How to listen so men will talk 

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Tom Chapman is a barber, author and founder of The Lions Barber Collective, a men’s mental health charity and network that offers training and raises awareness for the prevention of suicide. Tom has recently launched his book ‘How to Listen So Men Will Talk’ and here shares an excerpt for Mental Health Awareness Month.

Suicide is the biggest killer in the under 45’s in the UK and 72% of people who end their life have had no contact with mental health services in the 12 months before they die but they have probably had a hair or beauty treatment in that time. Also, 8 out of 10 people who attempt suicide and survive are glad they didn’t die. The hair and beauty industry is in a perfect position to make a difference, for our clients and those we know and love. It all starts with being able to recognise changes in behaviour and you are in the ideal position to do this. We get to know our clients well. We know how they greet and leave us, their social and personal habits and have a huge level of trust and intimacy with them. It is easy to notice if there is any change in weight, sleeping patterns, skin condition, marks on their skin, topic of conversation and even choice of words used.

Encouraging our clients to open up and giving them an opportunity to be heard is invaluable for that reason it is important that we focus on how we ask the right questions. Reassuring the client that they are safe to share and that they will truly be heard is essential. If you notice changes in their behaviour then asking good questions can make a pivotal difference to their wellbeing.

Think about using questions that you are comfortable asking. Use open ended questions, use their name and try and adding a timescale to the questions will ensure that you are directly speaking to them. Demonstrate authenticity, show that you care about what is going on with them.

Here are some tips on questions that will help.

‘How are you feeling today, Ruth?’
‘You don’t seem yourself. Would you like to talk to me?’
‘Just to let you know I am here if you do want to talk to me about anything.’
‘How have you been since we last saw you?’
Response is key!

Once they open up, it is vital that we respond well and thank them for telling us. Be honest if you don’t know what to say but don’t tell them you know how they feel or relate it to your own experiences, don’t tell them about a past experience of yours. Always direct the questions back to them. Such as:

‘You seem really upset about that, tell me how that made you feel?’
‘Please tell me more about…’
‘What do you think you could do about…’

Also don’t fear silences, give them time to think and they will fill the silences by telling you even more detail about their situation. Listening is incredibly powerful and often empowers those in need to create their own solutions to their problems. You can practice this in any aspect of your life about any subject, try it with you partner or family too! Finally, it is important to know about places you can signpost people to – check out www.hubofhope.co.uk, www.mypickle.org.

The Lions Barber Collective relies on the support of sponsors and donations and any donation, however small is warmly welcomed. Just click the link.

Author: Tom Chapman @thelionsbarbers

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