Supporting Someone You're Worried About
At times, talking to someone who you’re worried about can be challenging. We might worry that we might say the wrong thing and do more harm than good. When we are worried about someone we care about, it’s important to not shy away from these conversations, as it may be the first step to getting the help that is needed.
Recognising Something is Not Right
So what should you do?
When speaking to someone start off by choosing an environment where they feel comfortable and safe. Choose a place where you will not be interrupted or overheard. This will help them to feel more at ease to talk and open up.
They’re willing to talk, now what?
Ask how they are, and listen. Share your concerns with them, in a non-judgemental way. Give them time to talk. No one appreciates feeling rushed in their conversations, especially when talking about something which may be sensitive to them. It is important to be emphatic, to understand and validate their feelings.
What can I say to them?
Before saying anything, you want to make sure that the person feels listened to. Many times you would need to use re-assuring phrases such as “I’m here for you”, “what can I do to help you?”.
You may need to remind them throughout that the conversation will remain between you, as long as there is no risk of harm to self or others. Having a sense of security might allow them to feel more comfortable in speaking up. You can also choose to mention any similar experiences that you would have experienced, as long as you wouldn’t be dismissing theirs.
If you are worried that you’ve said something wrong, apologise and try to start afresh. Reassure them that when you’re asking questions, you’re doing so out of genuine interest in understanding their experience, and not to to pry or gossip.
If you’re not sure of how to help, it’s okay. Be honest, and explain that you might not have the right words to say, but that you will still be there to help them.
If I Can’t Help, What do I do?
If they don’t feel comfortable talking, don’t pressure them. Keep a good relationship and let them know that you’re there to help, and that if they ever want to chat you would be there to listen. If you feel as though you are stuck and you can’t think of any other ways of helping, remember that it’s okay to refer them to alternative help, either by seeing a professional or making use of a service available.
It may be ideal to be informed of what help can be available, this can be done by keeping updated on current services. Unfortunately, the person may not be aware of all the help that they could reach out to, so this might help guide them more.