It’s Time To Talk Day, the national conversation starter about mental health, run by Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and Co-op. It’s all about having a chat with a friend, relative or colleague about mental health. It’s a brilliant initiative that helps to fight the stigma around opening up about our mental health, including when things aren’t going great. Find out more about Help Me Stop’s counselling service here.
In this blog, we’re taking a lighthearted look at how to listen. Our mental health is a serious subject, of course. But there’s room for a little fun. So, here’s our friendly reminder on #TimeToTalkDay that every great conversation needs a great listener.
Our Top 10 #TimetoTalkDay Listening Tips
Listening tip 1: Right time
If someone wants to talk to you and you’re not immediately available, let them know what time you can be all ears, and for how long. You might say, ‘I’ve got 20 minutes on my lunch break, shall we talk at 1.30pm?’ This way, everything’s clear and there are no surprises when you need to get back to work.
Listening tip 2: Right place
It’s a great idea to choose a relatively private space to listen. Particularly if your friend wants to talk to you about something personal. Find a spot where you can’t be overheard (including if you’re talking to them on the phone). You can let them know you’ll keep what they say confidential, unless you’re worried that there’s a risk of harm to them or another person. Remember, it’s okay to seek advice or help, if you’re really concerned for someone’s safety.
Listening tip 3: Listen on their terms
If they want to chat face-to-face, great: ask them where they’d like to meet and arrange a mutually convenient time. But if they can only manage a 5-minute phone call, that’s great too. Be available in the way that suits their needs.
Listening tip 4: Step away from the phone
The notifications can wait, so put your phone on silent. Switch off the TV. Stop online shopping. For the time you have available, try to give the person you’re listening to your full focus. And watch out for those conversations in your head: listening is about minimising internal distractions too!
Listening tip 5: ‘Two ears, one mouth’
It’s the basics of active listening – let them speak more than you.
Listening tip 6: Absolutely no fixing!
Take off that hard hat and high-vis jacket. Listening isn’t about mending things, or coming up with quick solutions. Unless they explicitly ask for your advice, it’s better to allow things to be just as they are.
Listening tip 7: The elephant in the room isn’t as big and scary as it seems
So you might have an idea what’s going on for someone, but they’re just not talking about it. It’s okay to ask with sensitivity. Say they recently got divorced or lost their job, it’s okay to ask them how they’re feeling about it now. If they don’t want to go there, they will let you know. But most people will appreciate being asked.
Listening tip 8: It’s enough just to hang out and enjoy the silence
Sometimes you don’t need many words, if any at all. If your friend is really down, they might not feel up to talking much. It will mean a lot to them if you can hold the space for them, without filling it up with unnecessary words.
Listening tip 9: Honestly, just let them cry
If they need to have a cry, the kindest thing you can do is to let them. Don’t be tempted to crack a joke or change the subject. Stay with them.
Listening tip 10: Let them know if you can listen again
It’s great to know who is there for us, rain or shine. If you are available to listen again, then tell them at the end of your chat. Sometimes, it’s enough to know there are people who care.
Help Me Stop provides one-to-one counselling for depression, anxiety, stress, bereavement and many more health and wellbeing needs. Call 0208 191 9191 to start talking about what’s going on for you. We also provide the most affordable and accessible intensive treatment for addiction, in our Dayhabs and Online Rehab.