Today is mental health awareness day, and I’m so happy to see endless posts working to reduce the stigma around mental illness. However to get people talking is only half the battle, the other half is effective listening. It takes a lot of strength to reach out when you’re feeling weak, so the way in which we recognise and react to these situations is crucial in reassuring people you are truly there, with no conditions or judgement. Society today is increasingly focussed towards how to solve and respond to situations, and simply listening is losing its value. So here are some dos and don’t to promote effective listening:
1. Tell them it’s just a small matter - nothing that affects our wellbeing is too big or too small.
2. Tell them that they are being too emotional - emotion trumps logic every time, and again what we feel is very real, so this approach will only scare us away.
3. Tell them what they did wrong - we may already know this, so you would be rubbing salt in the wounds.
4. Try to fix things - if we want a solution we’ll ask, and if not we just want to be heard
5. Just say ‘okay’ - this can come across as very dismissive, instead ask questions and show us you’re listening, for example ‘how did that make you feel?’, ‘I’m always here for you’ or even just a hug.
1. Let them know they’ve been heard - by asking questions, repeating back, and acknowledging our feelings.
2. Treat them exactly the same - once our feelings have been discussed, go back to our usual chat, just so we know your view of us hasn’t changed.
3. Check back in in a few days - this is extremely important, as people tend to feel shame or a burden after sharing their issues, so to follow up on your own accord will mean the world.
It perhaps is true that no one can truly understand what you are really going through but listening in the right way can make a person feel understood and assured. But more importantly than that, is that there is a certain empowerment that comes in being heard. It makes a person feel as though what they are going through matters; that they matter. And that makes all the difference 🌍✨