When someone says they're "fine", but they aren't.
If we're honest, it can be frustrating when someone is very clearly struggling and they say they're fine. We're checking in and we're trying to create an opportunity for them to speak to us. We're letting them know that we're here for them and they aren't responding. We're helping them, but they just aren't helping themselves.
These are pretty common frustrations; ones I've heard multiple times from people. And it's true. They have reached out; they sent a message that wasn't responded to or made a phone call that was left unanswered. So it can sometimes feel like your willingness to be there and to support someone is either not wanted, appreciated or is futile.
Believe me, it is appreciated and wanted and not futile. But it requires patience, consistency and a little perspective shift. It's important to understand that it's hard for people to accept help and attention. The reasons are varied and complex; maybe they feel shame, they're embarrassed or they don't feel worthy of help. But what you'll notice is that it's all to do with them, and not you. We need to give people time to be in a place where they can accept support from you. That's why patience and consistency are critical. Continue to gently reach out periodically. There will come a time when they will tell you they aren't okay.
In the meantime, what can we do for people who don't want to talk about what they're going through?
Here are some tips to help you continue to help someone who is reluctant to talk.
1. Keep in contact. This is critical. And it should be the easiest, but it often drops off quickly. Send messages, emails or make phone calls. It doesn't have to be every day, but the more consistent the better. Don't let someone feel lonely. Show them that they're on your mind.
2. Invite them every time, even if they say no. It's nice to know people want our company, even if we don't feel like we can give it. So even if you know they're going to decline your invitation every time, it doesn't matter - invite them regardless.
Both of these will continue to create opportunities to be there; you're giving someone the chance to accept help. At some point they will be ready, and you're making it easy for them by having that line of communication open and social invitations flowing.