Welcome to the first instalment of the Talking Things Through series! Over the next few weeks I shall be talking you through the things to say, things to avoid saying and other aspects of talking and listening for supporting people with depression.
In this first instalment, I shall be talking a little about the importance of listening. It may seem like common sense but stick with it and see how a depressed person views listening.
When was the last time you were in an argument? Was it a long argument? Did everyone listen well? As you reflect on that for a second, let me ask you one question: how much of the argument could have been avoided if people had listened better? Most of it, I’m sure.
Listening is one of the key parts of dealing with depression or anxiety. Whether you’re an expert – a qualified psychiatrist or a doctor – or someone like me with a bit of experience or even a layman with no experience whatsoever, you can still offer a listening ear. Sometimes that is all that is needed.
Listening to someone with depression can have the following effects:
- Greater understanding
- It helps unburden them
- They feel valued
- Unlocking additional ways to help them
Let me untap those a little.
Everyone’s condition is different. Depression can affect one person one way and another person in a completely different way. As such, there is no “one size fits all” model to apply to it. That also means it can be quite difficult to know what’s going on inside someone’s head. The good news?
Whether you’re talking to a friend, a relative or anyone else, they are the ones who are living with the condition and, as such, they will have the best understanding. They know how it affects them, they know how they feel, they know what seems to be working well for them and what doesn’t work as well. By listening, you can find out what’s making them tick, what is and isn’t helping and plenty of other bits of information you might not find otherwise.
It Helps Unburden Them
There’s a reason we go to psychiatrists and it isn’t just because they can offer techniques and advice to fix things. Psychiatrists listen as you talk. As one of my therapists explained it to me, talking to someone about the condition is a way of releasing it from my mind.
Just like journalling, blogging, story-writing or songwriting, talking is a way of bringing the problem out of the mind and helps them let it go. Simply by listening to someone, allowing them the space to talk about what’s going on in their mind, it helps unburden them, freeing things from their mind.
They Feel Valued
Taking the time to listen to someone does bring a sense of value to that person. I know from my own experiences that someone taking the time to listen to me makes me feel as though they actually want to help. They are taking the time out of their hectic lives, daily struggles and business to sit and talk to you. It’s something special, wouldn’t you say?
Regardless of whether or not you have the answers, listening is a sure-fire way of making someone feel like they are important to you. More often than not, people aren’t coming to you looking for answers. That’s what the doctors and psychiatrists and other therapists are for. No, deep down what the vast majority of people want is a listening ear, a non-judgemental opinion and the opportunity to speak freely.
You can give them this!
Unlocking Additional Ways to Support Them
I know, I know…there should be some great secret here, no? Mental health is a subject that is highly stigmatised and sometimes almost taboo because of how mysterious it is but do you know what?
There’s no secret.
If you take the time to listen to someone and try to understand their problem, there’s no telling how many different ways you could find to help them. Unlocking their story and how their condition affects them could lead to untold possibilities.
Take me as an example: I don’t like quick fixes as I feel they only postpone the problem – as do many people who talk to me – but sometimes I believe they are necessary. Sometimes, in my darkest, deepest spirals, a quick fix pulls me back from the brink of more problems, whether that’s another spiral, self-harm or anything else.
Would you have gone for the quick fix? Not everyone would.
Granted, some people don’t like to talk and that’s OK. Whether they talk a lot or not at all, listening is still a very vital part of helping them. If they don’t talk much at all, that only makes listening all the more important as they have so much less to say. My mind is drawn to grains or nuggets of truth.
Tailor it to each situation. If they don’t like talking, don’t push them. Just reassure them that you are there if ever they do want to talk about it (again, don’t push the issue). If they want to, they will come. If not, at least they know you’re there.
Next week I shall be looking at the first aspect of talking to someone with depression. Don’t worry, it’s nothing too complicated, just a few tips and suggestions of how to leave a better impact. In the meantime, check out my journey or connect with us on our Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn accounts. We’d love to meet you!
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