How can we be better at listening when supporting young people with mental health?
Listening is vital when supporting a young person experiencing issues mental ill-health. Try these top tips for non-judgemental listening to ensure a young person feels heard during a potentially difficult time.
- Listen with intent to understand as opposed to intent to respond.
- Avoid interrupting. Allow the young person to fully express themselves.
- Ask questions to clarify the person’s feelings or thoughts. This shows that you are paying attention and you understand them.
- Consider your body language, including facial expressions, eye contact, posture and seating positioning. The slightest expression or reaction that implies judgement can cause the young person to close up.
- Don’t be tempted to offer advice or tell someone how they ought to feel. This can create feelings of guilt or inferiority.
- Be careful not to turn the conversation towards yourself or your own feelings or experience. This can create unhealthy comparisons and shift the focus away from the young person.
- Don’t be afraid of silent moments. These do not have to be awkward but can create space for people to think and open up further. Allow the silence to spill into the space and wait for the young person to speak.
- Be careful not to minimise a young person’s issue by stating that it isn’t so bad or suggesting things could be worse. This invalidates the person’s feelings.
Why try non-judgemental listening?
As teachers, the first instinct is to support, advise and solve. When it comes to mental health, a vital step to supporting is allowing the person to talk openly and be truly heard. Be mindful of the fine line between empathy and sympathy.
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