The best way to make people feel more comfortable is to ask them questions.
That’s what Dr. Jennifer Senn is doing at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and she’s got a number of strategies that she’s discovered over the years that are helping people get the answers they need.
When it’s time to get a hug, she says, people usually respond more enthusiastically, but if the person in question has a difficult time reaching out for a hug because they’re stressed or overwhelmed, the person may not be as eager.
“It’s not because they have less empathy,” Senn says.
“But because they feel less connected.”
“I was at a conference a couple of years ago and one of the speakers said, ‘What are the three best ways to get people to connect?’
And I said, Well, if you just ask them to ask you questions.
You might not get the right answer, but you might get the answer that you want.”
One of Senn’s clients was an elderly couple who were having trouble connecting with their partner.
“They’re in their 70s and 80s, they’re suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, and they’re looking for the answers to their relationship problems,” she says.
Senn used the same approach in a workshop she held a few years ago, with about 30 participants.
One of the biggest changes Senn noticed was that the people in her group felt more connected to each other.
“I think that’s because when they’re asking the questions, it’s not like the questions are really related to them,” she explains.
“The questions are being really honest, so they know what’s going on.”
Senn uses these same techniques to help people who have anxiety or depression, but she says they’re not the same as asking for the answer themselves.
She explains that in the past, people have often taken on the role of the doctor, the therapist, the friend who just can’t get over a difficult problem, or even the therapist herself.
“In the past they would have tried to help,” she said.
And she encourages people to use these strategies, not just as a way to relieve their anxiety, but to help other people as well. “
But now, she adds, we’re able to help them with their problems.
It can be a bit of a burden, and we need to take it seriously, she said, because it’s affecting all of us. “
There’s a lot of anxiety out there,” Senna says.
It can be a bit of a burden, and we need to take it seriously, she said, because it’s affecting all of us.
“A lot of people will feel overwhelmed and not able to do anything, and it can be really draining and stressful.”
One trick that Senn discovered while helping with an older person with Alzheimer’s was asking the question, ‘Have you been to a doctor in the last year?’
“I’m a nurse,” the person told her.
“You know, you can’t tell me.
I’ve been to my doctor.
And I’ve done it in the privacy of my home, right?”
The person responded, “I’ve been going to my GP.”
So she asked, “Have you gone to a nurse in the year since you’ve been a patient?”
“I haven’t,” the woman said.
That made Senn think, this person needs help, too.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen this person who didn’t have a doctor,” Sene said.
And the patient had some trouble getting the answer out of her, because she couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone to her doctor.
Sene says that by asking the same questions, people feel less overwhelmed.
And by making a connection, people become more empathetic.
“What happens is that people will really feel like they can help you, even if it’s just in a simple, straightforward way,” Sreen says.
If you can do that to someone else, Senn explains, they may even want to try it with their own problems.
“One of the things that I’m seeing in our practice is a lot more patients who want to get help with anxiety or other problems,” Sine says.
She says that, in her experience, when they do find a support group, people often go to the doctor and get the help they need without being asked.
“So I think there are a lot fewer people who feel like, ‘Well, what if I just go to my friends and I ask them?’
It’s not that they’re shy, they don’t care, it doesn’t hurt,” Srin says.
But she says that can be harder when someone is dealing with a difficult mental illness. “We don