As someone who deals with mental health I have not always enjoyed social gatherings for many reasons but the one reason I'm going to talk about today is Questions. We have all heard them and we all hate them; How is school going? Do you have a Boyfriend/Girlfriend? What are you doing for work? When are you getting married? How much sex are you having (or as more well known when are you having kids)? Are you buying a house soon?
For the purpose of this blog let's set the setting up as a family Christmas dinner as that is the season we are entering.
Do you notice anything those questions have in common? They all are asking about things we have done/do/or "should" be doing. Not one asks about the interests of person, not one asks about anything you enjoy doing for fun, they all have the same propose. I want to know information about the person that I normally would not be welcome to know. My purpose for writing this blog is to teach a way to have healthy productive conversations that are beneficial to both parties engaging in the conversation.
Let's start with why the questions I mentioned above are not going to foster a good conversation with someone dealing with mental health. (I want to point out I believe you should approach every conversation as though the other person is battling mental health because they probably are)
How is School doing? This seems innocent enough but let's look deeper. When you ask this you are asking a very broad question that is hard to answer, that is why most people just say "it's going good". Now let's say I am really struggling with school and you don't know that. Well now I have to think about that while we are at a let's say family dinner. I am now feeling insecure because of a simple question and I just had to lie to you because this is not the time or place to talk about my school struggles. So now let me introduce you to intentional questions; start with asking questions that will highlight someone's interests. It may look something like "what elective courses did you pick this year at school?'' This will open a door to learning about what interests the person. So we can build off that question; We can ask something "I notice you picked a lot of computer tech course is that something you enjoy?" Now that we have found something the person is interested in, have them explain to you what something about their interest you don't understand. The point I am trying make is to be intentional with questions, you want to build the other person up with your questions. Asking about their interests and hobbies can make someone feel important, understood and cared for.
Do you have a Boyfriend/girlfriend? Let's just stay clear of asking about this. If you were close enough to the person they would tell you and if you haven't been told yet you need to respect the boundary said person has put in place not telling you. This question also plays on a ton of insecurities someone may have and just has no positive outcome. Just don't ask it!
When we ask questions we normally ask them with an innocence about it. We don't expect a negative outcome. That is what I want to bring attention too, questions are not innocent and depending what the person on the other side is going through, it is like opening up a wound and pouring salt into it. I urge you to think about the question you are about to ask someone and think; If things aren't going good is this the time and place to talk about, could this question make someone feel like they would need to lie to me if they don't want to answer, why do I need to know what I am asking about. The answers should be; this is going to highlight the other person, lets get specific not personal, I care about the answer and I want to know more. ALWAYS think about the other person's heart before you ask them a question.