Episode 87: R U OK? with Shivani Gupta

Shivani Gupta

Hello everyone, welcome to the AskShivani podcast, I am really excited to talk about something that sometimes isn't the most comfortable conversation to have. I am based in Australia and there is an amazing nonprofit organization called “R U Okay?” Well, we will also put the notes and some guides into the notes from today's podcasts, as well. But I really wanted to talk a bit about what this actually means and how to apply this R U Okay? into that.

So, R U Okay? is an organization was initially set up to prevent suicide. And when people weren't okay, they were from a mental wellness perspective and mental health perspective, talking and sharing with people, nobody had really asked them what was happening. And there were so many people that I've come across where there's been a tragedy in their families, or in their organizations where they didn't know that this person was perhaps suffering from mental health issues, or other issues in their life. And they weren't really aware of that, including sometimes marriages and where somebody's been married for 30 years plus, and their wife or their husband didn't know that this is what they were suffering.

So, I guess the first thing is simply the R U Okay?, is really about asking people, are you okay? And making sure that you're checking in them. And I wanted to just go through some of the things that R U Okay? speak about, and some of the conversations I've used from this website to also build into my conversations with my staff. And I've also used them to build them in with my clients. And I've also used them to build them in my family, and also my friends. So again, those resources will be in the notes. But let me just take you through some of the things that I've learned from this particular organization in the wonderful work that they do, and how I apply it practically both at work and at home around there, too.

So, the first question you might be thinking is when do you ask people like, do you ask them? You know - Hi, how are you? Or how you're doing? Like, how when do we actually really ask them? Are you okay? Which is different to how you're going? Right? Is this social way of saying to somebody, and just checking in? Whereas - Are you okay? is a little bit blunter, is a little bit getting to the core of it. You know, either they're going to say - Yes, I'm okay or no, I'm not okay. And so, the first thing is when do I actually ask this question, when do I oppose it, rather than when I'm actually having a normal conversation. And so, one of the things I've learned, it's usually when people are at this juncture in their life, where they really need some support around what they actually need to happen.

So, for example, they may be having, you know, some relationship difficulties, there may be a whole heap of stress that's, you know, going on in their lives, it might be that they're experiencing some financial difficulties, it might also be that the organization's going through a lot of change. And obviously, with COVID, there's some businesses, I know that I've had to shut down as a result of COVID. And so, it's really important to be able to work out, you know, where they might be that juncture in their life, you know, where that's happening, all of them might be having a major health issue. So, there may be something happening in their life, where they don't kind of, you know, they're going through something major, and what we want to just be able to do is check with them that whether they're whether they're okay. So, here's some ways to kind of read people if you are unsure. So sometimes, for example, they may be using words like, you know, they might be just coming across as just being a bit irrational and not with what their normal behaviors are like. Sometimes it might be that they're putting themselves down a lot saying, I haven't done that well. And my partner's unhappy with me, and this is what's happened at work. Sometimes they might be feeling like that there's things out of their control, particularly might be COVID related might be something that's completely out or a child playing up in their family, you know, something that's yeah, that's there.

And for me, the big one that I've experienced myself, but also, I've certainly experienced with other people, particularly some of my friendships is where people are just feeling a bit disconnected and feeling a bit lonely. And so, I know that there were times that I felt really lonely through the pandemic, where I'm trying to have my kids and do homeschooling, I'm then trying to run my teams, one of my businesses was shut down, and we had some, still some very large payments that had to be made and really worrying about the financial security for myself. But there was this also this notion of feeling very lonely and not feeling very connected to people and feeling like that the whole world was on my shoulders. And you know, was I going to stuff it up? While you know was that going to really tip us over the edge financially? And the other thing is that you might notice that they're not saying a lot, but it might also be some of their behaviors in terms of how they're behaving. And so, some of the things that you might find them doing is for example, they're just not looking after themselves, you know, their hair or their appearance is not feeling, you know, what they normally would look like. They don't seem to be very interested in life; they don't have any updates when you speak to them. And perhaps they're not finding it really, you know, easy to switch off.

And I just wanted to share a life example there with you that, you know, I just noticed that one of our staff that was probably one of my best performers. Through the pandemic, when we would have our calls every couple of days on Zoom, I noticed that her body language was like in a bit of a slump. And she's like this energetic, high performance, highly engaged or so highly engaging with other people person, and she just wasn't talking about. So, we're sitting there, how the last couple of days has been for you, you know, give us a bit of an update on what you've been up to your homes, and her was nothing much. And it can be sometimes that simple. But, you know, if it's when you know that person, and you realize that there's a really big drop in energy, one of the things I did was after that Zoom call was to reach out to her and say - Hey, I noticed that you didn't sign up, which is very unusual for you, are you okay? And she wasn't okay. There was quite a few things, other things going on besides work for her. And one of her family members was really unwell. She felt like it was a bit out of her control, the family had just got COVID. And so, there was a lot of things going on. And again, it's not about solving the issues for people here. It really is about just being gentle enough to be able to and caring enough to be able to ask, you know, are you okay? So sometimes it may be what they're doing, sometimes they may well be what they're saying. And what you want to do is, you know, make it really meaningful. And the other thing is that are you okay, talk about is that, you know, it's not okay, I'm gonna go and have this massive, you know, conversation and design this whole thing, you might just ask that question in terms of when we're having dinner.

So, one of the things we did in our family through the pandemic, but also even now we've taken that practice on is that one of the things that we'll say is we talked about our top five and bottom five percents each day. And so, you talk about the highlight of your day, in a way, and you talk about the low light. And the reason we do both is we want to know the good, we don't just want to focus on things that are not going so well. But we also want it to be fairly balanced. And we also don't want it to be all good. And you know, life so good. Because lives not always awkward. And sometimes some certain things happen in your school days sometimes happens in our work day, or whatever's going on in our minds, and we talk about what occurs. And you know, often I noticed with my son like, I can just be talking to him playing a game and often I'll say - Hey, is everything okay? Are you okay? And then some things will come? Yeah, I think I'm okay. Okay, well, that's always a sign for me to have more of a conversation, I said - oh, you seem really flat. I've just noticed that you've been, you know, feeling a bit flat and your energy levels aren't the same, because you're normally this really energetic person. So, I'm just wondering, you know if you’re okay, and then you know, he'll start to open up. Full meeting around that just asking somebody, are you okay? And put me in people's diaries, you can be doing normal things and just be checking in on people in terms of what you actually do.

And so, when you've asked that question, the second thing, the second step of that is really listening. And I'm listening sounds really easy. I don't find listening very easy, I really have to almost turn on my active listening. And active listening is really where you're not interrupting the person or jumping to solutions. What you're really just doing is listening to them going, this is what's happening for me. And you go - Yeah, right. Okay, okay. Yep, yep. And you're acknowledging them, and you're nodding your head, you've got your body language happening. And again, this can be virtual or in person. And then the next step out of that is that you want them to encourage some action. So, it sounds like that, you're going to do that. And so, what do you think you're going to do next? Or how comfortable do you feel trying some of that out. And really, again, you're not trying to problem solve, or you know, I'll come and do that for you. And then what you want to do at some point is be able to then check in and make sure that you know how they're going, Hey, you said you were going to the house, they're going red or like, on I haven't done anything available. That's unusual, though. It's not like you so what's happening? Are you okay? And again, you would do that? Okay, so why haven't you done it, they might then tell you what's happened, you listen to that, you know, you might then encourage them to take some action. And you do that.

And sometimes what will happen is you'll actually ask that question, and people don't want to talk. So, you think you're coming from a really good place and intention, you're not trying to be nosy. You're just trying to be able to help them and they don't want to talk. And they go, Yeah, I'm good. And they're like, Are you sure? Like I'm here? If you want to check it out, and they are like - I'm all good. That's okay to try not take it personally. The fact that they don't want to talk to you, believe it or not, they'll really appreciate it 99% of the time, even if they don't realize that in that moment that you've actually asked them and just respect their decision that they don't actually really want to talk about it. And don't try and say - oh, you know, especially I noticed as a mom with kids, I want them to go where they go. Now, not everything is good in your life, tell me, I'm your mom. And you know, you can talk to me about anything. And it's almost putting this extra pressure on them. But somehow, they're not being a great child that they don't want to discuss it with me as their mom. So, you know, doing it more frequently. And checking in is more important than helping and hoping that they're going to devote everything that's happening for them as well and talk about that.

I know that I had a conversation with my daughter the other day that she said she wasn't sleeping well, like in the morning. I mean - hey, honey, how are you? And how do you sleep? I'm not sleeping. Well, I noticed that happened for probably pretty close to about two weeks. Now, if you're not sleeping really well, I often think well, there's something going on about that. So, how do I do are you okay? tough conversation and something so simple. And so, I didn't want to do it in front of the whole family. I was driving her to a sport. And I said - Honey, I noticed that you've said a few times that you haven't slept really well, is everything. Okay? Are you okay? And yeah, you know, she said to me - oh, there's a fair bit going on at school with work. And, you know, and I was like - how are others, what else is happening? Oh, you know, I don't feel like that I'm doing my best on this particular subject. And I don't know and then all of these little bits of information started to come out around that. And she felt a lot better. And I certainly had a lot more empathy for the fact that she was trying to get so many different things in.

So frequently, simply building into what you do, you know, it'd be really, really, really great. And then the check in part is really important to say, hey, you know, so for the next few days after that, where I just said to her - Look, being on your electronics, I wouldn’t be helpful, trying to stay up super late to do some homework, it's not that helpful, you actually made some really good rest, and then just checking in - Hey, how was your sleep better – Oh, I was not as good still or it was better. And then just really being able to manage that in terms of what that happens. So, they're very simple things. And, you know, if they obviously need some extra support, or you don't think that they're dealing with things really well, encouraging them to get some therapy, and obviously, if you're really worried about them at a very deep level, and you think that they may have some suicidal tendencies, then you need to report that and make sure that they've got some additional support that they might not want to get for themselves. So have a look at the resources. Please ask any questions and I hope that today was helpful.