Knowing how to interact with someone who has confided in you that she/he is stressed can be a delicate balance. Sometimes this conversation can come as a surprise, which may leave you feeling helpless and not knowing how to approach or respond to the person. So what are the best things that you can do if someone tells you about being stressed or feeling overwhelmed with no where to turn?
Here are some suggestions to remember for those sometimes tricky conversations;
-As prolonged stressed can affect someone’s memory, when talking to them, remember that they cannot absorb a lot of information. So keep your suggestions specific, short and sweet. When giving suggestions, ensure that you are not telling the person how to think or feel. Remember, trust is built on; listening, empathy, caring and compassion. This isn’t the time to point out weaknesses or suggestions that imply he/she is at fault.
-Reassure him/her that everything will be OK, although it may not seem like it at this present moment.
-Tell him/her your conversation is confidential.
-Do not get distracted while talking to someone about his/her issue. If you have limited time, tell the person, how much time you can talk now. Then, you keep the time and close out the conversation with a comment that you would be willing to speak later today or tomorrow, if you can, set a specific time–do so. Otherwise, tell the person you will get back to him/her tomorrow. When you reassure the person his/her concerns are valid and important to you and the team, you have lifted a huge weight from his/her shoulders. Remember she/he might have had to build up a lot of courage to communicate their issue to you. With your words of validation and concern she/he will feel important and secure that she/he has been heard. Everyone wants to be heard more than having someone solve the issue. Give the person all of your attention, visually, so that they know that you are listening. Eye contact is vital as this demonstrates that you acknowledge their concerns and respect him/her, Ask questions, this will also enforce that you are paying attention. Ask such questions as: When did you first notice you felt___. Do you remember what triggered how you feel___? Have you talked to a family member or friend? What have you done to resolve your feeling ___, (use his/her descriptor). What would you be willing to do now to shift your thoughts to feel better?
-Check up with her/him regularly to see how she/he is doing. Talking about your stress is the only way to heal for many people, so be a sounding board or listening ear periodically. The conversation doesn’t need to be formally set, it might be when you are passing in the hall, you can pause for a brief exchange, provided of course that it is private.
-Be open to exploring new ideas and new perspectives with him/her.
-If subsequent conversations reveal issues that are beyond the scope of a conversation and your expertise, you need to suggest formal counseling. Remember this is a suggestion….make sure the person understands it isn’t a requirement. However, this is not to say that in some instances giving that suggestion or directive (if you are his/her supervisor/manager) would be appropriate.