✓ Recommended practices to encourage others

1. Check out the topic tags

When someone creates a new Support topic directly on the forum, they can add several tags that provide you some important information. You can see these displayed under the title of a topic. As a replier, the following tags are of interest for you.

• Does the person currently need support?

Any new Support topic is displayed with a “needs-support” tag, which is the easiest way to identify if someone is in need of encouragement at the moment.

:heart: Needs-Support As avolunteer replier, you may want to priotize these topics along the ones you are already participating in. This tag means that the person who posted requires support/encouragement at the moment.

✓ Supported or the absence of the “needs-support” tag means the topic has been answered or that a conversation is ongoing.

• Do they welcome advice or not?

Listening is the default posture when providing support on the Wall. Met with unconditional compassion, listening needs to be the core foundation of any reply posted.

On the other side, giving advice can be welcomed but needs to be solicited by the original poster, not out of your personal willingness to give it, which is where forum tags can give give you some indications:

Need-listening-ear: listen only. Hear them out, acknowledge their feelings, validate. You do not need to share any advice or guidance.
Advice-welcomed: listen and share thoughtful advice from a personal perspective only. Use relating as a way to share what was beneficial for you in a similar situation, while keeping in mind that solutions are always individual.

Even if it is tempting to try to offer solutions in order to help someone, offering advice is completely optional and needs to be done as long as the person reaching out for support gives permission for it. You want to respect their consent and personal needs on that matter, not to impose your view on their situation. Keep in mind that when someone reaches out, you also only see a snippet of their personal story, and there’s a high chance they didn’t tell what kind of action they already took to support themselves before posting here.

:question: These tags do not appear on a topic? This happens on topics created from external platforms (Instagram, Facebook, etc.). In this case, focus on listening only and let the conversation unfold. The person will let you know throughout their messages if they are seeking practical help or not.

2. Focus on compassion and how the person feels

When you reply to someone, you are not expected to fix their situation, give absolute answers, tell them what to do or how to feel. The primary need of people who post on the forum is to feel heard, understood, and to know they are not alone in their struggles.

:white_check_mark: DO:

  • Acknowledge ― Pay attention to the emotions the person expresses/the emotional state they‘re in, and show that you hear them out.
  • Reflect ― Match their mood and energy level. For example this can be done by rephrasing what they said with your own words.
  • Validate ― Let them know that how they feel makes sense. Validating ≠ Agreeing. You don‘t need to personally agree with what someone says to validate the reality of their emotions.
Additionally (click to unfold)
  • Relate ― use your personal experiences to connect with the person’s situation, while keeping in mind that each experience remains unique. If you don’t know how to relate, try to connect to the emotions of the person rather than their situation. Ask yourself: “Have I ever felt…?” and describe how it was for you.
    (!) Make sure to not make your response only about your own experience - your focus is the person you’re talking to.
  • Clarify― if you are not sure what a person meant in their post, restate what they said in order to clarify it. It is okay if your interpretation is wrong at first, but make sure to encourage them to confirm or rectify what you said. To help you, you can use formulations such as “I hear you saying… is it correct?”, “Am I understand you well when…?”

:x: DON’T:

  • “Should” ― Don’t tell the person how they should/shouldn’t feel, or what they should/shouldn’t do. Practice banning this word from your replies.
  • Share unsolicited advice ― If it is not asked in the first place, make sure to have permission for it.
  • Judge or Argue ― Your goal is not to share your opinion on a situation, on what someone did or thinks - whether it is the original poster or someone they are talking about. If you feel like a topic triggers negative/intense emotions in you, choose to not respond.
  • Ask too many questions ― If you need more information on their situation, ask questions in a thoughtful manner (avoid asking multiple questions at once and make sure it is not intrusive). Keep in mind that people on the forum are in an emotional state that can make answering questions an overwhelming/stressful task.

3. Take your time

An essential component of our replying culture is to favor quality rather than quantity. Trying to help as many people as possible and as quickly as possible is a noble intention, although it is more likely to make you provide more standardized responses that would not feel meaningful to the person you’re responding to.

By taking your time to read, process the information you’ve received, and think about how you would like to reply to the person, you increase the possibility to honor the uniqueness of their story, and for your words to have a higher impact on them. Each post comes from a unique individual that you meet at a personal level, during a vulnerable time.

4. Know your limits

Take breaks

If you regularly send words of encouragement, there will be days when you just won’t feel up for it. Accepting it as being part of your volunteering experience will never question your intention or your ability to be a pillar of support to others. The more you would push beyond your limits, the less you would be able to actually focus on others, listen, be present and be patient. By taking breaks when you need it, you are investing care and time for yourself, and therefore helping others. Take time off to do things that bring you joy every now and then, or even create a support topic if you need some encouragement.

Be aware of your triggers

On this forum, you are going to read about a large diversity of situations. Some of the stories shared are things you may feel comfortable to talk about, while others may be the complete opposite. In any case, it is okay to acknowledge what affects you emotionally without needing any justification. Because someone needs support does not mean you would have to be the person encouraging them. Make sure to make informed decisions when it comes to whether or not you feel okay to reply to someone.

5. Welcome feedback

Our mod team and forum staff are closely monitoring this space to keep if safe for both people asking for support and those who provide it. They read daily topics and replies to ensure that every conversation can be done respectfully and be guided by unconditional compassion. You may at times receive feedback on a reply either from your SWAT Team Leader (if you are in a team of volunteer repliers) or a Forum Moderator.

These heads ups are meant to help you grow in your practice of supporting others as well as embracing our culture of unconditional love. They are always meant to be encouraging, never with an intent of censoring you.

Don’t know if something is appropriate or not to say? Check out the community guidelines. This is the best way to have a first sense of what our peer support culture is, but also to know what is allowed/not allowed on the forum.

6. Don’t use ChatGPT/ AI generators :robot:

Our forum is a place where authentic and supportive conversations are meant to happen. If you post here about your struggles, you would certainly prefer to receive words of encouragement from a real person in return.

Even though AI can be very useful and convenient in many other applications, it is important that the replies you provide here come from your very own heart and mind. It’s okay if the result is not perfect. It’s okay to embrace the discomfort it may create in you at first. What matters is that you take the initiative of showing up for others and showing that you care. Everything else can then be improved with practice. Even repliers who have been responding to people on the forum for years are constantly learning from every new interaction they have! <3