I recently wrote a post about getting things out of the shadows. One of those things was depression. As happens every time that I mention depression, I got several likes/comments/follows from people who are dealing with, or have dealt with, depression.
I sometimes go look at the blog sites of people who follow my blog and in this case I perused a post on one of the blog sites that had some interesting advice for those trying to be a help to someone suffering from depression. That post was titled “Why I tried to Commit Suicide”
The gist of the advice from that post was that the person suffering through depression who may reach out for help is not looking for a cheerleader to tell them that everything will be OK. Instead, they are looking for someone to listen to them, share their pain and perhaps offer support.
This blogger also pointed out a common mistake that would-be helpful friend often make – trying to help by reminding them that things could be worse.
In today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, the quote that Jack used seemed appropriate –
“Knowing that there is worse pain doesn’t make the present pain hurt any less.” (Gordon Atkinson)
I would characterize the advice of the blogger who shared her journey through the dark tunnels of depression to those who may be trying to help someone suffering through that trauma as follows:
I don’t want your pity; I want your support.
I don’t want to hear how great things are from your point of view; I want you to help me find a way out from my point of view.
I don’t need to hear you talk; I need for you to listen.
That last point may be the most important. When we try to “help” people we all tend to rush to some quick conclusion of what we think we need to do and we start talking. Basically, we stop listening and start giving advice, even if we don’t yet understand the problem. We usually miss the signs from that person that we just made a mistake. Unfortunately, the person who was seeking our help sinks back behind the shield that they had temporarily lowered to ask for our help. They may smile back and nod their head in apparent agreement, but we blew the opportunity to really help.
There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak. (Simon Sinek)
Unfortunately, most of us are so full of ourselves that we are just waiting for the next opportunity to speak, in order to show how brilliant we are. We don’t understand how stupid phrases like “I know how you feel” or “I feel your pain” sound to the person that we think we are trying to help. A more honest statement might be, “I can’t imagine the pain that you are feeling, but I want to try to help.”
You can’t really help until you understand the issues that are causing the pain for that person and you will never understand them until you listen to them. If you have to speak, just ask more questions to keep the conversation focused upon getting to the root of the problems that the person is having such trouble dealing with. Only then can we begin to really try to help.
There are many ways to approach problem solving, once we understand the problems. I have posted her a few time on approaches that might help in this situation as well as helping us solve our own problems. See –
Those are two of those posts on problem solving.
However, the point of today’s missive is not to give advice about the solution that you may offer to someone who seeks you help; but, rather, to help you find the best way to help them by listening to them. You may not need to do anything other than that for them.
I think L. J. Isham put it well – “Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals.”
If you want to help – LISTEN!