Do you feel like you have enough time to talk?
Are we losing the art of talking as texting becomes a more popular way of communication?
Is it possible that ironically, we are becoming more isolated, the more technically connected we become?
Read on for my Top 5 Tips to help get a real conversation started.
Even if we naturally prefer our own company, the human race has survived thus far because of our tribal instincts. Despite being a 'loner' perhaps, knowing and feeling that connection to a network around us that we can call on for support if needed, has been crucial to our survival as a species. Feeling supported and connected within a tribe allows us to flourish, to find ourselves disconnected from that, initiates the natural stress response within because during evolution those who found themselves without a tribe, and without that support network, did not survive.
It is perhaps, no surprise our that increasingly disconnected nation is seeing a rise in mental ill-health. With 1 in 4 adults experiencing a mental health problem every year, reconnecting and talking more about our mental health is becoming more important than ever to provide support, raise awareness and reduce the stigma and discrimination.
Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy.
We need to get to a point where we are not ashamed of mental ill-health and see it as just 'health'. For most of us, it seems easier to talk about a physical ailment rather than a mental one and that needs to change. As we are all on a physical and mental health continuum, we will all experience periods of good or ill health at some point - so let's take time to talk.
Here are my top 5 tips for getting the conversation started taking time to talk:
Tip#1 - Create the right environment
Take some time to think about when and where to have a conversation will help to create a safer environment for someone to open up. Somewhere calm and quiet where others will not be listening in is helpful, possibly offsite and away from the place that is causing them distress.
Tip#2 - Ask twice
If you are concerned about someone and they reply, "I'm fine" ask them again how they are really doing. 'Fine' might actually mean:
Fed up Insecure Neurotic and Emotional!
Asking twice lets the person know you are genuinely interested, that you are offering an opportunity for them to open up in a safe space.
Watch this short video about asking twice from Time to Change.
Tip#3 - Listen but don't try to fix or solve the problem
Our brains are wired to solve and to fix, so listening and communicating in a non-judgemental way may feel alien to some of us. It's evolution, don't beat yourself up about it but do be mindful of the urge to jump in and solve the problem, try to reserve judgement until you have walked in someone's shoes. Simply, be there as empathetically as you can, ask them how they are and how long they have been feeling that way. Listen, reflect back every now again to show you are listening and ask the person in front of you what has worked for them in the past or what they think may help them.
Tip#4 - Be genuine
It's best not to say things like, "snap out of it", "What have you got to be sad about, it's not that bad" for example or talk about your own experiences when supporting someone, however, try not to get too hung up about saying the right thing. Don't let those concerns be a barrier to having a conversation, really being there for someone in a genuine and caring way is far more important than saying the absolute right thing.
Tip#5 - Get creative in starting conversations in the workplace and other gatherings
Get involved, not just on Time to Talk Day, but every day! This could be a solo effort in actively initiating conversations, to arranging small gatherings for chats over coffee and cakes to a whole organisation approach with multi-activities on offer. I particularly like the idea of a 'Walk and Talk' to get in a nature fix too. There are some really fantastic places to head to for tips, event ideas and downloadable resources to help you get conversations started such as:
Time to Talk with Time to Change - https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/
Tea & Talk with The Mental Health Foundation - https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/get-involved/tea-and-talk/resources
"Helping one person might not change the whole world but it might change the world for one person." Anon