Yesterday I talked about how we can create a safe space for ourselves, to listen to our needs, wants and wishes and to compassionately care for ourselves.
Today, let’s talk about how we can do the same for others. Whether this is your child, spouse, best friend or family member, here are some ideas:
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
- Listen to your loved one without judging or criticizing them.
- Listen without fiddling with your phone.
- Listen without interrupting.
- Be curious. Don’t jump to conclusions, and assume you know what they’re going to say or why they feel the way they feel. Ask open-ended questions.
- Don’t bash others’ bodies or your own in front of your loved ones.
- Don’t make negative comments about their body.
- Don’t make comments about the calories in their food or how much they’re eating (e.g., “Wow, you can really put ’em away!” “Are you sure you want that second helping?”)
- Avoid saying “You’ve lost weight! You look great!” We never know why someone might’ve lost weight. They might’ve been terribly sick or stressed out. They might’ve just stopped a restrictive diet. They might have an unhealthy relationship with food. In other words, we just never know. It also makes people wonder, “did I look bad before?” Either way, it can be potentially upsetting or triggering for someone.
- Respect their boundaries. Let them decline invitations they’re not interested in. Give them the space to say no to extra commitments. If they’re not ready to reveal what’s bothering them, try to respect that, too.
- Hug them.
- Hold their hand.
- Tell them you love them.
- Tell them why you love them.
- If you feel comfortable, be vulnerable with them.
- Keep their secrets secret.
- If you find yourself getting angry, take a break. Take a breather. No one feels safe opening up to someone who’s boiling over and yelling.
- Validate their feelings. Let them feel what they’re feeling. They’re not wrong, weak or selfish for having those feelings. Again, get curious. Why are you feeling this way? What happened? Help me understand how you’re feeling.
- Ask how you can help: What can I do for you? How can I help you with this? What do you need? Ask this regularly.
- Ask them directly about safety and self-care: How do you feel safe? How can I help you to feel safe? To take kinder care of yourself? To feel the way you’d like to feel?
Of course, we may try our best to create a safe space for our loved ones, and we may mess up, because, well, we’re human. These are just suggestions and reminders that we can do many things to help others feel safe, too. When we inevitably make a mistake, we can be honest, we can apologize, and we can keep trying.