being in a quiet and intimate enclosed space together, but travelling to somewhere new for a relaxing weekend away from things at home, allowed her to let her guard down?” wondered one.

Commute Conversations

Another explained how a daily commute to the train station with his brother gradually opened the door for a conversation about problems he’d been experiencing with his mental health. “There was almost a distraction in the commute. Because his mental health wasn’t the main focus, it seemed easier to start to talk about it,” he said.

Expert Insights

To find out why cars seem to be a space where we can have important conversations, I jump into a Citroën ë-C4 Electric and head up to the beautiful Wirral Peninsula to speak to Alison Blackler. A mind coach, author and founder of 2-minds.co.uk, she is an expert in human interaction and how best to deal with important conversations, with decades of experience as a therapist.

The Power of Car Conversations

“There’s a sense of a shared experience in a car,” Blackler points out as we set off for our own big conversation. “You’re going to the same place, seeing the same things, having the same journey. Even with kids, especially if you let them choose the music and be involved in how the time is spent in the car, it’s great bonding time. That can make you feel closer to the other person, and can make it more likely that important topics will naturally come up in discussion without feeling forced.”

Focus on Words

And, she explains, in a car your attention becomes focused on words. “If you’re sitting opposite someone, you’re going to observe – without realising – the nuances of body language, facial expression, eye contact. In a car you’re not responding to those, you’re focusing on the words. It slows everything down. You’re allowing people to talk, waiting for them to finish, and there’s time to let the conversation digest as it progresses.”

Eye Contact and Interaction

Blackler raises an interesting point when it comes to eye contact, which is a critical area of human interaction. “Making eye contact with someone immediately triggers in us an increased state of self-consciousness,” Dr Christian Jarrett, a cognitive neuroscientist and psychologist, writes for the British Psychological Society. “Mutual gaze can be emotionally intense and distracting, even uncomfortably so for some.”

The Comfort of Car Journeys

Research shows that around three seconds of direct eye contact at a time is what most people feel comfortable with. In a car, eye contact is necessarily infrequent, and there are plenty of other dynamic things going on outside the vehicle which can reduce the tension or awkwardness in a discussion.

The Importance of Car Environments

There are lots of reasons why car journeys can be important. The home environment can be a busy and often noisy or distracting place, so a drive gives people a chance to connect and talk without the constant background hum and risk of being interrupted. The car really isn’t just transport. It can also be a safe, enjoyable space where people feel happy to chat.

Tech and Tranquility

Our cushy, quiet ë-C4 makes light work of our trip from south to north, not least as it offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so it’s a doddle to use your phone’s useful map apps and have your podcasts or music going. But putting your phone on ‘do not disturb’ mode when driving can introduce a much-needed pause in our always-on connected world.

Car Familiarity and Comfort

“So, what other aspects of a car should we be looking at, whether we are seeking much-needed time alone, or an opportunity to connect with family members?” “It’s important that the car is familiar,” says Blackler. “If you’re worried about how things work, or where a button is, it’s not going to encourage that sense of security and control. Being able to talk without raising your voice to be heard over background noise is important. When you haven’t got facial cues, because you’re not in a face-to-face situation, tone of voice is even more important.”

Clearly, the important message here is that our vehicles aren’t ‘just’ transport – time in the car can be time that we can use to connect with family members and friends, or even a space for that all-important ‘me time’. “I would add: this is all provided the occupants are comfortable being in a car,” Blackler points out. “If you’re a nervous passenger or driver then of course you’re going to feel stressed and probably won’t want to talk about anything much. But any less formal setting is almost certainly better than sitting someone down at a table and saying, ‘we need to talk about…’. In the same way that just going for a walk outdoors is a great way to encourage better conversation generally, or to bring up a tricky or important matter.”

Discover More

So, find a car that feels comfortable and natural to you – that is the golden rule. Any new vehicle will require some familiarisation, but aspects like the straightforward, physical air-con controls in our ë-C4 are a good example of this, to my mind, as it’s simpler than having to use the touchscreen or a voice control system that sometimes misunderstands.

Summary

The difference between an annoying car and one you feel at home in can be as small as that. And those details can be more important than any of us realised – for the driver and for everyone else in the car. Cars are, it turns out, a very human environment than we shouldn’t take for granted.

Learn More

Head here to learn more about the Citroën ë-C4 electric hatchback, with more style and comfort, with a focus on wellbeing and intuitive tech features.

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