For the last few years, French telecoms Orange has seen a pretty horrific thing happening to its workforce. Recent reports from the company show a high number of suicide related to work issues. Since the beginning of the year, 10 employees from different offices around the country took their own lives. Sadly, this is not the first time this happened to the company who also lost 35 employees between 2008-2009.
This makes me wonder: what should someone do when put in the difficult position of keeping someone from killing or harming themselves? Or at least having to stall them until professionals can take over. I assume there’s some kind of training for managers and the likes, but what about all the other employees?
I’ve had the chance to attend a somewhat informal presentation by two police officers from Hampshire Constabulary whose work often involve talking people out of harming themselves. They explained that listening, really listening, is a skill few people have, as, from infancy, we are no taught to listen, but to communicate well. Listening, in the deepest sense of the word, does not only involve hearing, but also understanding and assimilating what is being said.
Active Listening is what they call that skill and it can be explained with these key actions:
1. Summarize what the person just said to show you are paying attention and understand what they are saying.
2. Give minimal encouragers, such as “Go on”.
3. Emotionally label, such as “I can see why you’d feel that way”.
4. Echo what they say so they see you are paying attention.
5. Mirror their position/actions.
6. Use a listening position so they see you are open to what they are saying.
Using these instead of winging it can have a significant impact on whether someone harms themselves or not. Indeed, these actions are key to climbing what they called the Negotiation Staircase (see diagram), a series of key steps which ultimately can lead the person who follow them to help someone in crisis.
As you can see, the staircase relies on Emotional Intelligence, which is being able to distinguish who you are and what you feel from what the person in crisis is and feel. Basically, are you judgemental of other people? Can you attempt to see things from the person point of view without being influenced by your own beliefs and experiences?
Once you have Emotional Intelligence, the steps are supported by your Listening Skills, which is where Active Listening comes into play. Once you have these, you can start climbing the staircase. However, you cannot skip steps in this one, as each one is necessary to reach the next. If you want to Influence someone, you first need them to Trust you.
I’m curious, though. Have you ever been in this kind of situation? If so, what did you do? If not, what would you do?