Talking through a crisis – LISTEN
For Mental Health Monday, I’d like to talk about talking. Actually, let’s talk about communicating… not at all the same thing. To communicate effectively, it’s more important to be listening which is key to being able to help someone in crisis.
Many of us are guilty of being in a conversation where we aren’t listening. Our brains are engaged not in processing what we are being told but rather churning away on what we want to say on our next chance to talk.
- When someone is in crisis, first we need to LISTEN to them and help them burn off that emotional load. Doing this in a controlled way helps keeps them from fueling their own fire. We do that by asking questions and giving replies that bring out and identify what has caused the crisis. For example, “What has happened to make you feel this way today?” When they are telling you, nod your head and reply with “mm hmmm” and “okay” which doesn’t interrupt them but lets them know you are listening. When they pause, you might ask, “It sounds like this made you very sad/hurt/etc.” which helps you both label the emotions they are feeling and, again, lets them know you are listening. Even if you are wrong, it gives them a chance to correct you. Either way, now you know how they feel.
- Next, we EMPATHIZE with the person. This doesn’t mean we must agree with what they think or say but we can express something like, “I can understand how that could have hurt you.” This, again, shows the person they are being heard. Let’s say, for example, they are suffering from audible hallucinations like tormenting voices. While we can’t know what it’s like to experience that, we can honestly say, “That must be very frustrating for you.”
By LISTENING and EMPATHIZING, we can help calm a person’s mind and help them become more rational which then let’s us all move toward finding a positive outcome for a situation.
If you’re interested in reading more about verbal de-escalation, you might check out “Verbal Judo” by Dr George Thompson or “In the Eye of the Hurricane: Skills to Calm and De-escalate Aggressive and Mentally Ill Family Members” which can be found at www.edgeworkbooks.com. The book I mentioned last week, “I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help” also talks about this process.
-Officer Morgan, MHO 817.427.7092
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