Causes like RUOK Day are doing great things for our generation. Promoting the idea that there is absolutely nothing wrong with not being okay, and that your mates, your fam and your colleagues are here to support you all the way.
But there’s no doubt that sometimes it might be a bit of a tough one trying to figure out just how to approach someone. When you have a cause like RUOK, it becomes a bit easier. But what about just in your day to day? When there isn’t an obvious way to open up? Or when you’re not sure what to ask, do or say?
#1 Keep The Conversation Active
Now this might seem easier than it sounds, but I reckon we’re all pretty guilty of having moments where we just are present in a conversation and that’s it.
You: “So how’s work going?”
Mate: “Yeah usual, pretty hectic at the moment.”
You: “Yeah, likewise.”
Mate: “Must be that time of the year!”
Ever participated in something like that above? We are so consumed by the concept of being time poor that when we catch up or chat to our friends or family, the conversation lacks substance. Be an active listener, and respond to them with questions and statements that provoke thought. Try to avoid the same, used, responses we often use.
Try to subtly dig a bit deeper into things, ask about if they’re happy at their job, why they recently stopped seeing someone, or if anything is frustrating them at the moment. Be present.
#2 Be Prepared For Emotion
Often with some mates you may have never pushed the boundary with deeper discussions and chats, and there’s a chance it could get a bit emotional. And while this is awesome, be prepared for that.
Now I’m not saying you have to be a counsellor, but just envisage yourself in the situation and be prepared to comfort said friend or family if needed. There is nothing worse than when someone pours their guts out to you, and you’re not too sure what do to do. Give them a hug, pat on the back, console them – just be there and aware. It’ll probably break some new ground in your relationship, too.
#3 There Is Nothing Wrong With More Help
With the above said, there is also nothing wrong with suggesting more help. We live in a world of constant stigma around counselling, psychology and professional help. There is a reason these individuals exist today and that’s to provide a deeper understanding and listening stream.
I know even saying something like “maybe you should see a counsellor?” Probably sends a few shivers down your spine. But you go to a doctor to fix your health, a counsellor or psychologist does the same thing for your mind. So if you feel like you’ve given all the best friend-advice you can, there is nothing wrong with bringing this up, in the right context of course.
#4 Get A Group
Sometimes it can be tough to go one on one with someone you know well, but not well enough. So maybe rally together a little (or big) group of friends together for it. You might set it up as a dinner, drinks, picnic (underrated) etc, essentially an environment that is prone to sharing with no judgement. Sometimes people need various opinions or even just different sets of ears to listen in and that provides a world of difference.
And often they don’t even need advice, they just want people to listen – it’s why we have two ears and one mouth, right? Even just being able to pull a friend aside from a big group for a quick chat is an easy way to start with some heavier discussions, when you’ve never ventured into that territory before. So get a crew together and be open together.
#5 Be Vulnerable
This is probably the most important thing.
We’re so often told that vulnerability is a form of weakness – and that is bullshit. I think I’ve only seen my dad cry once, and that was when his mum passed away. Honestly, I cried because I could feel his vulnerability and the real pain he felt – and that connection felt real in an emotional way. Let your shields down and be really honest and emotional, it’s not a bad thing, despite what a lot of society tells us. Admitting your faults, that sometimes you don’t know the answers, that you don’t have your shit together is the truest thing you could ever say.
If you want to get involved but don’t know where to start, try RUOK’s tips on how to ask. And if you yourself need someone to talk too but don’t know where to turn, find out where you can get help here or give Lifeline a call on 13 11 14. There are so many people here to listen to you and support you, and remember there’s nothing wrong with not being okay! Sending heaps of love from all of us at 5Why.