At this point, most of us are well aware of how much people are struggling right now. In fact, many of us are having a pretty hard time ourselves. Whether it be financial stress, the sting of isolation, fear of the unknown, or balancing multiple roles, this pandemic has made life no easy feat.
Coming from someone who by trade was a professional helper, it’s easy to put on that slick professional hat; to pull out all the social work stops and be the support person your clients need.
But, when that hat comes off, let me tell you- don’t count on me. The truth is, I really don’t know how to act or how to respond. And, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on this one. A lot of people struggle with knowing how to support those who are having a hard time.
What do you say? Do you say anything at all or do you just listen? At what point are you leaving your side of the table? These are all important and timely questions.
Nationally, nearly 50% of all Americans are reporting that they’re struggling with their mental health at the moment. That’s a lot of people struggling. So, it’s no surprise that it seems like everywhere we go, someone is leaning on us for support.
Our friends, coworkers, and parents are having a hard time. The lady behind the glass window at the bank is struggling. The guy at the grocery store down the street is struggling. Heck, even the doctor doing your routine physical is having a hard time.
Have no fear though! If you’re like so many others who don’t know where to start when it comes to helping others who are in need of support, we’ve got a few ideas to get you started.
So, without further ado, here are five tips on how to help someone who is struggling.
When we see that someone is struggling, it can be hard not to want to jump in and “fix” it. But, this isn’t the way. Think about the last time you were struggling, what did you want?
The truth is, people experience emotional hardship in different ways. Some of us naturally tend to want more space to process, while others react to grief by becoming more dependent. It’s important to respect each individual person’s experience and feelings. It’s fine to let others know you’re there if they need you, but make sure you’re not pushing yourself onto to them.
Do you have a close friend, a partner, client, or a family member who is struggling, but has a difficult time asking for help? While you certainly don’t want to push yourself onto another, it’s also important to check-in from time to time to make sure the other person is okay. This lets them know that you care, and creates a safe space where they can talk or ask for help if they need it.
When someone is talking about their struggles, it’s natural to want to jump in, give advice, and add your two cents to the conversation. The truth is though, too many of us forget to really listen to what the other person is saying. Most of us only listen to respond.
But, when someone is leaning on us for support, it’s really not about us, it’s about them. If you want to help someone you care about or improve your overall relationships, practice sitting back and just listening. To show the other person you’re listening, try using a head node or a reflective conversation reinforcer from time to time.
Looking for more information to improve your communication? Read: 8 Ways To Be A Good Listener And Improve Your Relationships
Do You Really Understand?
When some one is in the midst of telling us about their struggles, it’s natural to want to tell them that we understand their plight. Whether it be to normalize their feelings or a misguided effort to comfort them, it’s something that we’re all guilty of at some point or another.
But, let me ask you this, do you really understand? The truth is, no one truly understands the experience of another. By saying that we understand, we’re devaluing their unique feelings and experience.
So, the next time you find yourself tempted to say, “I understand”, try saying, “It sounds like you are…” or “I can imagine that was…”. When using phrases like these, you’re validating the other persons feelings, and not devaluing their unique experience.
Each of us are unique and no one wants to be judged for that. In order to create a safe space for people who are struggling, we need to put our own biases, beliefs, and value systems aside.
The person who is leaning on you may communicate something that you don’t agree with. Remember though, this isn’t about you, it’s about the other person. Now is not the time to be dogmatic or stigmatize others. Use the platinum rule, don’t treat others how you would want to be treated, treat them how they would like to be treated.
Are you looking for more content to guide you on your path to a happy, healthy life? Check out the rest of our blog and don’t forget to follow us on social media. We can be found at youthdynamicsmt on Instagram, or People of Youth Dynamics and Youth Dynamics of Montana on Facebook.