Once again we’re in a psychiatric hospital doing some work on some of our bigger issues. Being back in here makes me more aware of what’s helpful and unhelpful for us.
Last year I did a post on How To Talk To All Of Us. Go have a read of that now, I’ll wait.
Now let me go over something again. Ask who you’re talking to. Ask even if it seems obvious that it’s me, Life As A Committee. If we’re quiet ask. If our facial expression or body language suggests strong emotion (fear, pain, confusion etc.) ask.
Once you know who you’re talking to, ask how old they are. That doesn’t mean doing the following:
Nurse: Who am I talking to?
Us: Miss 16 (name changed)
Nurse: So how old is Miss 16?
Us: I’m 16.
Nurse: And is Miss 16 okay?
Us: Yeah, I’m fine. Life As A Committee is feeling really sad, so I’m out.
Talk to whoever is out as a person. Don’t ask whoever is out how they are, or anything about them in third person! That’s a pet hate.
If a part happens tells you their age you need to communicate with them in an age appropriate way, and/or check their understanding of any conversation you’re having. Our younger parts don’t always know what big words mean. If someone older is nearby inside they’ll quickly explain, but that’s not something you’d usually notice during the conversation. Or at most you’d notice a pause.
Younger parts, and some older parts too, may be scared of you. This can be social anxiety (mostly older parts), or a general fear of people, of getting into trouble for talking or doing something wrong (mostly younger parts). Be patient.
Asking us how we are whilst you stand in the doorway looking at your clipboard, or looking busy means you’ll get a quiet nod or shake of the head. Younger parts especially take time to talk. They need to know who we’re speaking to has the time to listen, and the patience whilst they get their bearings.
Also remember that we are likely to have suddenly switched when you want to speak to us. A knock on the door, or calling out the body’s name or Life As A Committee’s name (yes, they’re different) when we’re not expecting it can be enough to make us switch. Again, it’s helpful to ask who you’re talking to, but also to ask who’s been out. Whoever’s just been out may come back, or they may not, but if they’re not given a chance it will never happen.
One last handy hint: Ask whoever you’re talking to if there’s anything that you need to know. If there’s an issue of safety, or of someone inside not being okay, or an issue we need to discuss we’ll tell you. We can (depending on who’s out) need a little prompting in getting that information out.