How to open up and talk about things when they are not fine

How to open up and talk about things when they are not fine

Previously we spoke about how many of us say we are fine, when in fact we are not, and we covered some of the reasons why we may do that. We also covered if you are having thoughts of suicide how important it was to tell someone, we cannot emphasise strongly enough, if you are having thoughts of suicide, please speak to someone.  

One challenge we can find in opening up, and talking about how we are when we are not fine, is knowing who to open up to. 

We will be covering how to listen with compassion in a later news item.

What we will cover here is some of the qualities of an effective listener, so this may help inform you about who you know that maybe someone you can open up to, and if you don't know anyone like this the qualities you are seeking, it may be around professional help and in a later piece we shall discuss issues of accessing services.

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Qualities of an effective listener include:

 
  • They are focused on you, not thinking about what they are going to reply, have for dinner, what else they need to do at work etc., at this moment their focus is on listening to you
  • You know they are giving you their attention with their eye contact and body language and perhaps occasional words of encouragement to continue, you sense they are interested and want to hear more
  • Sometimes when we have held things in for a long time we don't know where to start or we seem to be all over the place. An effective listener will understand this and be patient realising it can be hard to talk and not forcing us to explain or go over things or hurry up. They will give us time to realise we are being listened to and as result, we may feel more relaxed and safer to share how we really feel
  • Effective listeners are non-judgmental, they know, this isn't about their views, or what they think this is about listening to what you have to say, what is important and matters to you
  • Effective listeners encourage you to talk. They don't bombard you with questions but to show they are listening may say things like "tell me more about", or, "I sense this has made you feel angry, sad, confused". Their words help you realise they are paying attention and they are trying to understand and it also gives you a chance if they aren't understanding to say e.g. "no I am not angry I am just very frustrated"
  • This is another sign of an effective listener they won't get angry or defensive with you if you challenge something they will reflect, and will patiently try and work out what they misunderstood so you are both  on the same page. This is why sometimes we find it hard to talk to loved ones, if they are part of the issue, as we can't really share how we feel in case we offend or hurt. In another piece, we will talk about how we can talk to each other and ways to manage difficult or painful conversations
  • The person listening is empathic as opposed to sympathetic. Empathy is about understanding the feelings of another and sharing them, it is around a shared connection about what it means to be human. Sympathy can be more around pity and sorry for someone else's misfortune and many of us don't want someone's pity, we do not want anyone to feel sorry for us, we want to be understood

Having found an effective listener:

Next time we will explore having found an effective listener, what do I say? There are many people out there who are effective listeners and do care.

There is a movement around the world about being kinder to each other, 'Talk to me Global' is a global movement to encourage people to talk to strangers, who believe that by talking to others we can all help create a better world. 

The author of this piece recalls a time on a train journey seeing the person opposite looking sad.

 
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How do I open up to someone? What do I say?
Every Life Does Matter - Suicide Prevention Action...

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