Communicating with Stressed People

Hi Everyone, 

This thread is asking for your opinions about the best way to communicate with people who have been trusting enough to express their concerns either on a forum or in real life, and who feel so overwhelmed and stressed that they may become stuck in a cycle of venting (to offload) perhaps because they cannot easily resolve their problems.

At what point do you think it is helpful to break the cycle of venting / offloading and enter into dialogue which may provide advice? Alternatively, do you think that it is more helpful to just listen and provide a space for the person to offload?  Is it better to allow people to gradually come to their own conclusions as to how they should resolve their own issues rather than advising them?  

Interested in your own experiences of what you have found most helpful you when you’re stressed? 

Reason: There's always room to improve our communication skills and learn what helps each of us.


9 Comments

well...

by Pacer2019 - 2024-02-02 21:04:42

sometimes people dont want solutions or advice they just need to relase frustration and need a sounding board. My advice is let people unlozd their frustrations and fears without trying to 'fix" things or them. Just listen.

Everyone is different

by crustyg - 2024-02-03 03:40:15

If contributors here just vent that's fine - up to a point.  Venting that becomes an angry rant at specific people will usually be stopped or removed by the Moderators.  But venting alone is OK, even if not very helpful.

One of the key lessons learnt in Mental Health trainng is that one can *never* successfully force your own insight down someone else's throat. It *never* works and is often counter-productive.  So I don't think we can "break the cycle of venting".  Instead, all we can do is try to encourage/lead the venter towards a more positive view where the emphasis is more on searching for / working towards a solution, rather than trying to apportion blame.

They teach us that, in the end, anger only burns oneself, a lesson that I have still to fully incorporate into my own life. That's the journey.

The more skilled the therapist (and many of us here act as therapists, from time to time) the less obvious it is to the venter that they are being encouraged to move on from venting and start healing.

Just my two penn'orth.

Thank you

by Penguin - 2024-02-03 05:17:25

Yes, those views reflect what we are told helps people most.  I didn't raise the topic of anger or blame, but both could trigger a 'vent'.

On a forum 'listening' is quite difficult to reflect in a post.  We read a post, digest it and respond. We might repeat parts of the original post to show the poster that we have heard them or to delve deeper but mainly we react to the content with a) empathy or emotion b) advice or c) both.  The amount of time you have on a forum to build trust and a rapport are significantly reduced - particularly with people posting for the first time or who aren't well known to other forum members and I was interested to hear how that affects how we respond. 

In r/life most people choose to vent to someone they know or perhaps a counsellor who they have chosen.  Counselling implies that you have a secure and trustworthy person to vent to and who already has some knowledge of your stressors. Venting to people who know you is more precarious because it inevitably means that the person you choose may bring their own opinions of you and your situation to the table. Forums can suffer from this too. Equally you may deliberately choose someone based on what you want to hear!  Forums don't suffer from this kind of 'editing'.

I agree that venting in itself isn't useful beyond getting the emotions and stressors out there and off your chest. 

What an excellent post

by Gemita - 2024-02-03 06:13:39

Penguin, you ask some excellent questions.  How do I let off stress?  Not necessarily by talking about it but sometimes by moving away from my stress, focussing on something else for a brief period like a hobby, before returning to the problem with perhaps renewed energy and a clearer head?  Stepping away from the problem isn’t easy or always possible though, is it?

The best way to communicate with a member in distress is by showing genuine kindness, patience, a desire to help the member in difficulty to find the right path forward.   Before they can do this, they need to talk about their concerns to help them to understand what it is that is truly troubling them.  This part of the process cannot be rushed. 

Additionally we have to accept that the problem they are experiencing may be directly related to their pacemaker, or to their heart condition which may be difficult to resolve.  Before they can heal, they need to “accept" their condition and to understand what can and cannot be done to help and then to work with that.  Acceptance is key to their progress.

Resolving problems with pacing or problems related to a heart condition will never be straightforward.  It may be a lifetime of searching for answers for some of us, for others we may be back to normal in no time at all following pacemaker implant.

At what point do you think it is helpful to break the cycle of venting / offloading and enter into dialogue which may provide advice? 

This is difficult to answer.  The member venting will usually sense when no further useful benefit can be gained by talking about their difficulties, when they have offloaded and there is nothing more to come;  when talking about their condition no longer helps them, when finally they have no other choice but to decide on a path to follow, a treatment plan, like a settings adjustment, a medication, more invasive heart surgery or perhaps to finally seek emotional professional support.  

Alternatively, do you think that it is more helpful to just listen and provide a space for the person to offload? 

Listening without real response may leave the member feeling alone and unsupported.  I always try to identify with the member venting, to find some common ground and to advise what I would do in such circumstances.  I could never just listen and not provide support.  

Is it better to allow people to gradually come to their own conclusions as to how they should resolve their own issues rather than advising them?   

Ultimately each one of us has to come to their own conclusion/decision as to how to resolve their problems. There comes a point when each one of us will realise that a decision has to be made, perhaps additional treatment will be required or a lifestyle activity needs to be modified.   It will be a slowly coming to terms with our new normal and we have to learn to know ourselves better to make the best decisions.  We may need to do this with a professional therapist who will listen to us and assess how we can best be helped.

What is a concern is that for those of us listening and trying to give advice, we need to be confident that we have provided the best guidance and support, to help the member to move forward safely, effectively.  It is a tremendous responsibility that we all carry which is why we always advise the member ultimately to seek professional help.  

Sometimes those of us who vent don’t want to hear answers.  They just need to be heard, to let their anger out.  And this is okay too.  I believe the only way we can help others to find peace is to encourage them to truly listen to what their body is trying to tell them, to find what works and what hinders their progress.  They clearly need a well adjusted pacemaker to better manage their symptoms, appropriate treatment for their heart condition and a caring doctor too

Venting

by piglet22 - 2024-02-03 06:24:28

Penguin

The very word venting says it all.

To vent, to offload, release excess pressure and so on.

The club or forum is a discussion opportunity and apart from the usual unpleasantness of race, bigotry etc., people should be free to express concerns and one person's vent/rant. is another's genuine concern 

It can also be a last resort and as caring people, we should be helping out.

Of course, we need to tread carefully and that's where life experience comes in.

Sometimes you have to have been there, banged your head a few times 

Only now am I finding out what my parents went through, but I can't turn the clock back and do things differently.

Frustration

by Penguin - 2024-02-03 07:16:55

Piglet & Gemita - excellent points raised.  I know what you mean Piglet about parents and the little we knew about what they had to deal with when we advised them - thinking we knew how they felt! 

Gemita - I really agree with your point about the weighty responsibility that comes with providing written advice.  Perhaps we need to think twice before we provide it and smother ourselves with disclaimers? 

I think that frustration leads to venting. Frustration in medical / pacing situations may come from a lack of control over a) the condition being treated b) pacemaker settings and c) medical advice and guidelines.  Sometimes it all rolls up together into a big stress ball.  Result - Venting.

 

 

A lot here to unpack

by Lavender - 2024-02-03 10:37:25

Because most of us are not psychologists, we aren't properly trained in giving professional help. One important takeaway is that the pros are aware of vicarious trauma/compassion fatigue. Getting deeply involved with folks undergoing trauma can be exhausting as we share or sometimes take on their load. When we have no training in this, we can get enmeshed and sick ourselves.

I was very involved with prison ministry as well as have volunteered to assist bereaved parents whose child had died and spouses whose partner has died. (I continue in prison ministry but only to two inmates and their families for the last decade at the request of the inmate's mothers.) I regularly visit a dementia facility to feed my own mom and visit others.

There has to be a point where we must be careful not to become so enmeshed in someone's troubles, that we are consumed by it. 
We can't get upset if they only vent -without getting better at handling their own issues. We can listen first and long. Most people feel better after just offloading. It's all that some people need. 

For some, listening is not helpful once it goes on to excess- the listener has offered all they can. Suggestions are ignored or refuted. Every excuse in the book is given as to why the person venting can't do what is offered. It's sometimes even harmful or deadly to have a person ignore real help. It's frustrating and draining on the listener. 

Don't take on responsibility for other's wellbeing but supply them with tools to look after themselves.
If there's truly nothing the listener or venter can do to improve their outcome, it's time to introduce them to acceptance therapy wherein they learn to live with their problem.

This is when the listener has to let go and set boundaries as to how much they will be a part of it. We can walk alongside but we truly cannot "fix" another person;  they have to help themselves as well. If their problems have no solution, then they need to find ways to cope and live even though they have this issue.

Some people won't get themselves to acceptance. They just find new listeners. 

Great Answer Lavender

by Penguin - 2024-02-03 12:04:06

Lavender, 

I’m sorry to hear about the traumatic events in your own life - that’s a lot to deal with, but, on the positive side perhaps it has helped you become the spiritual and insightful person that you are today and who we see evidence of on this forum.

Your post is very helpful and very relevant to people who spend a lot of time being that shoulder to cry on and listening ear.  I can relate to the ‘burn out’ myself although the guilt from walking away was immense.  Leaving someone who is stuck in their own world of trauma and grief is difficult to do.

I would add that sometimes there is no solution or the solution is so difficult for someone that they are totally over-faced.  Sometimes they may feel that the situation is their reality and insoluble. Those can be really difficult situations to handle as there's no hope. Sometimes, talking and talking leads to jumbled thoughts making sense, the slow acquisition of answers, chance information and meeting people with similar issues and that can be the benefit of a worldwide forum with lots of contributors.

On a face to face basis it can add up to hours of patient listening to get someone to the point of realisation that they need to accept or perhaps fight on for answers.  On a forum however, the load is often spread between contributors and the contributors don’t necessarily carry the full burden. Venting on a forum may result in the poster absorbing more of what is said to them, purely because the written word can be revisited - unlike a conversation which is more easily forgotten.  The intensity is reduced (not always, but mainly) for those who listen. 

Thank you for your words of wisdom. That’s a really helpful post.

Your other question

by Lavender - 2024-02-03 12:07:14

"Interested in your own experiences of what you have found most helpful you when you’re stressed? "

When stressed, first I hold still to pray, and read the Bible-that's most helpful to me. Then I do seek input from others, whether it be a couple of trusted friends, or if necessary, a medical professional. I ask others to pray as well. Brainstorming usually floats some ideas to the surface. I meditate and sleep on it. 

When it's been a more ongoing stressor, I seek a support group-like this one. 😉 I try to learn all I can so that I can understand my problems and see what others found helpful. 

Some of my problems weren't fixable. I had to learn to accept them and create boundaries and limits as to how much I allowed it to consume my life. It's ongoing as life is always morphing into the problems du jour. 

I never feel guilt when walking away from someone who's in crisis-but only if I know that I did/said all that I knew to. I also get to the point that I know they have to help themselves. I won't always be around and the goal is to have them find ways to survive without me enabling or carrying them. What would they do if I died? Sometimes walking away leads others to finally get proper help. 

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