|How to manage difficult conversations can be a very complex topic. Difficult conversations are a certainty in life, just as certain as the sun rising and setting each day – unless you live in the North West where it doesn’t seem to do either.|
The fact is many of us do not feel comfortable engaging in difficult conversations, whether it be with a family member, employee, colleague or friend, even though these conversations may be important – especially if they are opening up to you about their mental health.
It takes great courage to start a difficult conversation so give the speaker space to find their words, listen patiently and acknolwedge their feelings and experiences.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get more clarity on the situation. If someone opens up to you, they want to know that you have their full attention.
People may sometimes feel that they are the only person in the world who is feeling how they feel. Empathise with them and explain that you understand how they feel. This will offer some immediate comfort.
Let them know that you are not judging them and they are in a safe environment to talk.
Think about your language
Try not to assume that the way they are feeling is the same as what you or others have experienced. Everyone’s feelings are unique and someone may react completely different in a situation to someone else.
Try to use generic language when offering empathy and support, even just a “that must have been really difficult” can make the world of difference!
Let the person know that you are there for them and provide details on how they can contact you whether it be via phone, email, WhatsApp etc.
Ensure boundaries are set where necessary – you don’t want to be in a situation where the person consistently relies on you for support.
Look after yourself
Pilots always tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. This applies in day-to-day life – your own wellbeing should always be a priority.
Being someone elses support bubble can be incredibly tiring. Ensure you make time for yourself. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone if you feel like you need to get some things off your chest!