It’s something we all need to be doing more of - of that there’s no denying. However, in placing such high value on dialogue, and articulating how we feel, are we inadvertently de-valuing non-verbal communication in the mental health equation?
It’s easy to forget, in the wake of the #talkmore movement, that staying socially connected (with all the mental wellbeing it ensues) is not always about deep and meaningful conversations. A lot of the time, the advantages of meeting up with a friend or family member come as much from the company, and a friendly face/voice, as the sounding board and advice it comes with (and on which we often pin all our hopes of clarity and calmness.)
Sometimes, just time alone with those who can read our emotions without words, is as powerful a force for mental wellbeing as conversation alone, particularly if the person who is struggling has yet to find the words to articulate their emotions.
Sitting in silence might seem, at face value, fairly nonproductive, but silent company plays an important role in nurturing the connections through which conversation then flows, whether at that given time... or at a later date. It also removes the fear of having nothing to say - which is often what leads people to avoid the very social settings that might benefit them mentally.
This Movember, therefore, when the ‘communication is key’ message is being run up the men’s health flagpole, it pays to remember that ‘saying it best’ is no more always about speaking, than listening is about hearing.