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RAISING an ISSUE

By asking someone how they are, you can show that you care and are interested and appreciative.

Although the answer to the “How are you?” question is often “Fine” or “There’s nothing special going on”, asking the question allows the other person to tell you more. It may also be that the time to tell the real news will come later. By asking how the other person is doing, you show an interest and make it clear that you care; you are communicating that you are a person they can tell things to. Raising issues is an important interaction skill.

I WONDER IF MY FRIEND IS OK

You notice a change in your fellow student’s behaviour. For example, they are tired, quieter, or absent from lectures. You can tell they have worries but asking them how they’re doing seems difficult.

If you’re worried about your friend’s wellbeing, here are some tips on how to raise the issue with them. Remember, asking never hurts. Opening a conversation can lead to relief for your friend.

  1. THE RIGHT PLACE AND TIME

The first thing to do is to think about where and when it would be good to talk to your friend so you can talk alone without distractions. Ask your friend for coffee, for example. You should allow enough time: if a friend wants to talk, it’s important that you have time to listen to them. Show that you are there for your friend and ready to help. It is also a good idea to think beforehand about how you could express your concerns and the underlying reasons so that your words are not interpreted as a reproach or accusation.

  1. ASK OPEN QUESTIONS

The best way to raise the issue is to ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Questions to get you started include:

  • You’ve seemed more tired lately, how are you doing?
  • You haven’t been yourself lately, how are you?
  • Haven’t seen you in a while, how are you?
  1. LISTENING IS IMPORTANT

Let your friend tell you what’s on their mind. Don’t make assumptions about what’s wrong with them – give them space to tell you, focusing on listening. Also, don’t belittle your friend’s story, for example by saying, “These are small worries, so many things are fine in your life.” A worry that seems small to you can feel big and difficult to someone else. If you can’t find the right words, remember that listening and being present is enough.

  1. take no for an answer

If, for some reason, your friend doesn’t want to discuss how they are doing, accept this. However, you should let them know that you are willing to listen if they want to talk some other time.

  1. KEEP IN TOUCH

If your friend has told you about their situation, keep in touch. Doing this will show your friend that you have not forgotten them after your conversation. Contact doesn’t always have to be a discussion about your friend’s difficult situation. You can do pleasant things together. You can also chat about ordinary, everyday things.

  1. THINK ABOUT SOLUTIONS TOGETHER

If your friend is open with you about their situation, you try to brainstorm helpful ideas together. You can ask how you can help. But you don’t have to be able to give good, decisive advice. The most important thing is that you show your support for your friend.

If your friend’s situation looks like they need outside help, encourage them to seek it.

REMEMBER TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

You should help friends within the limits of your own abilities and capacity. You are not making your friend’s choices for them. You can be present and offer help, but you don’t have to solve everything. Remember also to take care of yourself and your own resources!