What are the chances that you will speak the truth the first time when someone asks you, “How are you?” How often do your friends answer truthfully when you ask them, “Are you okay?”  

According to an article published by Huffington Post, “More than 78 per cent of us say we are fine even when we are struggling with a low mood, anxiety or other mental health problems”. And 55 per cent of them reported they couldn’t answer honestly because they did not believe people wanted to hear about their problems.  

Contrary to popular belief, asking twice and using a different approach to do so is very effective in revealing a person’s current state of mental wellbeing. So how does one go about it in the right way? How do you ask your loved one twice if they say, “I’m okay?”  

Here are five ways you can ask your loved ones twice and show them that you are there for them whenever they may need you. 

Ask genuinely without being pushy 
You can start with something as simple as, “Are you sure?” This allows you to hint to them that you are genuinely interested in knowing and supporting them, and not just asking out of habit. 

Be sure to read the room though. If you probe them with questions, you may make the other person feel like you don’t respect their privacy, and it can backfire, causing them to push you away. Watch their body language; how does your question make them feel. If they aren’t comfortable, it’s a good idea to give them some space until they are ready. 

Take it seriously 
It can feel daunting to talk about thoughts and feelings, especially if they’re negative. If someone opens up to you, don’t laugh or treat it like a joke. No matter how strange it might sound to you, remember it’s real to them. Say things like, “I understand it is difficult for you, and you might not want to talk about it, but I am here if you want to share.”  

Saying reassuring things or a simple “That sounds difficult” can make them feel that you are accepting and nonjudgmental. It will help encourage talk about how they really feel.  

Ask questions  
It’s natural to have reservations about asking many questions – we don’t want to be seen as prying, but it is always better to ask questions. Asking questions is how you can continue the conversation and assure them that you genuinely care.  

Now, what exactly should one ask if asking twice? Time to Change, a mental health organisation, shares 5 things you could say: 

“Are you sure?” 

“Cool, you know where I am if you need me?” 

“How’s work?” 

“Did you watch the game last night?” 

“Nice one, having a tough day, myself if I am honest” 

These are just a few examples that can help you in your efforts to show people that you really care; however, there is more than one way to go about it. Try with compassion, and you will find your way.  

Listen and reflect 
Effective listening and helping skills are important when you want someone to talk about their mental health problems. You don’t have to have formal training to support someone; just lending a compassionate ear can be effective.  

You should try to help them realise that you are taking it seriously, and a good way is to summarise and reflect on what they said. Reflective listening statements may look like this:  

“So you feel like…” 

“It sounds like you…” 

“You are wondering if… 

“For you, it looks like…” 

An example of reflective listening which may be more useful – 

Speaker: “The stress seems never-ending.” 

Listener: “You feel like you are a hamster on a wheel.” 

You could also thank them for sharing their feelings with you to show that you appreciate having the conversation. 

Don’t try to fix it 

It is human nature to try and fix things. Try to always remember that this is a conversation and not a therapy session, and change will not happen overnight.  Encourage them to talk and do things you’d normally do together.  

Last but not least, educate yourself on how to support your loved ones and people in their mental health journey. If someone opens up to you about something that you don’t have prior knowledge about, then you may want to build your knowledge pool on the particular issue so you can be more supportive or refer them to an accredited therapist.