How can I respond when someone opens up to me about the way they are feeling?
There has been a big push over the past few years through various campaigns to encourage people to talk to someone if they are struggling. However, we often aren't equipped with the skills to listen effectively and help when someone reaches out to us. So here are a few tips to help you...
When someone opens up to us, they are putting themselves in a vulnerable state. Therefore, being accepting and compassionate is key for them to feel validated and know that they can come back to you again in the future if they are facing challenges.
Focus on validation - help them feel understood - To be able to do this it is beneficial to focus on keeping our own opinion and desires at bay during the conversation. As you go through the process of listening it is also suggested that you focus on being non-judgemental, patient, and empathetic.
We can sometimes be reluctant to validate someone’s feelings as we feel like we may be condoning bad choices or behaviour in a specific scenario, but this is not the case. When listening to someone open up about their feelings the aim is to work towards the following "your feelings make sense. I not only am giving you permission to feel what you feel but I am also welcoming and accepting your feelings in a non-judgmental way.”
Why is it important to validate the way that a person is feeling - Validating someone’s feelings means accepting whatever emotions they are feeling. There may be occasions when we are surprised by what they are feeling or how strongly they are feeling it. But it is still important to validate their feelings in order to help them cope with the things they are going through. When we have quite strong feelings it can be tempting to ignore them or pretend they aren’t there, this can have a long-term impact. So, allowing a person to feel the way they do is crucial to helping them move towards solutions.
Steps to validating the way someone is feeling:
Listen - Ensure you are in a space and have the time to be fully engaged with the individual and listening to what they are saying. Some simple actions such as keeping eye contact and nodding as they are speaking can be really helpful.
Reassure - Respond sympathetically when they have finished opening up to you. Let them know that it is okay that they feel that way. By simply making it known that you care, you have shown them that their feelings are valued.
Don’t feel the need to fix - Let them know you are there for them and reassure them that you are someone they can confide in without fear of judgement. Remember - you don't have to try and fix anything. By simply being a support system for them, you will help them feel more comfortable opening up and confronting their emotions.
This content has been developed as part of our #itsmyjourney project with