“People don’t always need advice.
Sometimes all they really need is a hand to hold,
an ear to listen, and a heart to understand them.”
Listening is probably the most important thing you can do to help someone with any kind of health issue, not just anxiety and depression.
People can feel embarrassed about a problem they have, they may feel that it makes them appear weak or that they will not be taken seriously.
If a friend or relative does come to you and wants to open up to you about a problem they are experiencing the first thing to remember is that you do not have to fix the problem or give advice, especially if it is to do with a subject that you have no knowledge of.
The second thing is to make sure that you are able to give that person your full attention, if you are busy or in a location that is noisy and where you will be easily distracted, the best thing is to tell the person calling you, and arrange to speak at another time or location. It does help to tell them why you want to do this because otherwise it can look as though you are not interested.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know.
But if you listen, you may learn something new.”
When it’s time to listen, make sure you do just that, but don’t be afraid to ask questions so that you can get a clear understanding of what the problem is, and how that person wants you to help them, if at all; it may be that they just want to talk or vent.
The next stage is to make sure you actually hear what the person is telling you, and to try to make sure that you do not filter the information through your own biases, in other words try not to let your thoughts or opinions influence your opinion or the help you do give.
If someone is talking to you about their anxiety and depression, don’t worry if what they are saying does not sound logical, most of the time it won’t.
To give you an example; I have an issue with time; any one of the following can make me anxious or panic:
- Deciding whether to do something or not.
- Deciding on a choice of something, such as a food item or a greetings card.
- Worrying if I will have enough time to do something and other things I need to do?
- Afternoon appointments with my GP or therapist mean I stress about fitting things in, in the morning and making it on time.
- I am better doing some tasks spontaneously.
- Things coming up at the last minute or sudden changes to my day.
- I can become distracted and my mind can wander when doing things, which is not helpful when trying to do treatments that could help me.
My brain does not always work in a logical way, and even the smallest decisions can sometimes cause me serious distress. Trying to explain this to someone who has not experienced the same thing is really difficult, it has taken me almost two years to try and figure it out myself.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Stephen R. Covey
Now don’t stress too much about this because listening well is a real gift, so don’t expect to be perfect at it, like most things it takes practice and patience. A lot of advice and opinions are given because people feel they want to or need to help; it is a natural reaction to do so when you love or care about someone, especially if they are suffering.
If a friend or relative is suffering with anxiety and depression I would suggest that you read some of the books I recommend because they will be a great help in giving you a better understanding of what they are going through, and the book can give you ideas on how you may be able to help.
Remember, there are no quick fixes and by trying to fix things you may actually be making the situation worse; so take it in small steps, and step 1 is to LISTEN.
The second part of this blog is an example of a gifted listener, who could have changed the course of history, if only others had listened to him……
Thank you, thank you, thank you.