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Suicidal: When A Life Is On the Line, Emotional Intelligence is Critical.
She was ready to kill herself. Sometimes it’s up to you to get your friend through this moment so professional help can be sought. How can you help your friend hang on long enough to get the help she needs? It's backwards from what you may think.
Scot Conway was on the phone with her. He spoke with her for just a few minutes, and in those minutes walked her from hopelessness to hope. What did he do?
First, know this: If you can get someone professional, highly trained help – do that. Always get someone help that is especially trained to deal with anything with someone’s life or physical well-being on the line. If you can get them to call a suicide hotline or a counselor, therapist, or clergy trained in dealing with suicide, always do that!
This article is NOT “training.”
One thing people do that make it worse is start arguing with the person about her own life. You can’t win that one. She knows her life better than you do. When people feel attacked, they get defensive. You may end up with her arguing even more passionately than ever about how terrible her life is.
Almost bizarrely, some people actually attack the person! They call them names. They call them drama queens. They assert “if you really wanted to kill yourself, you’d be dead already.” Maybe. Maybe not. Sometimes being willing to actually talk about it before doing it is one last plea: Does ANYONE care if I live or die? Beware of the answer you’re giving to that question.
What follows is a summary of blogs on this topic available for free at http://scotconway.com. For more detailed explanation of each of these steps, read the articles on Emotional Intelligence Training.
1. Create Connection
Ask how they feel. Let them talk for a moment. Ask them why they feel the way they feel. Just listen. Let them talk their way through once.
Empathize with them. Something like “Wow. That’s terrible. If I felt the way you feel, I’d want to kill myself, too. I can totally see why you’d feel so bad!”
This helps them understand that they aren’t being stupid for feeling what they feel. It helps them feel like they aren’t alone. Someone understands. When you’ve connected, you can start to lead them through to the other side of their despair.
2. Ask Solution Questions.
Ask questions. Do not tell them what to do or you give them something to argue with. If the person is incredibly emotional, you would ask “you oriented” questions. The goal is two-fold: 1. Get them thinking (which reduces emotion), and 2. Shift their attention to the possibility of answers.
“If I felt like you’re feeling, I sure would be wishing for an answer! I wonder… do you think anyone has ever gotten through something like this before?” The goal is to get them to realize that not only are you in it with them now, but others have been here, too, and gotten out the other side.
“I wonder how they did it? Any ideas?” They may have some ideas. If so, more to the next step. If not, continue.
3. Initiate Research or Solutions.
Once they start thinking about answers, ask them what they think they ought to try next. Remember:
Either start working through a solution plan or a research plan. Chances are that they no longer feel bad, so they may not feel the need to do much right now. That’s okay.
4. Follow Up
If someone was suicidal, professional counseling may be in order. Always ask if they think it would be a good idea to “talk to someone.” Again, you’re asking. Suicide Hotlines are available in many communities.
Scot Conway is corporate trainer and an expert on Emotional Intelligence. He does keynote speaking, executive coaching, training courses and pastoral counseling. There are several free articles and free downloads available at his website http://www.scotconway.com. He may be contacted directly at Scot@MasterRevelation.com.
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Master Revelation is dedicated to high-end executive coaching, corporate and organizational training, and individual personal development. Master Revelation training focuses on knowing and developing yourself, knowing others, and thus conquering.