While it may be difficult to understand why your loved one is struggling, attempting to understand them can strengthen your relationship. Practicing empathy with someone who’s dealing with a mental health disorder is crucial when providing support and showing that you care. Learn how you can show more empathy for your loved one and better help them on their journey through therapy.
Reflective and Active Listening
Before you can effectively empathize with your loved one, you first need to listen to them. Reflective and active listening are two methods of communication that not only help you better understand your loved one’s struggles but also allow them to feel understood.
Reflective listening is characterized by the listener allowing a person to speak and then reflecting their thoughts back to them to clarify what is being said. This form of listening not only aims to clearly define someone’s thoughts and feelings but also shows that you are attempting to fully comprehend what they are saying. Although you should avoid interrupting the speaker, you should provide reflective statements such as:
- “So you feel…”
- “It seems like you…”
- “You’re wondering if…”
- “For you, it’s like…”
Meanwhile, active listening is when you make a deliberate effort to hear, understand, and retain the information that’s being said to you. Doing this allows your loved one to speak about their feelings free of judgment, interruption, and rejection. Active listening reduces misunderstanding and conflict while building a stronger bond between you and your loved one. Even if you disagree, refrain from commenting on it and continue listening.
Some characteristics of active listening include non-verbal signs that illustrate your undivided attention. This includes:
- Maintaining eye contact
- Leaning slightly forward and toward the speaker
- Slight nodding
- Not fidgeting: looking at the clock, playing with your hair, etc.
How to Use LEAP
LEAP is a communication method to emphasize empathy and help someone seek treatment for their mental health struggles. This method stands for “listen, empathize, agree, and partner.” Although it is aimed at helping persuade those who are unwilling to acknowledge their mental health struggles, LEAP can be beneficial for family members to better support their loved ones.
When you Listen-Empathize-Agree-Partner, you stop trying to force your loved one to admit they’re wrong. Instead, you start listening in a new way that immediately lowers anger and defensiveness, conveys genuine understanding, and establishes empathy and respect for their point of view, even if you disagree. As a consequence, you become more dependable as a support system. LEAP can be broken down as follows:
- Listen: Good communication is sitting back and listening to the person you care for’s frustrations, worries, wishes, and goals, as well as echoing back your understanding of what’s been said.
- Empathize: Understanding another person’s feelings, ideas, and attitudes is known as empathizing with them. Although it may be difficult, attempt to understand their perspective and emotions.
- Agree: Even if you initially don’t agree with them, the conversation must end in some form of agreement found between you and your loved one.
- Partner: Once you understand their goals, which should ultimately be to heal and seek treatment, you can partner with them to help them accomplish their goals and ambitions. Be with them as they step outside of their comfort zone.
By allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you can better understand each other’s perspectives and emotions. While being vulnerable can be extremely challenging, this will enable you to express yourself meaningfully and allow your loved one to be vulnerable as well.
When opening up your emotions, it’s also crucial that you don’t let negative feelings affect how you’re communicating. Recognize your anger or concerns about your loved one with a mental health disorder and deal with them calmly. If you let your anger spiral, the conflict will only worsen, and your loved one may feel judged or rejected. This can cause more stress on their mental health.
Remembering that your loved one’s challenging actions are typically a result of their mental health, rather than cruel or careless behavior that they could easily stop, may allow you to control your agitation. This can best be done when you educate yourself on their mental health disorder and its symptoms.
Understand Their Symptoms
When you fully understand your loved one’s symptoms, you’ll be better able not to take them personally. All mental health disorders, like other illnesses, have a unique set of symptoms that appear during times of increased difficulty. Understanding how those symptoms affect our loved ones is a crucial component of being helpful.
Although these symptoms are just as unstoppable as physical health symptoms, your loved one can still feel remorse, shame, or embarrassment. That’s why you need to understand and empathize with them. Avoiding negative reactions to these symptoms is important but also difficult if they’re targeted toward you.
Be sure that not only your loved one has a support system but that you do too. This way, you can better discuss your emotions with others to help you stay compassionate with your loved one and their battle with mental illness.
Mental health disorders can cause a strain in relationships if conflicts are left unresolved. The best way to be more empathic with your loved one who’s struggling with their mental health is to actively listen to them and support them. By listening without judgment, you can show you support them. A therapist or counselor may help you figure out how to approach your loved one in the most effective way possible. The Mindfuli app is a crucial tool for connecting you with qualified mental health professionals who can provide you with further details. Call us today at (866) 973-4415 to learn more about our services and how we can help you and your loved one.