If I may say so, talking is the food of life. Helpful talking goes on all the time between parents and children, friends, relatives, teachers and pupils, work colleagues and peers. However, the same also applies to most of the damaging and unhelpful talking that goes on in the world. If this were not the case, then there would be no need for counsellors. So, why is talking so vital to human beings? I suppose verbal communication provides us with the personal sense of identity and talking is what makes us who we are. We are social creatures who depend upon relationships and relationships depend upon talking. Here is important to add that talking involves body language such as facial expressions, nodding and eye contact. To me personally, smiling is something that is crucial for a friendly environment, to feel better, to look better and more likely to receive the same emotion back.
I think that this way of communication makes wonders and the world seems like a better place. For example, I work as a volunteer for a charity with people who are in crisis and often receive the question “It must be so depressing?” Well, the stories are real and often overwhelming. However, using humour and smiling during our appointments, even when talking about something painful is not uncommon. George Vaillant described the use of humour as a “mature” defense mechanism – a primarily adaptive technique to help us to cope with tense or stressful situations. Looking for a funny aspect in an environment in which we lack control can help us to endure it, and can even be an altruistic act in helping others to better cope as well.
Another example I would like to share is my personal experience working as a trainee counsellor with a child who presented a selective mutism. The child wants to speak but his anxiety of speaking in certain places, such as school makes him anxious and his automatic defense mechanism is to protect himself by being quiet. It did not take long to understand that the child feels safer being silent. I was patient, but at the same time, I did not hesitate to show and voice my genuine interest and enthusiasm being with this child. By providing a warm, caring presence in a safe space the client was able to gain the trust and started to communicate with me.
Therefore, I am convinced that talking is helpful when we use the universal ingredients: genuine understanding, no judgments and sincere listening.
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We’re always looking for people who are willing to share their story in relation to counselling and mental health or to volunteer for the charity, if you’re interested please email firstname.lastname@example.org