I noticed something really important about the qualities of how people chose to reach out that is very different than what I’ve experienced at other difficult times in my life. In fact, many of the responses included some of the principles that I learned to use through my health coaching practice, and are applicable to everyday life and relationships.
Since 2020 has been a hard year for everyone, I thought it may be worth pointing out some tips for supporting your loved ones through hard times.
Here are two important tips in supporting someone through a tough time, and one very big blunder to avoid:
- Tip #1: Active, deep listen. Your job as a support person is to not make it about you, but to provide a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. This means that you aren’t listening while also formulating a response in your mind; you are just listening. Hint: mouth is closed, head nods are ok to communicate “I’m here, I’m listening."
- Tip #2: Reflections. These are observations about the person or the situation that you speak aloud without attaching additional explanation/ interpretation. Examples are “I see you’re hurting.” “This is a difficult situation.” “I noticed your mood shift when you started talking about XYZ.” “This is a tough situation to navigate.” Reflections give your loved one the opportunity to expand on what they’re feeling or clarify themselves. And for the person in pain, it communicates that you're actually listening and trying to understand what they're saying.
- Avoid advice giving. This is perhaps the worst thing you can do, unless they have directly asked for it. Unsolicited advice degrades rather than builds a relationship. So unless you hear the words “what do you think I should do?” just don’t. If you have a solution or thoughts to offer and you really want to share, ask permission first. “Would you like to hear my thoughts on XYZ?” and for the love of all things holy, respect the person’s response. Most likely, they are talking because they need to be heard, not to be told how to handle things. This also includes story telling. “You know, back in the ’90’s I went through a similar situation and XYZ got me through it.” or “My ex and I used to have the exact same problem.” Don’t shift the focus from them to you by diving into a story from your past, even if it relates to the situation at hand.
Being there for the person you love is really pretty simple when you break it down, but it often requires a lot of self-restraint because our culture doesn’t teach us how to actively listen. If you want to improve your relationships, support those you love and overall have better communication, give these tips a try. Once you do, let me know how the experience goes!
All the best,
|Jessica Hill Powell, NBC-HWC, RYT-200|
Founder + Health Coach at Meridian Integrative Wellness
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Blog post from the desk of Meridian Integrative Wellness founder, Jessica Hill Powell
NBC-HWC, RYT-200, Integrative Health Coach
Hi, I'm Jessica. My professional expertise centers around health and behavior change. I have a degree in Psychology from Bellarmine University, am a certified Integrative Health Coach by Duke University, as well as nationally board certified. I'm also a trained yoga instructor and an aromatherapy wellness advocate. Many modalities, one goal: physical and emotional well-being.
All of my impressive health-related credentials might have you assuming I'm always on my A-game, I workout consistently, eat one raspberry on Sundays as a treat and am basically in perfect health and am here to show you how to be perfect too. My friend, that would set us both up for failure.
Here's what may surprise you: I deal with depression and anxiety and also have psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes my immune system to ramp up and attack my joints and skin. Learning to live fully with these experiences is why I do this work; because feeling good in your own skin can require some extra work for some of us, whether it's chronic disease, situational stress, or something else.
I am healthy and resilient because I've spent the last decade learning how to care for my physical and emotional body. I can help you learn to do the same, in your own unique way, considering your own unique life circumstances; there are no one-size-fits-all answers, after all.
Me in a nut-shell: Mama x4. INFJ. Yogi. Foodie. Feminist. Plant Lover. Creative. Forever Student. Wellness Advocate.