It may seem such a simple thing to reach out and ask ‘How are you?‘ and from the outside it may seem like it could have very little impact on another. But think twice about those three little words and perhaps make a promise to always ask twice. How often do we reply with ‘Yes fine.‘ or ‘Yes, you?‘ without really giving away our true feelings and without a second thought to if someone really wants to know how you are doing. I would say unless I reach out for help myself, I would never truly be honest with another and would 9 times out of 10 give a stereotypical bland response. Think about the positive impact of reiterating your question.
‘No really… How are you?’
That second attempt could be the gateway to a platform that would allow someone to be honest and may even surprise them into realising that there is a person out there who does really care. No it isn’t the solution to that individual’s problems, nothing is rarely that simple but allowing someone a safe space and perhaps a moment of true honesty, may well be the thing that enables them to step forward into the light. There’s no guarantee that the question will work, but perhaps in time if that person prefers to reach out themselves, they may remember that you were the one that truly wanted to know.
As a society the progress we are making in talking about our mental health is amazing. It’s so good to see those with platforms tell their stories and finally normalise help, but we still have so far to go in supporting each other. The shame someone might feel and the fear of being judged can stop even the strongest of people from asking for help, so to show that you are there, with no fear of judgement is a way to truly listen to what another person may need. If someone you know doesn’t want help or can’t accept it right now, just be around. Be the person that texts them ‘Have a great day!’ even if you get no reply, be the person that listens when they need to vent and be the person that looks after yourself, so you have the ability to be available should they need you.
Life can be hard. We walk different paths in every aspect of our lives but don’t let this discourage you from reaching out. Your confidence, your shoulder to cry on and your availability may just offer some support – or it may just save a life.
‘How are you?’ is not the only way to check on someone, but it is a simple and sometimes effective segue into a deeper conversation. We shouldn’t be afraid to be the person that reaches out, rather than those who are already exhausted trying to find the strength to. Offering your help doesn’t mean the weight of their worries will transfer to you, it can just mean an open, honest talk ensues about getting the right help, about if they need help and in some cases realising that help is an option.
I’m worried about you.
Do you want to talk?
I’m here to listen.
Can I help you?
I care about you.
There is so much work still to do and so much talking still to be done, but let’s keep the conversation going and if it’s the right thing to do, let’s be the one that reaches out first.