Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Rachel ReistBy Rachel Reist, PACS Undergraduate Academic and Administrative Officer & Internship Coordinator

Academic advisors at UWaterloo are often the first point of contact for students who are concerned about their mental health but not sure where to go or what to do. What I have found to be the best technique in my advising practice over the last six years is “shut up and listen.”

There is a lot of mental health and wellness support that can come from something as simple as having someone who cares about you listen to what’s going on. Yes, there are some cases that require extensive clinical support, but I have also seen the power of simply being a person in a student’s life who cares about them, wants to build connection, and gives a hoot about who they are and how they are doing. I have a post-it on my desk from David Augsburger to remind me of this that reads “Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.”

 One way I do this is that I try to talk as little as possible in my meetings with students, because they usually know the answer to the question they’ve come to ask. I simply give them the space to do this and help them facilitate a conversation with themselves.

When I shut up and listen, it is beautiful to watch students explore their own wisdom and self-awareness as they find answers to their own questions. Helping them to figure this out builds their capacity and resilience so that as they go through the next academic term, or the next chapter of their lives, they have developed an increased capacity for navigating the challenges and decisions in life.

As academic advisors, we aim to help students navigate not only the university but also the world after graduation. Doing what we can to listen and support the development of their own decision making and resilience is a big part of this.

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