Updated: Oct 30
In our fast-paced lives, we often encounter shifts in people's behaviour, engagement, or even a gradual drift away from us. It's easy to dismiss these changes as someone having a bad day or being in a bad mood. However, what if there's something deeper at play that we could address with empathy and genuine concern? This blog explores the power of checking in with those we care about, especially in times of uncertainty and transition, like the aftermath of lockdowns.
The first year after lockdowns
As we emerge from the various stages of lockdown and social isolation, we've witnessed an array of responses from people in our networks. Some have transitioned seamlessly, while others are still grappling with the challenges that have arisen. A significant number of individuals are silently dealing with their own battles, and sometimes their struggles are not immediately visible. This is where the act of checking in becomes invaluable.
The simple act of caring
The act of checking in with someone is more than just asking, "Are you okay?" It involves a deeper, more sincere engagement. It starts with a pause, a moment of silence that gives the person space to consider their response. In many cases, a quick "yes" is the initial response, often delivered as a reflex, a knee-jerk reaction. This is where the second, more probing question comes into play: "Really, are you okay?"
Noticing the changes
If the person you're checking in with continues to respond in the affirmative, it's essential to gently share what you've observed. For instance, you might say, "I've noticed you being disengaged with me lately, and it feels like something might be bothering you. I genuinely care about your well-being and want to understand what's going on." This allows them to know that you're genuinely concerned and willing to listen.
Creating a safe space to open up
Opening up about mental health can be incredibly challenging for many. Some people may be hesitant to share their struggles or fears, even with those they trust. This is where the support you offer is vital. After expressing your observations, follow up with questions like, "Is there anything I can do to support you?" or "What do you need from me to feel supported?" These questions create a psychologically safe space, free from judgement, where the person can feel comfortable sharing their concerns.
The power of empathy and validation
You don't have to be an expert in mental health to make a significant difference in someone's life. What matters most is your genuine and sincere concern and the assurance that their feelings are valid and understood. Normalise their experiences and let them know that you're there to support them. The key is not to "fix" their problems but to lend an empathetic ear and assure them that you have their back. Together, you can work through the challenges.
A sense of belonging and togetherness
One of the most important aspects of checking in with someone is the sense of belonging, togetherness, and connection it fosters. When you check in on someone, you're creating a safe space for them to be vulnerable. It's a simple act that can have a profound impact on their mental well-being.
So, the next time you notice a change in someone's behaviour, don't just brush it off. Ask twice, pause, and give them that psychologically safe space to open up to you. You have the power to make a difference in someone's life by simply showing you care.