As you probably already know, today is RUOK? Day. The goal of R U OK? Day is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with the people around them and start a conversation with those in their world who may be struggling with life.
It’s an amazing initiative and it’s putting a vitally important issue on the agenda. According to Lifeline:
- Nine Australians die every day by suicide. That’s more than double the road toll.
- In 2019, 3,318 Australians took their own life.
- 75% of those who take their own life are male.
- Over 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt each year.
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.
- 1 in 4 Australians are lonely and have no-one to speak to.
It’s incredible how many companies and organisations have started to run initiatives on this day, encouraging their staff to ask their colleagues and friends whether they are truly okay. However, before patting ourselves on the back for asking the question to everyone around us, we think it’s important to think about the bigger picture. Are you prepared to listen? Are you prepared for the the answer? Do you know what to say back? What if they aren’t ready to talk today? What if they aren’t comfortable talking to you at all? What if they are confronted by this question altogether and find it quite invasive?
While RUOK? Day is an EXCELLENT start, we need to remember that preventing suicide takes more than just a question. And more than just one answer. It’s an ongoing process that’s bigger than a day. What we really need to consider is what we (and our organisations) are doing every other day of the year to battle the issue?
The reality is, we need be going to work on creating a societal culture where people feel comfortable talking. A culture of authenticity, trust, and deep understanding. In the workplace, at home, and in our communities. And it has to start over here with us. We need to be willing to tell the truth. To be vulnerable. To share authentically with the people around us. To expose what’s behind the facade of our perfectly posed instagram images. And in doing so, we create the space for the people around us who might be struggling with depression to step into it (when ready) and courageously share their stories too. We remind them that they are not alone, we care and we are ready to hear the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable.
How often do we merely engage in idle chit-chat just to fill the silence? We exchange facts and pleasantries for the sake of passing time and/or avoiding awkward situations. We even have a name for it: small talk. But what if we upped the ante a little and engaged in some ‘medium talk’ or dare we suggest ‘big talk’?
A study by the University of Arizona and Washington University found that wellbeing is indeed related to having less small talk and more ‘medium and big talk’. Volunteers had 30 sec soundbites recorded every 12.5 minutes over a period of four days. The paper concluded that the happiest participants had twice as many substantive conversations and one third as much small talk as the unhappiest participants.
So the next time you are inclined to revert to “polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters” (the dictionary definition of small talk), challenge yourself to get real for a moment. To step out of your comfort zone and share something personal. To spark a conversation that really matters.
We get that it’s not that easy. That it takes encouragement, support, and practice. That it also takes self-awareness, courage, and even some initial discomfort. But time and time again we are told by our Meditation Teacher Training graduates that one of the favourite aspects of the program was the prevalence of “big talk” amongst the participants. In a short period of time, they felt safe and comfortable to share intimately about their lives and found themselves cultivating rich and meaningful connections with the people in the group. Perhaps quicker and deeper than ever before.
Our last Meditation Teacher Training program of the year starts NEXT week! If you want to master your meditation practice, learn to engage in “big talk”, and cultivate rich and meaningful connections – then let’s have a chat to determine if it’s for you!