Mental health – a conversation

Human beings are a social species, which means that good or poor mental health can be understood in terms of what happens between ourselves and other people – or more accurately what goes right or wrong between ourselves and other people. Unhappy relationships tend to undermine our mental health, happy relationships tend to bolster it. What connects us is our conversations, so it follows that for our mental health, we need to maintain, improve or change our conversations. This is the subject of this post.

Conversations: who, what and where

A conversation can be interpersonal i.e. involving someone else, intrapersonal i.e. just with ourselves, and increasingly with someone who sounds human, but who is ‘artificial.’ Conversations can be verbal and non-verbal and take place in our heads, at home and at work. They can occur in the same physical space or virtually, and the myriad of technologies available to us mean our conversations can be spoken, typed and symbolised.

The types of conversations we have can overlap. Who hasn’t engaged in a conversation with themselves while sat with others? Or chatted face-to-face while texting someone elsewhere? Or even found themselves talking to a piece of technology as if they were a real person? Anyone shouted at Alexa because ‘she’ chooses a different song to the one you definitely asked her to play? I like to think that I am having a conversation with you, the reader, through this post.

From the perspective of mental health, any conversation can make a positive or negative difference.

Self-awareness

Self-awareness allows us to judge if our conversations are positively or negatively impacting on our mental health. The most important emotional intelligence, self-awareness gives us the ability to ‘tune-in’ to the signs and clues that are characteristic of either good or poor mental health. These signs and clues come in the form of our thoughts, behaviours, feelings and patterns of relating, which reflect the mental health state we are in. Once we have tuned-in we can then decide to what degree our conversations are the cause of them.

When it comes to unhealthy, toxic or even abusive conversations, possessing self-awareness does not mean we can always avoid them, but it does equip us with the ability to respond. Without self-awareness, we might not even realise there is anything to act on in the first place.

Conversations with impact

Conversations that cause or contribute to poor mental health are missing important qualities and characteristics, and so improving them means:

  • identifying and finding what is missing from our important conversations
  • putting what is missing into or back into these conversations if possible…
  • …but if this is not possible, finding new conversations that can or will include the missing qualities and characteristics

We call conversations that positively contribute to good mental health ‘conversations with impact’. One way to discover if your conversations fit this definition or not is to take our Conversations With Impact Questionnaire, which lists the qualities and characteristics we all look for from our conversations.

Qualities and characteristics

Our Questionnaire is based on the following list of qualities and characteristics, which if present in our conversations make a positive contribution to our mental health, and if absent have the opposite effect. Thinking about your mental health, have a look at the list of qualities and characteristics and consider to what degree whether your conversations possess them.

  • I trust the person
  • I feel respected by them
  • They do not judge me and accept me for who I am
  • The conversation follows my agenda, not theirs’
  • They give me the time that I need
  • They respect my need for confidentiality
  • I can say what I really want to them
  • They understand me and what I need from them
  • They have the ideas, skills and knowledge I need
  • I am not too close to them
  • They believe in me and my potential for change
  • I feel challenged by them in a good way
  • I feel they genuinely listen to me
  • They are truly interested in me
  • My conversations with them make a difference
  • They help me set clear goals and strategies
  • They help me find solutions
  • They have the X-Factor

What did you discover? Are your conversations significant when it comes to your current mental health?

Maintaining, improving or changing

The connection between our mental health and our conversations means that we must always be looking to maintain, improve or change them. Conversations positively contributing to our mental health, need to be maintained. Conversely, conversations that can’t or won’t give us what we need, need to be addressed with those we are having them with. If they are open to improving our conversations then great, but if they aren’t then we have every right to ask if those conversations can continue. When it comes to our mental health, changing our conversations is sometimes very necessary.

Getting support

Maintaining, improving or changing our conversations to ensure good mental health can sometimes mean seeking support from professionals such as coaches and therapists. Couples can work with a relationship coach or therapist. Families can access Family Therapy. And individuals can work 1-2-1 with either a coach or therapist.

If you are unsure what to do next or who to speak to, then please get in touch. If we can help you then great, but if not we will do our best to signpost you to those who can.