Time to Change has hit the nail on the head for me. Sitting alone in my flat, I realised that I don’t often discuss how I am feeling or what is going on in my head because it is a question that is seldom nor genuinely asked of me! I am rarely asked how I am feeling at all, let alone twice, and so I can appreciate the intent of an “Ask Twice” mentality, especially at a time where we are fighting for a global understanding of mental illness.
I think from the perspective of a black British lady with Caribbean heritage, the caption, “Twice Shy” comes to mind. British people are renowned for keeping things light and polite, not fans of “airing dirty laundry in public” and pro “keeping up appearances’’. Plus, descending from a small island mentality, where you should just pick yourself up and get on with it with no fuss, I find myself in double trouble when it comes to culture and heritage.
With family members from older generations and friends & loved ones from a time where it is all for one but not one for all, nobody has time to genuinely ask how I am because everyone is looking out for number one; themselves. Everyone has their own problems, people don’t have the time to attend to yours! Are we really too self-consumed to ask? Or simply scared that we are not equipped enough to handle a weighted answer? I too can be guilty of this - I am no saint, but in light of this simple (yet loaded) idea to ask twice, I will be more mindful of doing so. I am a believer of a problem shared, is a problem halved. We should find time for our loved ones and feel that we can entrust someone with our honesty and vulnerability.
When did the essence of the question, “how are you?’’, become so colloquial? These days, those three words seem to be used as a substitute for general greetings like, “Hello’’. Rarely is the question now asked with the intent of a reflective response - in fact, in a world with emojis and GIFS to express emotion, you may find yourself replying to no one, as the person who asked has passed you without a second thought and has moved onto the next person or thing. It was more of a conservative acknowledgement of your presence; short and sharp. After that kind of scenario and receiving the same response 2-3 times, you soon learn to just go along with it, perhaps in utter despair and speedily reply, “Fine thanks, you?’’. It doesn’t even feel like a lie to say or hear it, because somehow losing its sincerity and meaning, it has just become a brief exchange with a brief encounter.
I have witnessed and been in the company of people whom have asked how others are, or how I am. I have seen and heard people open up. I have also answered honestly, and only now upon reflection see the humorous side. At the time I was just perplexed as to why people often recoil and backtrack from such conversations, suddenly always needing to rush off somewhere. I have held no prisoners, put my laundry out in full view and genuinely offloaded to a person that had no idea how to respond. So, if you want a quick and fleeting conversation, one should be wary of their choice of words. If you choose to ask how someone is, please be mindful of time, the weight of the question, how genuine you are and what you may need to do with the information received. If you don’t care, don’t ask us to share. This includes public social media posts; if you are sincere, then take an extra second and slide in that direct message.
Asking twice implies the most genuine of intentions. Your question reminds us that we are valid, that we truly exist and that we are entitled to be recognised, helped, and be heard. It reminds us that we are human beings with big hearts and feelings, just like any other person. When I ask how someone is feeling, I want them to feel like I am giving them time, that I am putting my troubles, struggles and misery to the side and genuinely checking in. I don’t want anyone to feel like my struggles are greater than theirs - we are all entitled to vent, and in fact it is extremely therapeutic.
The purpose of this blog is to try and encourage people to “Ask Twice”. In an ideal world, I would set the precedent to be like so:
- Always make time to check in and contact your loved ones.
- Try to be conscious of how people around you are behaving i.e. cries for help, be it a sad emoji face or huge social media rant.
- Take the time to ask how people are feeling (feeling being the key word).
- Take in/listen/read/observe.
- Ask again, just to be clear and make your support known. Take note of body language and tone of voice.
- Try to put a plan of action in place with this person.
- Be sure to check in again soon and/or make it known that your support has no expiration date.
- Know that you cannot necessarily fix the problem and that if anything alarming is disclosed, reaching out for further help is not a betrayal.
- Although confidentiality is key, you are not expected to hold the weight of someone else’s problems, because they will inevitably become your own.
- Asking someone how they are with sincerity and persistence (Ask Twice) does not mean that you have to gain superhero powers and fix all of their woes and ailments - it just shows that you actually care.
Give it a try; I believe it could and will make a huge difference by replacing awkward silences with truth and powerful emotion. Lending an ear can save lives. Helping others is very humbling and can also be a great breather from your own difficulties.
I hope you get to practice both lending and receiving, as this mentality, if carried out genuinely, could begin to smooth out some of the bumps in this extremely bumpy process called life.
To read more from Jade, visit her blog A Diary From No One