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REACH OUT WITH ALEC

Use the ALEC model to navigate a conversation with a man who might be struggling.
A

Ask

Start by asking how they are feeling.

“How are things at home?”

“You haven’t seemed yourself lately… are you feeling OK?”

‘I’ve noticed you’ve been pretty flat lately...you OK?’

Asking the right questions at the right time is key to helping someone open up.

If you think a man is struggling, stressed, unhappy or angry, ASK a few questions to show that you care.

Want to help a guy talk about how he’s feeling?

Try: “This week’s been brutal for me, how’ve you been holding up?”

Or, try talking about things he cares about to get a sense of how he’s going:

“How’s work these days?”“How are things with your partner/son/daughter going?”

Consider if it’s appropriate

It's important to find the right time and place to have sensitive conversations. It could be hard to focus if it’s dinner time or there’s a lot of noise in the background, for example. Try and find somewhere private, calm, and appropriate to help him feel at ease and open to sharing. Don’t get hung up on everything being perfect. Even if you can’t be face to face, you can talk to him as if you’re sitting side-by-side and putting yourself out there with what and how you share.

Use open-ended questions

Open-ended questions are a great way to stimulate meaningful conversations, to keep it flowing and to show that you genuinely care. Open-ended questions also give the other person a chance to share more information.

Open questions sound like: ‘How are you feeling today?’ or “What’s been on your mind lately?”

Closed questions like “Do you feel angry?” tend to lead to one-word answers, like ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Asking open-ended questions requires you to pay close attention, to be specific and enquire from a place of genuine care.

Model honest conversations

Real conversations go beyond subjects like work, sport or what you’re watching on Netflix. Demonstrating your own ability to be honest, open and vulnerable is a great way to help someone open up. Sharing your own struggles helps to destigmatize issues while making strides towards developing a closer, more meaningful relationship.

If you think someone is struggling with their mental health don’t be afraid to ask them if there’s anything you can do to better support them – this will not make things worse.

L

Listen

Let them know you're listening and give them your full attention.

Listening is more than just hearing someone. Being a good listener requires focus. Everyone needs the ear of someone they can trust, and to feel like they’re being heard and understood when they speak.

Be a sounding board

Sometimes, people just need to get things off their chest. Good listening starts with providing a sounding board, or a place to bounce ideas off. This means avoiding assumptionsjudgment, and the temptation to provide answers while they vent to you.

Use clarifying questions

If you need to better understand something they’ve said, it’s OK to ask more questions for clarification.

Help them talk about how they’re feeling.
‘I imagine you’re feeling pretty upset right now?’

Normalize their reaction.
‘It’s understandable that you’re feeling this way’. ‘I think most people in this situation would feel the same way as you are right now’.

Avoid dismissing their thoughts or feelings (e.g. avoid saying, ‘that’s not worth getting angry about’ or ‘why would you get angry about that?’)

You can use questions like:

  • What do you mean by...
  • Can you tell me a bit more about...
  • Can you give me an example of…
  • What was that like for you?
  • Are you saying...
  • Do you feel...
  • Do you mean...

Golden tips for good listening

  • Focus on their body language and speech (tone, rate and volume). Do they seem open? Anxious? Both? Are they raising their voice and appearing agitated/irritable? Listen to what they’re saying beyond their words. It’ll guide you on how to move forward and could provide some vital clues.
  • Give your full attention. Put down your phone, turn off the TV and choose a place with no distractions or as few as possible. It shows respect and that you’ve made this a priority.
  • Take what’s being said seriously. If a man says he’s ‘stressed’ or ‘feeling low’, accept it.
  • Don’t attempt to provide reasons why he shouldn’t feel exactly how he feels. This is not helpful.
  • Listen and offer support. Let them know they don’t have to go through this alone and that you’re there for them.
  • Reflect back what the man has said -‘it seems that/it sounds like/I get the impression that…’‘It sounds like he really upset you’.
  • Summarize the situation ‘it seems as though you felt that decision was unfair...I get the sense that you’re pretty frustrated and would have liked to have kept your job’. Provide validation statements e.g.“I can tell this is really worrying you”. Validation shows that you hear and are empathetic to the issue and acknowledges the man’s thoughts and feelings.
  • Avoid interrupting or rushing the conversation.
  • Allow for silence even though it might feel awkward at times.
  • Accept and acknowledge emotional responses.
  • Be patient...some people need time/space before they are ready to accept help. You can be honest about why you are worried and let them know you are there for them. If the man is not ready to talk, you can check in on him again at a later time.
  • The main point is to ensure that the man knows that they are cared for and that they can reach out for support whenever they are feeling down etc.
E

Encourage Action

Encourage them to focus on simple things that could improve how they feel.

Encourage men to take action when needed. This goes for taking care of their physical health as well as mental health.

Eat well and stay active

Taking care of our bodies is key to being well. When we don’t treat our physical health as a priority, it can affect all areas of our lives. Encouraging or helping someone to take better care of themselves can steer them towards improved wellbeing.

You could suggest:

  • Going for a scenic walk or run
  • Fun and quick exercises (including online options)
  • Getting good-quality sleep and more of it
  • Eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water
  • Reducing alcohol and drug use

Let him know he doesn’t have to go it alone, that you’re there for them and more than happy to do a workout or go for a walk together.

If these suggestions don’t interest him, encourage problem-solving (trying something else). Remember - no one solution works for everyone, but making some serious attempts at change can help a guy learn what works for him.

Get help when needed

“Help” doesn’t have to be a dirty word. We all need a hand from time to time. In these tough times, it’s important to be there for each other.

But remember, as much as you want to lift up someone else, don’t put this all on your shoulders. Now’s the time to call out that wider network of support, including:

  • Family and friends
  • Psychologists or therapists
  • Your family doctor

If face to face isn’t his thing, there are other options:

Help lines—you can usually text, email or use online chat to reach trained professionals

Websites (particularly for socially isolated men or men who don’t feel comfortable talking on the phone)

Need help for yourself?
You can’t fully help someone else, or yourself, if you’re running on empty. Take the same advice above and practice some self-care. If you start feeling like you need more support, reach out.

C

Check In

Check-in with them after your chat.

Checking in is a key part of this process. It sends a clear message to the person that you care and that you’re genuinely in their corner.

In difficult times, reaching out can give someone hope and a sense of how powerful their support network is.

Develop trust

Building a relationship and nurturing trust can be a slow process. It's important to be genuine, honestconsistent, and always maintain confidentiality. Follow up when you say you’re going to follow-up. Clear communication is important - especially if your plans need to change.

Plan a follow-up

Ongoing conversation is key to ensuring the enduring value of the connection. Once you’ve asked, listened, and encouraged action, always arrange a time to check in and follow up your chat.

You can send a text, make a phone call or catch-up face to face.

Asking questions can help to open up a conversation: “How have you been since we last spoke?” or “How has your sleeping/mood been we last spoke?” or ‘How has your mood been since last week?’

Ask if they’ve sought professional help or if they’ve given it any thought (if it was something they said they’d do). You could ask, “How did you go getting in contact with….”

Also, remain available for the men in your life.

If we model healthy behaviours when it comes to taking care of our own mental health, we encourage and empower the men we care about to be proactive in managing their own wellbeing.