Help in being more supportive

AidanAidan Clever idiotPosts: 1,129 Fanatical Poster
edited May 2 in Anything Goes
Hey everyone, I hope you're having a nice day!

I also don't know if this is in the right place, so you mix moguls feel free to move it :joy:

I'm an honest guy, but I think I'm too blunt and hurt people's feelings sometimes. It's negatively affecting my skills with people and my relationships. I want to be more supportive of people.

I came back to the mix a few weeks ago after some time off, and I've been trying to be supportive on here to help other people to make it right. But it takes me a while to write a reply, because I go over everything in my head over and over again to make it nicer or more supportive, and it gets hard without following a formula and making every reply basically the same reply, I'm just not sure if everyone else has to go through so much effort to be nice and if it comes naturally to some people.

There are also issues that I won't touch on or try to help with, because I think the issues are too sensitive for me and I feel out of my depth.

I want to learn to basically be nicer, not by lying or being fake, but by wording things better or seeing the positives in things or structuring a post a certain way. I think I struggle with empathy sometimes, and be in their shoes, I want to but it's like the shoes don't fit.

What do you think makes a supportive reply to a post?

Thank you <3
Aidan





3.6, not great, not terrible
kathleen0172LaineJordan

Comments

  • LaineLaine Llama Mama Posts: 1,285 Fanatical Poster
    Hey there Aidan x

    First off don't feel bad! it can be hard to be supportive sometimes because we can feel like, is this right? will this help? i hope it doesn't come across mean! etc.

    It can be really hard to be in someones shoes sometimes and i don't often master that because truth be told, its hard and you can't truly know.

    But you can be there for someone. Even just start by giving them a hug <3 acknowledge their feelings, tell them you are there and that you hear them.

    If you start feeling comfortable you can move onto signposting and or suggesting some things x

    They do say honesty is the best policy but there some situations that require more softer tones and nicer words and they don't have to be big ones, just a simple "i'm here for you"

    Its great you want to improve thats a lovely first step :) heres everything in one little place.

    What i think makes a nice reply;
    Acknowledging their feelings(its okay to feel like this, but you don't have to do it alone)
    Let them know you're there for them
    Talk to them, don't feel bad about asking them to expand on something(you say it upsets you, can you expand a bit more on why?)
    Maybe give them some solutions, or signpostings if you feel it would help.

    Best wishes :) xo

    🌈Positive thoughts🌈 

    "I will make you believe you are lovely!" ~ TOP

    "No one else is dealing with your demons, meaning maybe defeating them could be the beginning of your meaning friend" ~ TOP

    "What's gonna be left of the world if you're not in it?" ~ Bastille
    Aidan
  • kathleen0172kathleen0172 [Inactive User] Posts: 1,456 Fanatical Poster
    Hey Aidan <3

    I get that you want to be more supportive, and it sounds like this is a difficult problem for you. For what it's worth, I think your replies to posts are very supportive and helpful, so it looks like you're doing the right things. And the fact that you want to be more supportive shows that you already are, inside - so is your main problem here that you have trouble expressing it?

    I can give you some tips based on how I word things :)

    As an example of a situation... Back in February, my guinea pig broke a tooth, and she kept pawing at her mouth or acting like she was choking. I had another guinea pig who died suddenly at a year old in 2016, and it led to me developing some phobia (possibly OCD/anxiety) of harm coming to her. So this really set off anxiety for me, and I felt scared to be around her.

    Here's what would've been a bad response for me:

    "Sorry you're worried about your guinea pig. It's normal to worry about your pets, my friend does it about their cat. But you need to look after and spend time with her. Keep an eye on her as guinea pigs can hide their sickness, and take her to the vet if necessary".

    And what's wrong with that response...

    ) It's assuming that I'm experiencing normal worry, rather than an uncontrollable and mostly irrational fear ("sorry you're worried about your guinea pig. It's normal to worry about your pets"). That would make me feel like my feelings were being minimised, or like they didn't understand despite me having explained what it's like.

    ) The "but". Following a sentence with words like "but" can make it sound like you're dismissing something. In this imaginary response, it says "but you need to look after and spend time with her". In that sort of thing, it's unhelpful to be told that anyway, and the "but" makes it sound like they're not actually sympathetic or sorry that I'm feeling this way.

    ) It was unreassuring in the line "keep an eye on her as guinea pigs can hide their sickness, and take her to the vet if necessary". That's not saying you shouldn't be honest or sugar-coat everything, but saying it in that sort of fashion would only make me feel like my fears were being confirmed.


    So, now let's look at how to improve that response. Something like this:

    "I'm sorry you're feeling so scared about your guinea pig. It's clear you love her a lot, and I understand how you'd be feeling this way. You're doing the best you can with trying to make yourself spend time with her, and try to remember that nothing terrible is going to happen while you're with her. It sounds like she's probably okay, and you're keeping an eye on her".

    And what's good about that response...

    ) It's paying more attention to what I'm saying ("I'm sorry you're feeling so scared about your guinea pig"). Rather than being misunderstanding, it's hearing what I said and repeating it. And instead of sounding invalidating, it's changing the tone to say it's understandable ("I understand how you'd be feeling this way"). That makes me feel safe and unjudged.

    ) No "but" :p And instead of pressuring me to spend time with her, it's encouraging me and acknowledging the fear I feel ("you're doing the best you can with trying to make yourself spend time with her, and try to remember that nothing terrible is going to happen while you're with her").

    ) Rather than feeding into my fears, it changes the tone to reassurance ("It sounds like she's probably okay, and you're keeping an eye on her"), instead of focusing on the worst and encouraging me to be scared. It's also more realistic and honest, instead of pessimistic.

    Does that make sense? <3

    The basic things I do when I'm wording support are:

    ) Avoiding "but" lol. In some sentences it can work and sounds fine, but in others, it can really fail at expressing what you want to say and sounding sympathetic.

    ) Avoiding "why" questions - that can seem judgmental, sometimes. So rather than asking, "why are you sad?", it might be better to ask, "do you know of any reason you're sad?", or "would you like to talk more about that?"

    ) Asking open questions. For example, if someone says they're feeling stressed, you can say, "has anything made you feel that way, or is it just a general feeling?". Or if they say that they're feeling insecure and likable because of the way their parents treated them, you could ask something like, "so did your parents make you feel you're a bad person, or maybe that everyone's always going to hate you? Or maybe it's something different?". While we're at that, it can be great to ask stuff like, "how are you feeling?" or, "how are you feeling about that?". Open questions invite the person to talk and can help you understand.

    ) Saying some encouraging and caring words, such as "stay strong," or "I'm here for you".

    ) Repeating what they said back to them. So, as I was talking about above - if someone's expressing how they're feeling really scared, say something like, "I'm sorry you're feeling scared". This shows understanding - and if you don't quite understand, it's a good way to pretend you do ;)

    As boastful as this sounds (though it's not at all intended to be), feel free to look at my posts around here. It may help you get a sense of what I mean.

    But that's only my view, and how I make sure to express my support and sympathy. People have different ways, and different ways help different people. Again, you offer great support on here, so I don't feel there's much to tell you <3

    Sorry this was so long, I hope it was of some help - and ignore me if not!


    Aidan
  • AidanAidan Clever idiot Posts: 1,129 Fanatical Poster
    Hey you guys, thanks for the help- I'll reply to you both tomorrow as i'm pretty tired and in no fit state to absorb that much right now :joy: but I do appreciate the quick responses so thank you very much!

    Aidan <3

    3.6, not great, not terrible
    kathleen0172Laine
  • AidanAidan Clever idiot Posts: 1,129 Fanatical Poster
    Hey again, thank you for the replies!

    Acknowledging their feelings(its okay to feel like this, but you don't have to do it alone)
    Let them know you're there for them
    Talk to them, don't feel bad about asking them to expand on something(you say it upsets you, can you expand a bit more on why?)
    Maybe give them some solutions, or signpostings if you feel it would help.

    Thanks for the advice Laine, I see that you have your own little formula as well xD
    I think some kind of structure that you can use interchangeably between posts does help you keep consistent and also might help me practise saying those things more naturally, if that makes sense?

    You put a lot of importance on giving people hugs and letting them know I'm there for them, I think that kind of thing can be great and I'll try letting it be known more.

    Thanks @Laine !

    @kathleen0172 there's no need to apologise for being a bit long, it's very comprehensive, thank you!

     is your main problem here that you have trouble expressing it?
    I'd never actually thought of that, I do want to be supportive but I struggle to get it across and it makes me feel like a bad person. Thank you for bringing it up, along with what Laine said too about wanting to help people, it's making me feel like maybe I'm not such a bad person.

    Would you mind if I broke down your bad example reply and give my interpretation? I absolutely see your points about how it can be improved, and the improved one I think is still better, but I had some different thoughts on it.

    Sorry you're worried about your guinea pig.
    I think this shows you're empathetic and care, and I see it's mostly unchanged in the improved reply so I sense that this is okay?
    It's normal to worry about your pets, my friend does it about their cat.
    See to me, it can be normal to worry about your pets, and I would think saying something like that would validate someone's feelings and put them at ease. You make a good point though that, in your example, your feelings are driven by anxiety, feelings that you don't want to be validated because it feeds your anxiety. How would you differentiate between when someone could benefit from being told their feelings are rational, and when they wouldn't?
    But you need to look after and spend time with her. Keep an eye on her as guinea pigs can hide their sickness, and take her to the vet if necessary
    I think this is practical advice, but I agree with you that the delivery, the tone, isn't helpful- and again that it could aggravate anxious feelings. Would it be better to link people to pages or websites, written by experts on the matter, for practical advice instead of giving advice directly in my reply?

    I also get what you mean with using 'but' in a sentence, it can seem contradictory to the first part of the sentence which may take meaning away from it, and it's better to have clauses that complement each other instead of going against each other.

    E.g. instead of "You thought it would be hard, but you still managed it" it would be better to say something like "It sounds like you found it difficult at first, and you overcame those challenges"

    Is this^ about right?

    Thank you Kathleen for your reply, a lot of what you said makes sense to me and I could do now that I know about it, there's just a few bits I've talked about that I don't think I fully understand yet (and that's not down to your reply, it was very good!) as some concepts are completely new to me.

    Thank you both for your replies! You've been very helpful and supportive of me <3

    Aidan








    3.6, not great, not terrible
    kathleen0172
  • kathleen0172kathleen0172 [Inactive User] Posts: 1,456 Fanatical Poster
    Hey, you're very welcome <3

    Yeah, sorry, it was the best example I could think of. No way was I going to create one about all my other struggles as that would be even harder lol. But I figured it may help if I used a real situation of mine, because that way, I can show how I'd feel if someone responded in a particular manner - so as well as giving a few tips on how I respond, I could offer insight as to how it would possibly feel to be on the receiving end of the support. If that makes sense :3

    Again, different people are different, so I can only speak for what would help me, or how I like to express support.


    Sorry you're worried about your guinea pig.
    I think this shows you're empathetic and care, and I see it's mostly unchanged in the improved reply so I sense that this is okay?
    Yeah. This sentence by itself is okay. It can sometimes be helpful to say what the other person said themselves. So, I'll write an example post:

    "My guinea pig's been pawing at her mouth a lot. I have a phobia of harm coming to her, and so things like this seem to really trigger my anxiety. I think it's kind of irrational, but I feel really scared. I've tried distractions and other coping mechanisms, but nothing works. I don't know when to actually be concerned, and what's just my fear. I'm trying to make myself spend time with her, but again, I'm really scared so it's hard."

    So, to repeat what I said back to me, you might say, "sorry you're so scared about your guinea pig" - because that's what I said I'm feeling. But "worried" isn't much different, so you could say that if you want, it's just that you wouldn't be directly saying what I said :)

    As another example, if someone said, "I'm struggling with self-hate and feel very angry at myself," and you replied with, "Sorry you're struggling with a lack of confidence," that would be almost saying the same thing - but it's not repeating the exact thing the person expressed, and depending, could even be inaccurate (lack of confidence could suggest feeling unlikable or something, when the person was expressing feelings of disgust and anger). So to make sure someone feels heard, repeating the words they used can help.


    It's normal to worry about your pets, my friend does it about their cat.
    See to me, it can be normal to worry about your pets, and I would think saying something like that would validate someone's feelings and put them at ease. You make a good point though that, in your example, your feelings are driven by anxiety, feelings that you don't want to be validated because it feeds your anxiety. How would you differentiate between when someone could benefit from being told their feelings are rational, and when they wouldn't?
    The sentence we were just discussing ("sorry you're worried about your guinea pig"), only starts to sound particularly inaccurate and misunderstanding when it's being said along with this. As those two sentences make it kind of sound like the person is totally misinterpreting what I said :p As what I discussed was anxiety that was probably irrational, but was honestly quite unbearable, and this reply suggests it's ordinary worry - which isn't properly hearing what I said, and would also make me feel as if I was being stupid or the person was judging.

    So the better way to validate my feelings would be to say something like, "it's clear you love her a lot, and I understand how you'd be feeling this way". Or you could even just say, "it's okay to be scared," or, "anxiety sucks". Lol.

    I think you can't always tell what words will be the most help to someone, of course. But generally, some examples of when it might validate their feelings to say it's rational...

    "I'm so angry because my therapist told me to suck it up and get on with life."

    "I'm scared and upset because my dad has cancer and is dying."

    In the first example, for them to be told they have a right to be upset and the therapist wasn't behaving okay, may help. In the second example... Especially in such a serious situation, quite a lot of people will want to prepare for the worst and not be lied to. It would be fake reassurance to tell them that their dad will be fine. In a thing like that, it's probably better to acknowledge the seriousness and be there for the person, rather than make up some bull crap about how they should cheer up because their dad won't die just to try to make them feel better short-term.

    An example of when someone might not want to be told their feelings are rational... 

    "My friend just abandoned me, and I feel so sad and that they did so because I'm just an unlovable person."

    You're going to want to validate their feelings in a different way, here. Telling the person it's rational will make them feel worse. Lol. Because they're not an unlovable person, it just feels that way. So it would be better to say something like, "it's understandable that you feel this way, and I really sympathise. Your friend was in the wrong to abandon you, for what it's worth you're not at all unlovable".

    In my situation, it's kind of a mix of those examples - it's mostly irrational and definitely exaggerated, but there is also a risk that there's something wrong with my guinea pig. Being told that my feelings are rational is not going to help, but I do value honesty, it just has to be gentle. So to say something like, "it sounds like she's probably okay, and you're keeping an eye on her," could be a way to express that. Or, if you truthfully thought it was a terrible situation, you could say something along the lines of, "it sounds like there could possibly be a problem. But if there is, you'll get through this, and she hopefully will too. I'm here for you regardless".


    But you need to look after and spend time with her. Keep an eye on her as guinea pigs can hide their sickness, and take her to the vet if necessary
    I think this is practical advice, but I agree with you that the delivery, the tone, isn't helpful- and again that it could aggravate anxious feelings. Would it be better to link people to pages or websites, written by experts on the matter, for practical advice instead of giving advice directly in my reply?
    Yeah, what you said - it's practical advice, but the delivery would only panic me further - which in fact, would make my chances of spending time with her and keeping an eye on her less likely. So it's better to say I'm trying my best and to remember that she won't drop down dead while I'm with her.

    In some situations, the person might need and appreciate advice. In which case, you could link them to a page, or just tell them what you think - but it's better to only do that if the person asks, rather than if the person is just telling you how anxious they feel. Unless the person has described a serious problem and shows no signs of doing anything about it, of course, then you may want to step in with your advice.

    I also get what you mean with using 'but' in a sentence, it can seem contradictory to the first part of the sentence which may take meaning away from it, and it's better to have clauses that complement each other instead of going against each other.

    E.g. instead of "You thought it would be hard, but you still managed it" it would be better to say something like "It sounds like you found it difficult at first, and you overcame those challenges"

    Is this^ about right?

    Thank you Kathleen for your reply, a lot of what you said makes sense to me and I could do now that I know about it, there's just a few bits I've talked about that I don't think I fully understand yet (and that's not down to your reply, it was very good!) as some concepts are completely new to me.
    Yep, your example with replacing the "but" is awesome.

    It's fine and understandable if you don't fully understand yet - and keep asking questions if you like and I'll try my best to answer :3
    Aidan
  • AidanAidan Clever idiot Posts: 1,129 Fanatical Poster
    Thank you for the clarity Kathleen, it's so helpful!

    Thanks so much <3
    3.6, not great, not terrible
    kathleen0172
  • Millie2787Millie2787 Posts: 1,707 Postholic
    Hey ,

    There are also issues that I won't touch on or try to help with, because I think the issues are too sensitive for me and I feel out of my depth
    To start with , sometimes all someone needs is to know that you (the Community ) are there to listen to them and its ok sometimes your not going what to say , i know that at times i want to reply to someone but i literally haven't got a clue on what to say and theirs always going to be some posts that are going to be sensitive, i'm sure everyone here has had that.

    Something Simple as saying," its good to see you reaching out for support here or even just sending a hug if your unsure about what to say can really help  Especially if there a new poster or if they feel like the help there getting in the community isn't the best.

    Sometimes letting someone know in your reply that you know what they've been through can help . Obviously you don't have to . Like  for example i use my nan passing away you could say something as simple as " I know how hard it can be losing someone who was close to you" There you not saying anything specific about what you've been through if you have but just letting the person know that you can relate to some of those feelings can help them to feel less alone. 

    Another good thing to do and your see alot of the Board mods do it , that if its been a few days since they last wrote on there thread or when you get round to writing a reply to someones thread just asking "How are you feeling today" . Again this helps someone to feel like that theres people out there who care how there feeling or how there day has been.

    But on the flip side of this , its always really good to congratulate people on doing something they found difficult and how there feelings after doing it . Again ill use an example of where i was really scared and anxious to talk to my CAMHS worker about a situation but i managed to do it and wrote that i did in. So in that situation you can acknowledge that in your reply with something like " Well Done for speaking to Beth about the situation , How do you feel now you've spoken to her " and then if needed go on and acknowledge the rest of the post.

    But don't worry about feeling like to you need to write a long reply to someone because sometimes a Little can go along way  :)

    I hope this all makes sense to you <3
    You have a purpose.
    Aidan
  • AidanAidan Clever idiot Posts: 1,129 Fanatical Poster
    Thanks @Millie2787 !

    I think I'll start replying to issues that are outside my comfort zone, maybe just to say I'm there and I care, post a link here or there, and build up my support skills in that department.

    As someone who was new here something like 2 years ago, and as someone that the concept of sharing your problems was new to 2 years ago, I remember how much it meant when people replied to that first post, and actually cared and supported me.

    I understand about trying to relate i.e. "I've been through this too", nobody's specifics are the same but most of us have been in the same general situations and gone through the same general feelings, and it's a very powerful way to empathise with someone.

    Asking how people are and checking up on them is another good idea! I always try to tell people when they've done something well and they should be proud, but I'm trying to get better at delivering that kind of response.

    Thanks for the help! <3
    Aidan







    3.6, not great, not terrible
    Millie2787
  • Millie2787Millie2787 Posts: 1,707 Postholic
    if you ever need a link to a website that really good a providing information sheets that help to break down different mental health issues from self esteem all the way to eating disorders let me know and ill Pm you that :)
    I'm sometimes full of useful things  ;)
    You have a purpose.
  • ShaunieShaunie England 🏠Posts: 4,759 Supreme Poster
    edited May 27
    This is really interesting because i used to have to think a lot before replying to someones thread. Thinking i need to give something productive and some good advice here. 

    And then in my peer support training its interesting in how the less you do the more helpful you can be. Because instead of being the person to give best advice. You dont need to. Thats you doing all the work instead of them building their indepenace and thinking for themselves, making their own chioces and beinng confident with that.  And that you do not need to know about a challenge to even supoort someone. Simplying validating their strengths, hearing their challenges, having general discussion and asking open ended questions & empathsis you help them to think and they feel heard aswell. 

    Hope makes sense
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