Time to Talk

Time to talk about Mental Health

Time to talk about Mental Health

Time to Talk is an initiative led by Rethink Mental Illness and Mind and encourages us all to have a conversation about mental health for 10 minutes over 2 cuppas with 0 pressure on Thursday 7th February.

We have been honing the art of conversation since we were born and building relationships in our personal lives or in business relies on us being able to utilize this key skill. Anxiety and lack of confidence can make talking to others challenging but, just as with any skill, if we practise, we can lower our levels of stress and become more skilled and more confident in this area. 

At the start of any conversation, even if it’s with someone we already know, we will need to do a little rapport building.  It makes us feel comfortable and relaxed and sets the tone for the rest of the chat, it can help build on our relationships and encourages trust.  Perhaps this could be seen as the beginning of a ‘dance’; the music is starting and positions taken.

Below is a list of rapport building tips.  When practising it’s a good idea to try one or two and not try to master them all at the same time!

1.    Mirroring of body language and facial expressions .

Called pacing, this displays empathy and common ground. It shows non-verbal interest and increases the likelihood that we will be interested in what the other person is saying. Babies pick up on this skill within a few hours of birth by mirroring poking out their tongue.  I am always amazed that if a client comes in and is quite nervous and sits on the edge of the chair at the beginning of a therapy session and I show empathy by matching this behaviour they will start to relax. I can then ‘lead’ the client to mirror my behaviour when I sit back. This can further ease any nerves, making them feel even more relaxed.

2.    Matching tone of voice, the speed and volume of the phrases.

Sometimes my clients are so wound up that the full range of expletives are used.  If I match their vocabulary, speed and tone they are more likely to calm down naturally than if were to under-respond or ask them in a very quiet voice to ‘calm down’ or quit using the swear words!

3.    ‘Yes Sets’.

Using statements and questions that will elicit a ‘yes’ response encourages quick rapport building.  It’s a technique to be used sparingly but very effective for a quick win. Examples are - ‘It’s really rainy out there, isn’t it?’ ‘Yes’ ‘You found the room, that’s great!’ ‘Yes’ etc etc.

4.    Pacing beliefs and behavior. 

We all do things that we know aren’t helping us but if in a conversation this is pointed out too early it can break rapport or set the rapport building back to square one.  Offering a solution in, say, an appraisal meeting or before we’ve worked on the rapport or shown that we have some understanding of how the other person might be feeling means we are in danger of shutting down the conversation and less likely to gain trust.

In therapy speak it’s called entering the other person’s ‘model of reality’.

5.    Reflective listening.

A combination of active listening, really listening with full attention and reflecting back not only what you have heard as words but also what you can ‘hear’ of the emotional content. For example, ‘So your Mum’s not been well, it sounds like that is quite stressful for you, at the moment.’

What better cause to practise some of these than “time to Talk day” on 7th February.

Hannah Jackson

Human Givens Psychotherapist