As part of my professional interests, I take in a lot of information about work, teamwork, talent development, etc. I was recently taking in a two-part episode of Brene Brown’s podcast on Spotify, where she talked with Adam Grant and Simon Sinek.
You should check it out if you work on a team anywhere. But I digress. The reason I am writing about it here is a part of the conversation in part 1 about having uncomfortable conversations with a boss, friend, spouse, etc.
One of the points Brene made is that people don’t realize how difficult it can be to talk about something like mental health with your boss, even for someone who is otherwise open about their mental health online. The reason is something I’ve mentioned before about what I do on this blog.
When we write about mental health on a website or social media, we aren’t pulling any particular person into the conversation. We’re not trying to connect with one individual. We’re putting the story out to the public, and we see the folks who respond. We don’t see the hundreds of people who don’t respond. We are taking a risk, but it’s not a personal risk. Talking to a boss or someone close to us is a different risk. It’s much more personal. Someone seeing our story and not responding online has no significant cost to us. Asking a person to connect with us puts us in a situation where there may be a significant cost if they don’t respond.
If we talk to a boss about our mental health and they don’t care, that’s a cost. If we ask someone close to us to support us and they choose not to, that hurts in a way that all those online folks we never see could never hurt us.
I have understood this for a long time. I can write here and don’t have to see anyone react immediately when they read it. I can see their reaction when I tell someone about being abused in person. I can watch their facial expressions and body language. I can see every bit of their discomfort, and their signs of dismissal cut me. If you don’t think telling someone in person that you need their help isn’t scary, I can only assume that is because you’ve never done it.
So when you see someone share something on social media about their mental health, and your response is to wonder why they didn’t just talk to you about it, remember how much harder that is. Maybe they aren’t ready yet, or you just haven’t done enough to earn that trust. Consider how many people in your life may be dealing with very difficult things they just haven’t told anyone about yet.