Opening a supportive conversation is sometimes uncomfortable and may never feel 100% like the right time! Don’t avoid it because of small things. There are no hard and fast rules to know if someone is in a good space to have a conversation. The best way to find out is to ask. If you are unsure whether or not to open a conversation, remember that checking-in is one of the best things you can do for someone in need.
While having supportive conversations is important, it is also important to pick your moment. Creating the proper environment where the person you’re supporting will feel comfortable is key. As general guidelines:
A ‘safe space’ is a trusting environment where the person you’re supporting will feel comfortable to talk with you. They need to know that if they share their story with you, it will be handled in a private, non-judgmental, safe way, and that they will be supported.
Asking ‘How have you been?’ or ‘How’s it going?’ isn’t always going to lead into a serious conversation. Your challenge is getting past 'I'm fine!'. It is important that they understand you are genuinely asking how they have been doing. Being specific about what you’ve noticed and why you’re concerned allows people the space to move from ‘I’m fine!’ to a more open conversation.
An example could sound like – ‘I’ve noticed that you’ve been low energy the last couple of weeks, and I’m wondering if you’re doing okay.'
Keep it simple, direct, and genuine!
If they don’t want to open up, that’s okay. What’s important is that they know you’re there when they are ready. Opening up to a friend or family member can be hard, and we are all at different places in our journey. Know that it may take a number of tries to start the conversation. And most importantly, respect if someone doesn’t want to talk. But leave the door open and continue to check in.