Tuesday Tales: Yes, Tell them how you feel – Donna Thistlethwaite

How often do you take the time to tell the people in your life how much you value them or what you admire in them? Maybe you’re like many of us who often think positive thoughts about people but you don’t take the time to communicate these thoughts.

The deeper I go into the field of resilience and mental health the more important I think it is to express the goodness we see in others. There are benefits for both them and us, and it truly does make the world a happier, safer and more fun experience.

Last year I had the pleasure of attending a 50th birthday party for one of my partner’s best mates, Brett. Having known Brett for more than 16 years I tend to also regard him as one of my friends nowadays.

When we got to the speeches part of the evening I encouraged my partner, Greg, and one of their other close mates, let’s call him Tom, to say a few words about the guest of honour, whom they have known for over three decades.

My partner is fairly quiet  and couldn’t bring himself to speak. Their other good mate, whom I regard as more outgoing, was also reluctant to say a few words.

“We don’t need to say anything, Donna, he knows how we feel” Tom said. “Later, after a few more drinks we’ll probably remind him.”

As I watched some of Brett’s newer friends share what they love about him and their shared experiences, I was further inspired to let Brett know just how much he has brought to our lives and how much we value the adventures we’ve shared.

Now you may be thinking “You’re a professional speaker, this stuff is easy for you”. I get it, but I’d also remind you that no-one else who spoke that night speaks for a living. Many of them would have been pushing through fear to express in front of a group of 50 people.

Brett came up to me later that evening to say how much he had appreciated the sentiments I’d shared. His gratitude came through so loudly in his body language and words. Our connection felt stronger and deeper.

I got to be on the receiving end some kind words last week … My business buddy, Brigit, excitedly acknowledged how I had taken some feedback for improvement and implemented changes immediately that then led to a great result. The specifics really helped me to recognise the achievement and it felt awesome to be seen and appreciated. This gave me more energy and resilience for other tasks that week.

I really want to encourage you to have the courage to let people know how you feel about them. It doesn’t have to be in a group situation, you can always tell them one on one.

Take the time … seize the opportunity …express your feelings … be vulnerable. When those around us feel seen and connected there’s a greater chance that they will THRIVE and their risk of a mental health problem is reduced.

On more than a few occasions I have been lucky enough to be involved in an activity where members of a group share what they see/love in someone. The first time was decades ago with a group of fellow travellers in New Zealand. We took turns to receive a compliment from each person in the group before were put on the receiving end.

Turns out that even hearing and accepting the compliments of others can be really challenging!! Perhaps it’s the Tall Poppy Syndrome at play, we don’t want to stand out or be seen as conceited. However, this was such a powerful experience, I highly recommend it for any groups. Every time I’ve participated in an experience like this, it’s been truly amazing.

You can start small and work up from there … Who could you call today to tell them how much you appreciate them?

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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