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Conversation about mental health at work? Learn to SEW

When it comes to having a conversation, if you’re concerned about someone’s mental health and well-being, it’s about knowing how to SEW.

Lots of people avoid having a conversation if they think their colleague is unwell. They think it could be a ‘scary thing’, they think they might say the ‘wrong thing’, they think the other person might burst into tears, shout or run away screaming. The truth is if we’re not feeling well and someone lends a sympathetic ear, most of us are relieved. At last someone has noticed. At last someone cares.

I think the other reason people avoid having supportive conversations at work is because they think they’ll need to have all the answers.

They don’t.

You don’t.

The good news is, we don’t all need to be doctors or counsellors to have a conversation that shows empathy toward our colleagues.

So what on earth has this got to do with SEWing?

S  stands for Seek first to understand. If you haven’t read Stephen Covey’s book, the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, then let me tell you it’s a good ‘un. By seeking first to understand he’s saying don’t jump in and make assumptions. Have an open mind.

 stands for Explore – listen and ask questions. Open questions, starting with ‘How’ or ‘What’ are most helpful. We feel listened to and valued when we’re asked, What do you think? How do you want to take this forward? And so on. Listening is key. It’s not about you, it’s about the person you are concerned for, it’s up to them to speak when they want to. Allow for silences. It lets everyone breathe.

W  stands for What next? It’s not up to you to decide, it’s up to the person who you’re supporting. Sometimes if we’re not well, it’s hard to think of a way through so you can offer choices. Choices can be helpful for the other person to consider. What next includes support options. Know what official support is available at work for you and your colleagues.

I’m delighted to be presenting at the Sky Betting & Gaming annual Summer Festival in Yorkshire for all their staff this week. They’ll be learning to SEW. There’ll be lots of goats too but that’s another story…

Now, where’s that needle and thread?

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