What if someone is not OK
Posted on September 10th, 2015
RU Ok day is today. We are all asked to just ask that one simple question today.
But, this sort of thing needs to happen more regularly than just today.
I thought I would write a short article on what to do if someone says that they are not ok and some simple steps to follow.
So, you ask your friend, family member, work colleague etc if they are ok, and they say “no I am not.” This is a massive step for them to admit firstly that there is something wrong, and then secondly share that there is something wrong with you. The most important thing to show is empathy. I have written a little below on how and why this is so important.
There is a difference between empathy, and sympathy that can be easily defined.
Empathy is understanding what the problem or concern is.
Sympathy is feeling the feelings of the person you are talking to.
Why is Empathy better than sympathy?
You have a very simple response to either very high or low levels of arousal or stress. The rational part of your mind is not as effective and your automated “fight or flight” part of your brain kicks in. If you FEEL their pain or problem, then technically you are putting yourself in no better position than they are in, and therefore it is going to be very difficult to help someone if you are the same as them. Now you have become “not ok.”
Empathy is listening and actively presenting back to the person what you perceive they are saying. It demonstrates the understanding of the feeling, the depth or magnitude of their feelings and then the problem. BUT, you do not have to feel their pain to do this. You are focused on ensuring that by listening and paraphrasing back to the person and asking questions rather than giving advice, the person who is talking to you should feel like you are understanding them, and are not just telling them what to do.
Most of the time, when we have a problem we know what we should do. Feelings can get in the way of practicality and sometimes, its a simple case of having someone listen to you and just emphasise that they understand you are really upset and that the problem you are facing is tough. Just that understanding can be comforting.
So, my biggest tip for RUOk day is when you ask the question RUOk, and if someone says know, then listen, demonstrate understanding of their feelings, then work on demonstrating understanding of the problem they are facing and then ask the person what do you think their plan should be to solve their problem. Sometimes they will have no idea, and thats where sometimes the person might want to seek professional help for the problems they are facing. However, just having someone in front of them demonstrate understanding of their problem, and their feelings will go a long way to helping them seek that help.