The Joy Club member Jennifer Cromar has been running sessions on how to support others for us. In case you can’t make it to her sessions, we thought we’d share this snippet of her wisdom…
I am currently running sessions with The Joy Club on supporting people. There are different types of support: emotional, spiritual, practical, financial. Which can you provide? You may be able to provide more than one. You may pay for support (financial). You may listen well (emotional). You could provide help by praying (spiritual). You could cook a meal, walk a dog (practical). You could help with a garden alongside the person you are supporting: practical, emotional, spiritual and financial!
This article looks at being there for others, giving emotional support. There are five different areas we will look at…
- Limits of ability
- Difference, diversity and empathy
- Listening skills
- Self awareness
Limits of Ability
What would you find too challenging to hear?
Can you keep confidentiality?
When do you need to refer on?
It is essential to know your limits of ability so that you do not go in to help someone emotionally and make the situation worse. What things would you find too hard to listen to? If someone said they felt they “did not want to be here anymore” would you be able to ask “do you mean suicidal?” or would this high emotion make you panic/want to run away? Could you sit with someone whilst they opened their heart without feeling like you take things on to yourself or want to fix their problems?
Consider offering safe confidentiality, meaning if someone discloses harm to self or others, you don’t have to carry it alone.
It is important to establish what support someone actually needs.
They may just want your advice. However, it can be good to ask “do you want advice?” before you give any.
It is good to know places to refer someone. This could be a trained counsellor, a GP, support groups. If you feel out of your depth, this is because you are!
Boundaries are a blog in themselves! Google psychcentral.com for more info, their blog explains about seven types of boundaries: physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, material, time, and non-negotiable.
When considering boundaries, some things you need to be aware of include…
- Time: how much time can you give? How much time does it take before you stop listening properly?
- Physical: is the space private for someone to open up?
- If someone crosses your boundaries you probably will feel annoyed!
- Respect their boundaries.
- Having good boundaries is a gift to others.
- They are a form of self care.
- They create realistic expectations.
- They create safety.
Difference, Diversity, Empathy
We all see the world differently. Empathy bridges the gap between us, it is such an important step that must not be missed or you will miss the other person. Listen, give empathy, help them find questions to ask like “what would help you?” or “has anything helped in the past?”. People know the solutions to their problems, even if they cannot see the answer now. So there is a big possibility the answer given may be “I don’t know” – but that’s ok.
I designed this model to give an idea of what listening skills are, so much more than using your ears! When listening properly you use your whole body, your senses, your heart.
The model is organic…
- The centre of the flower represents being centred in yourself.
- The spaces between petals represent how to give beautiful SPACE to someone through:
- Presence (centred, not having your own agenda, compassionate energy/vibe).
- Empathy, so utterly important (see Brene Brown on empathy).
- Awareness of body language.
- Awareness of breathing (sometimes to help someone regulate theirs).
- The petals are the practical skills…
- Asking questions: open question “what did you do today?”, closed question “how old are you?”
- Checking for understanding: “I just want to check I am understanding you” followed by…
- Paraphrasing: repeat what has been said.
- Empathic checking: “did that make you feel sad?” or “I would feel sad about that. How do you feel about it?” Never assume.
- Minimal Encouragers: like nodding, saying “hmm”, little gestures without interrupting.
- Echoing: repeating words that have been said, generally feeling words like “I feel angry”, repeat “so you feel angry”.
- Outside of the the circle is the other person’s world. This is the place that we are trying to get to. Understanding is so healing. Connection.
Steps 1. Relate 2. Retreat 3. Recharge 4. Repeat
Self awareness is vital. Your self care is essential. Retreat and recharge. Be aware of your energy. What is taking your energy? What gives you energy? I usually get lots of positive energy from supporting others. Write a list of five things that you love to do and DO THEM, otherwise you risk burn out. Look after you. Charge yourself up!
Share your own tips on supporting others in the comments below…