Having someone who is willing to hear us out allows us to feel less alone – not only in our mental health journey, but through life overall. Here are 4 ways we can be a better friend and listener to those around us:
1. Be attentive when you’re listening to them
Being able to have someone who is able to listen is important. In her book “Is There No Place For Me?”, Kate Richards provides an example of how we can approach the conversation:
“Do you want to tell me about it? We can sit and talk. We can just sit. I’ll sit here with you and hold you in this space and I’ll listen because I care and I won’t let go of you until you’re ready to walk in the world again on your own.”
How can we be attentive? We should not be on our phones as our friend is sharing about a tough week they had. We should only pursue the conversation further only if they are comfortable talking about it. Non-verbal language such as nodding can assure our friend that we are following the story they are telling. If we are comfortable, they too would be comfortable to share. If we were fidgety and acting uninterested in the conversation, this would be discouraging for people to open up and talk.
2. It is not about fixing or solving
When we are seeking for someone to rant our problems to, finding a solution may not always be at the forefront of our mind. You are not expected to fix. Sometimes, we just need to be present and hear our loved ones out.
Just be still, listen, and seek to understand the whole person. People are made up of more than just their mental health condition. Someone’s mental health condition may form as part of who they are, but it does not define the whole of who they are.
3. Show that you care about them
Joseph Addison, a seventeenth-century poet, wrote: “The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” Two of the most important things that give life meaning are knowing that someone cares about you, and having the opportunity to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.
Matt Haig wrote in his book “Reasons To Stay Alive” on the importance of having a support system: “Having people who love you and who you love is such help. This doesn’t have to be romantic, or even familial love. Forcing yourself to see the world through love’s gaze can be healthy. Love is an attitude to life. It can save us.”
Love can be shown in many ways. A warm hug. Spending time to talk with each. Going out for a cup of coffee to catch up on life. Giving notes of encouragement. Getting a gift because it reminds you of them. Being comfortable enough to express your emotions to each other. Mike McHargue shares, “People grow when they are loved well. If you want to help others heal, love them without an agenda.”
4. Encourage kindness, while keeping accountable
Not all of us are professionals. However, taking an interest in being up-to-date with our friend’s progress is another way to show that we care. Accountability helps to encourage a person further in their journey to achieve their goal.
in all, we should encourage the people in our lives to be kind to themselves. Whether
it be celebrating milestones, eating well, resting, or daring to ask for help,
let’s be there for one another in anticipating another day ahead.
 Kate Richards, ‘Is There No Place For Me?: Making Sense of Madness’ (Penguin Books, 2014) p.40