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Podcast Episode 092: How to effectively listen to someone who is suicidal

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Sergeant Kevin Briggs is an international crisis management and suicide prevention expert. His Ted Talk – “The bridge between suicide and life” has been viewed over 6 million times. Kevin is a retired California highway patrol Sergeant. He has spent many years patrolling the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, where he witnessed many individuals clinging to life by a thread, people who had lost hope and could see no way out.

 

Through his compassion, gentle voice, eye contact, and his ability to listen, encourage them not to go over the rails of the bridge or come back to solid ground and start a new chapter in their life.  His nickname is the Guardian Angel of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Transcript

Podcast Episode 092 – How to effectively listen to someone who is suicidal

Kevin Briggs:

The note says, “Thank you. Giving leaves an imprint that endures forever,” and it’s an African proverb. “Nothing will erase the events of March 11th. And you are one of the reasons Kevin is still with us. I truly believe Kevin was crying out for help. He has been diagnosed with a mental illness for which he has been properly medicated.” “I adopted Kevin when he was only six months old, completely unaware of any hereditary traits, but thank God, now we know. Kevin is straight,” as he says.

Kevin Briggs:

We truly thank God for you. Sincerely indebted to you, Narvella Berthia.” And on the bottom, and I remember her telling me about this, but it’s a little difficult to read. “When I visited Kevin in San Francisco General Hospital of that evening, you were the one listed as the patient.” Not the other Kevin, but me. So, I thought that was pretty humorous.

Oscar Trimboli:

Deep Listening, Impact Beyond Words. Hi. I’m Oscar Trimboli, and this is the Apple award winning podcast, Deep Listening, designed to move you from a distracted listener to a deep and impactful leader. Did you know you spend 55% of your day listening, yet only 2% of people have ever been taught how? In each episode, we explore the five levels of listening. Communication is 50% speaking and 50% listening. Yet as a leader, you’re taught only the importance of communication from the perspective of how to speak. It’s critical.

Oscar Trimboli:

You start to build some muscles for the next phase in how to listen. The cost of not listening, its confusion, its conflict, its projects running over schedule, its lost customers, its great employees that leave before they want to. When you implement the strategies, the tips, and tactics that you’ll hear, you’ll get four hours a week back in your schedule.

Oscar Trimboli:

I wonder what you could do with an extra four hours a week. Sgt. Kevin Briggs is an international crisis management and suicide prevention expert. His TED Talk, the bridge between suicide and life has been viewed over 6 million times. Kevin is a retired California Highway Patrol Sergeant, and he spent many years patrolling the Golden Gate Bridge. While on those patrols, he encountered many individuals clinging to life by a thread, individuals who had lost hope and could see no way out of their situation.

Oscar Trimboli:

Kevin through his compassion, his gentle voice, his eye contact, and his ability to listen, encouraged more than 200 individuals, either not to go over the bridges rails or come back to solid ground from where they were standing precariously on the edge of the bridge and start a new chapter in their life. These challenging and rewarding efforts, and Kevin the nickname, The Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge. Today, Kevin is mapping a movement where he speaks and trains others on suicide prevention, crisis management, and negotiation.

Oscar Trimboli:

A warning, before we listen to Kevin, this episode discusses topics including suicide. So, if you, your family or your friends are impacted, or maybe triggered by this information, please make a choice about whether you want to listen to the rest of this conversation. Professional help is usually available for everyone. And your local doctor is always the most potent resource in pointing you in the right direction. Let’s listen to Kevin. What do you struggle with when it comes to listening?

Kevin Briggs:

To really pay attention and hear every word. I find myself at times, listening so much that I’m trying to decipher what they said. And as they’re continuing to speak and I’ll miss some things. So, maybe I’m a little slower on the uptake or maybe I’m a little too critical on myself of what I’m hearing that sometimes I have to have them repeat that because I want to know it. And it’s fine if we’re talking daily stuff. But when it comes to a crisis communication or something really going on with a family member, you want to hear every word.

Kevin Briggs:

It’s important.

Oscar Trimboli:

When I say, what’s the cost of not listening, what comes to mind for you?

Kevin Briggs:

Absolutely. The cost for not listening to me is lives because I am in the suicide prevention business. In America, we’re losing over 48,000 people a year to suicide. In the world, over 800,000 people to suicide. And I’m a firm believer that if we just took the time to listen to people, and not to say, “You know what, it’ll go away, you’re going to be fine,” to really sit down and listen.

Kevin Briggs:

We may not have the answers, but at least, to be there for people. I know we can save and help a lot of folks. When I was with the California Highway Patrol, and I was with them for 23 years, I received a call of a man on the sidewalk, African-American man, on a cell phone. And he’s talking to a loved one and he says that he’s going to jump. So, I start my motorcycle. I rode a motorcycle for the patrol. I start working my way on the Golden Gate Bridge from this north end to the south end. So, I’ll be going towards San Francisco.

Kevin Briggs:

As I neared the North Tower, I see the description of the man, and he’s on the sidewalk. I stopped about 50 feet away, or so. As I’m getting off of my motorcycle, he looks my direction and jumps over this forefoot rail. As he jumps, I yield something to him, I can’t remember what it was, but he caught himself. He reached his hand out, caught the rail, swung down. And this is heavy duty metal. This is the bridge 220 feet up. The Golden Gate Bridge, this is it. He slams into the rail, lands on this little bitty pipe. And that’s where he stayed.

Kevin Briggs:

I thought he was gone. He was wearing a white t-shirt, but I could see through the columns the white t-shirt. So, I have learned so much in negotiations throughout my years. Been very humbled and blessed to do this work, but I’ve struggled a lot with folks. So, I walked up there really quick. And I saw he was there, which was miracle number one. And I raised my hand. And instead of just going all the way up to the rail, I typically will do this.

Kevin Briggs:

“Hi, I’m Kevin. Is it okay if I come up and talk with you for a while? And at first, he didn’t want me to. He was screaming at me. “I don’t want anything to do with you. You better stay back. One step, one step and I’m jumping.” And I could see he had a hand in his pocket. His other hand… he was holding on for a while. But then, he has so cold that he put his hand up between his skin and his t-shirt. So basically, his head was leaning in, and his feet were on this little bitty pipe. That was it. His hands were not holding on.

Kevin Briggs:

It’s very windy out on this Golden Gate Bridge. One big gust of wind, it could blow him right off. He doesn’t care. He really doesn’t, at this point. So again, I kept saying, I’m holding my hand up, “I just want to come up and speak with you. I’m not going to touch you. I’m not going to grab you.” So, this took some time. But eventually, he allowed me to come up and speak with him. Now, what I do is, since this rail is above and its pipe is below where you would stand out on the cement, I knelt down, and we were eye to eye. And that’s what I want.

Kevin Briggs:

And that’s why I want to do these negotiations and this talking with an individual. So, that’s what I did for the majority of the time. Now mind you, we were there about an hour and a half. And it’s getting colder and colder, and colder. And he’s shivering and shaking. And there’s a lot of noise because we don’t stop the traffic on the bridge. So, we have the noise, the wind, the cold. I mean, everything’s against you, trying to do a negotiation out here. So, I get his first name. And his name is Kevin, same as mine.

Kevin Briggs:

So, I’m trying to see what is going on. What can I take his mind off? What is going on right here and right now? And how can I appeal to him to come back over? And mind you, I don’t like to grab folks. But maybe or perhaps all of us have seen videos of officers or civilians running up on a bridge and grabbing someone. That’s fantastic. Glad it worked. I like to have folks come over voluntarily because it takes so much courage to go over that rail.

Kevin Briggs:

Can you imagine the courage it takes to come back over that rail and face everything again? And I’m not going to lie to them, BS them, anything. I want them to come back over on their own. I think it starts their life on a whole lot better note when they do. They’ll have the courage to face that, whatever put them over to begin with. So, I started talking with him, with Kevin. I said, “What is going on today, man?

Kevin Briggs:

What has happened in your life to put you in this position here, today? And he wanted to talk, and we talked about listening. He wanted to talk. So, he spoke for a very long time, and he talked about he was adopted. His birth mother didn’t want anything to do with him. He was adopted. The adoptive parents loved him very, very much. He lived in Oakland. But they divorced when he was around 13. And it wasn’t explained to him about the divorce. So, he thought he broke apart this family unit and that upset him greatly.

Kevin Briggs:

He suffered from a mental illness. He was supposed to be on some medications, which he stopped, which I see all the time up there. Unfortunately, don’t stop your medication go through your doctor. And he did suffer from a mental illness. He had a very difficult time at nights sleeping. So, what he would do, he played six different sports all through high school to get exhausted, exhausted as he could. And then, he would basically pass out during the night because that was a toughest time for him. So, he did this all through high school.

Kevin Briggs:

And when he got out, he’s thinking to himself, “Well, what can I do to help myself here?” And he goes, “Well, if I start a family, things may get better.” So, he started a family, and they had a child. But his child was born a couple of months too early, premature. Now, Kevin thinks, “What did I do to do this now? I caused this. I caused this harm.” So, he’s spiralling again. And then, when his baby was able to come home after a couple of months, so did a bill for $250,000.

Kevin Briggs:

He didn’t have any money. And that he just got laid off of his job. So now, he can’t support his family. He hurt his family. In his mind, he has had enough. He thinks he’s a burden. He’s just, “You know what, I’m going to end my life.” He never been to the bridge before. He found his way there, from Oakland over to the Golden Gate Bridge. And that’s where I came into play. So, I’m listening to this, this entire time where we’re going back and forth. And an active-listening skills, one of the active listening skills, we use is called minimal encouragers.

Kevin Briggs:

And it’s simply a very short phrase or one word to keep people interested in speaking, to keep them going, and to let them know that I’m there, and I’m listening. So, all I did was say, “Wow, really? Is that right?” So, he knew that I was listening and paying attention. And when I do these negotiations, I want it to just me and that other person, not a few others, because it’s so personal. And if I can’t make a connection, I want to get somebody in the can. I always tell folks, “This is not the Kevin Briggs show.”

Kevin Briggs:

And I teach a lot in negotiations now. And I tell negotiators, “If your department is big enough, and that individual cannot develop that rapport for whatever reason, gets somebody else in there.” But he and I made this connection, so I stay there and listen. I kept thinking, “What can I do? What can I say to offer this gentleman a little ray of sunshine, a little ray of hope?” And his child, I found out it was her birthday coming up in a couple of months.

Kevin Briggs:

So, as I spoke to him, “Kev, don’t you want to be here for your child? Tell me about her. Tell me about the colour of her hair, her eyes. How tall is she? What does she like to do?” So, I was playing on his emotions. And it was real, I was interested. And he told me all these things and I could see him tearing up. So, I know I was making a breakthrough. And I said, “Don’t you want to be here for your birthday? You can come back to this bridge any single day you want.”

Kevin Briggs:

My job is to give him over this crisis. And many, many times, if we can get them past this crisis, they won’t attempt again. So, that was my job. And I said, “You know what, Kev…” after we spoke for a while, “I’m going to give you some time to think about this,” and I stepped away. And I let him think about everything and about his child. But before I did, I also told him, “You know, Kev, if you jumped today, your child has a much greater chance of losing her life, also, once suicide can lead to another.”

Kevin Briggs:

So, I said, “I want you to think about all these things,” and I’m going to step away. It was a hell of a chance. This may be the time he goes or the time when he thinks really clearly about it. And then, all right, I want to come back. So, I gave him a little bit of time. And then again, I do this every time I go. “Hey, Kev, is it okay if I come back up?” Yep. Because I don’t want to scare him or frighten him, anything like that.

Kevin Briggs:

I come back up. And he looks at me, looks up at me, and he goes, “Kevin, I want to come back over.” And that’s about the time that a news chopper out in the bay took a photograph, and maybe some folks have seen this, but it shows us both on that Golden Gate Bridge. And he came back over. I helped him. And then, I congratulated him. And I want to learn off of each and every single person that I dealt with. I worked on a bridge for about 17, but for over 10 years, I was the only person working down there per shift.

Kevin Briggs:

We only had one officer, until the tragedy in 9/11. Then, we put more people down there. But I would handle four to six cases a month of this. So, it turned out to be a lot of people. But I would ask them, “What did I do that helped the situation? And what did I do that wasn’t so good, that hurt the situation?” And he said, “You let me speak. You listened, and you let me speak.” So, when your question was, what about listening now? I’ve been listening to someone and here’s the high-end one, about as high-end as you could get.

Kevin Briggs:

All this guy was looking for was to listen, and maybe not say, “You know what you should have done. Or you’re going to be fine. Everything’s going to be great. You got to work harder.” I didn’t do anything, just sat there and listened. I said, “Man that sounds really tough.” Validated him and his feelings, and what he’s going through, and that’s all this guy was looking for. And we are friends until today. And on occasion, we get to go on stage together and present. It’s a lot of fun. He’s a really neat guy.

Oscar Trimboli:

And his mom wrote you a letter.

Kevin Briggs:

She had written me a nice letter, and I have it to this day. I was asked by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to come out and receive an award in New York. And I really didn’t want to go, and I didn’t want the award. “Thank you very much. Appreciate it, but give it to an officer, somebody that works down there once in a while or something.” But they went through my commander, and there was a lot of pressure on me.

Kevin Briggs:

So, I was going to New York, and I was getting this award. So, that’s pretty much how it went. But they asked me, “Is there anybody you saved…” I said, “No. We don’t follow-up.” And I’ll be embarrassed. What am I going to tell someone? But I did have this note from his mother. And she lived in Oakland at the time. So, I said, “You know what, I will go out to Oakland and see if she lives there.” I contact her. And then, she can go and see if Kevin would like to meet me. Well, that’s what happened. She gave me a big hug. We met.

Kevin Briggs:

But the first time we met after this incident, and this was a year later, was in New York City. And a little addition to the story, for folks, if you ever see this photograph of me speaking with Kevin Berthia, I’m in uniform. He have the rail of the bridge, and he is over on this little bitty pipe. Kev hated that photo. And I didn’t know this. And he’s up speaking to all these mental health professionals, a very, very high-end event Black, White, really neat. He’s talking about this.

Kevin Briggs:

And he said, “I hated that photo,” because it was in the newspapers. He goes, “It shows a Black man at a very weak point in their life. And where I grew up,” which is him speaking, “In Oakland, you do not show weakness.” I had no idea about this. So, what happened was when he was finished speaking at that event in New York City, the audience stood up and gave him a standing ovation. And it was really, really cool. I’m going to give the word back to him and say, “Here you go, you say everything.” But he did a wonderful job.

Kevin Briggs:

And it really boosted his level to where he can come out and talk to folks now about what that was, what it was like, and how we can get past that way before it gets to that level where someone is suicidal. The note says, “Thank you. Giving leaves an imprint that endures forever,” and it’s an African proverb. “Nothing will erase the events of March 11th. And you are one of the reasons Kevin is still with us. I truly believe Kevin was crying out for help. He has been diagnosed with a mental illness for which he has been properly medicated.

Kevin Briggs:

I adopted Kevin when he was only six months old, completely unaware of any hereditary traits, but thank God, now we know. Kevin is straight,” as he says. “We truly thank God for you. Sincerely indebted to you, Narvella Berthia.” And on the bottom, and I remember her telling me about this, but it’s a little difficult to read. “When I visited Kevin in San Francisco General Hospital of that evening, you were the one listed as the patient.” Not the other Kevin, but me. So, I thought that was pretty humorous.

Oscar Trimboli:

Thanks for sharing that. I think it’s an important part of how the impact is not just that conversation, but all the people around it as well.

Kevin Briggs:

And it’s just like suicide itself. They say, “When a suicide occurs, there’s a ripple effect.” Well, I understand what they’re saying. But in reality, it’s a tsunami. And it just causes the grief that surrounds this. And the other damage that it causes. The collateral damage is huge to folks, especially when a parent loses a child.

Oscar Trimboli:

Kevin, you received the dispatch notification on your radio. From the time you took the dispatch to the time you saw this person in the white shirt, on the bridge, roughly how long is that in terms of time?

Kevin Briggs:

Just a few minutes, actually. I was fairly close. And being on the motorcycle, I can go down the sidewalks. And that really helps looking for an individual. If you’re in a car, you have to get out of the car. You have to park, take a lane, and other issues occur.

Oscar Trimboli:

Kevin, you take the dispatch call on your radio. I’m curious for the next two minutes. How are you preparing to be available to listen to the other person? What’s your practise in that moment?

Kevin Briggs:

So, part of me, I always say a little prayer really quick for the individual, for myself to be safe. And then, I’m thinking, “I don’t want to go into this.” Thinking what’s going on with that. I want to take it all in as I come up. So, what I’m trying to do is, as I’m going to the scene, I’m trying to take in everything around me. I want to see the surroundings because I don’t know when I get there. Maybe this person has a gun, and he’s holding everybody away, maybe he’s cowering in a corner, I have no idea. So, I don’t want to prejudge anything.

Kevin Briggs:

What I’m going to say? What I’m going to do? But I want to be able to keep my head up and visually see everything around me and adjust accordingly. So, that’s my thinking as I’m processing this going down, and trying to remember things, “Okay. This is my pattern of what not to say, there’s a big one with me.”

Oscar Trimboli:

Your pattern of thinking, just tell me a little bit more about that.

Kevin Briggs:

Certain things and you would talk about it a bit. But things I try to avoid are, you should calm down, I understand, things will get better, hi. So, if I say, “You know what you should have done?” It doesn’t go well. My rapport is going downhill because I’m placing blame on them. I can say something to the effect of instead of you should or you should have, have you tried this. “Have you tried this?” Much better way of saying it. And then, calm down.

Kevin Briggs:

Not tell folks… is anybody in the history of telling someone to calm down, ever calm down? I don’t think so. They get angrier. And I’m not going to be very effective.

Oscar Trimboli:

So, you stepped off your bike. And you spot this person with a white shirt. And you can’t remember what you shouted out, but you can see them after they’ve jumped, they haven’t left the bridge.

Kevin Briggs:

Right.

Oscar Trimboli:

And you walk up to them. And you use very specific language. You don’t use your title and rank. As a police officer, you introduced yourself in a very specific way and ask for permission. Talk us through that.

Kevin Briggs:

There’s reasons for that. And it’s because of I’m speaking of so many people, I’m thinking about this myself. “How would I want someone to approach me?” So, I’m thinking this individual is scared. This could be his last day on earth, frightened, scared, or the under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We don’t know what could be the best way that I can approach. I can’t get out of this uniform. Maybe I can put on some jacket to cover it up, but typically, no.

Kevin Briggs:

And also, what they are dressed in is what I try to be dressed in. Basically, if he’s not wearing a jacket, I’m not going to wear a jacket. I want to feel what they’re feeling. And it can be brutally cold on that bridge. But that’s the way it is. So, when I first walking up, I have found what works for me is I’m coming in peace, pretty much his way of saying. I’m in this uniform. But instead of saying, “Hey, I’m Kevin Richard Briggs with the highway patrol,” and walking right up on that thing, where they could just go… I don’t know what encounters they have had with law enforcement before good or bad. I don’t want to scare them.

Kevin Briggs:

I want them to be in charge of some of this part two. They need to take an active role. So, by me raising my hand showing peace, and just my first name, “Hi, I’m Kevin. Is it okay if I come up and speak with you?” to empower them. It’s going to start this off right, in my opinion. And it generally does. It may take some time. But it generally does, people will allow me. Think, “Oh, maybe this guy’s okay now.”

Oscar Trimboli:

So, you receive permission, but you’re still probably cautious.

Kevin Briggs:

Right.

Oscar Trimboli:

You described the importance of being at eye level.

Kevin Briggs:

It really is. If you take a look at that bridge and where that pipe is, and away from that pipe around the two tower or around the paralleling the bridge, is an eyebeam, which is below it too. So, people are this far. Now, you’re looking down on top of them from where you would be standing. And I don’t want that. I don’t want to be looking down at someone. I would like to be at eye level, if at all possible. And I will tell you, your knees hurt. It’s tough. It’s brutal because it’s concrete. It is brutal on you.

Kevin Briggs:

But sometimes you have to stand up because as you get older, you’re falling apart. I’m getting too many injuries. But I think it makes for a great connection. And you can be fairly close because that individual is here, just on your side of this metal beams, these metal columns. So, you almost need to be to communicate because it is so windy, and that traffic going by and everything else. So, if I can be at eye level anywhere in this area here with them, I think that’s the way to be. And I want that wherever I go.

Kevin Briggs:

And it’s just like if I’m speaking at home to another individual, I want to come out from behind my desk and be there for them. I do not like barriers. I think they’re very intrusive.

Oscar Trimboli:

So, you start a dialogue. And the dialogue has a very specific framework in it. You’re standing there with them. You’re not talking to them. You’re not there to judge them. You’re there with them. And you’ve talked about some really specific choice of words that you use, and a choice of words you don’t use.

Kevin Briggs:

I want them to talk. If they’re talking with me, they’re not thinking about jumping. They’re not looking down. Hopefully, I can get them to look at me in the eye or up, or sometimes I’ll point out a pelican or something, anything to get their mind off of what’s going on. And to see, “What has been going on in your life, man, if you don’t mind me asking.” I’m here for you. I’m not leaving. I’m here for you. My full attention is for you. I listen to whatever you have to say.” And sometimes I’ll say this, sometimes I won’t. But I tell them without judgement .

Kevin Briggs:

I’m not here to judge you. But I want them to feel that. Because they’re not going to believe it at first, that has to be built through rapport. But if I can get them to talk and then to validate what they’re going through, and to really mean it, to look them in the eye, and mean it, this is a tough one. By the time you get done with these, you’re exhausted. It takes a lot out of you. And I will tell you on the occasion where I have lost someone where they have jumped, I think a little piece of me goes down with them. It’s very brutal. But with Kev, I said, “Man, what has been going on in your life?”

Kevin Briggs:

“Can we have a conversation, just you and me? I’m here for you. I don’t want to see you get hurt.” So, it took a little bit of time. He was feeling me out a bit. He didn’t want to talk. Most people don’t really want to talk right from the start. But if you keep going with them and show that you care, and you have empathy, and you’re not on the cell phone, “Hey, what’s going on?” All these things I’m saying are things we need to do down here at this level, also. Everything is the same. It’s just a different environment. It’s much better environment down here.

Kevin Briggs:

So eventually, he started talking. And he could see that I was interested. And I’m giving him my full attention. And that’s exactly what I did. And sometimes, I will turn off my radio. I need to be focused. The whole world evolves right in this little circle right here. This is what’s important. So, he finally started trusting me, a little more, a little more, a little more, a little more. And he would tell me more as he continued. And I could see he started using more adjectives and describing things more. So, he was relaxing just a little bit.

Kevin Briggs:

But still, he wasn’t holding on to these rails very often. He would have one hand up in his shirt because he was so cold, the other hand in his pocket, and he was just tripoding against this rail. So, it took quite a long time before he actually started to care a little bit and then hold on to that rail now and again. And I could see okay, especially when we started talking about his child. That was a big one for him, as it would be for anyone. And it should be. So, as this progressed, I could see he was breaking down, and that sometimes that can go either way.

Kevin Briggs:

Maybe they’re breaking down enough to where in their head, “I think I’m making a breakthrough.” They’re thinking about their child, but no, they’re thinking about, “Okay. I’ve had it, I’m ready to go.” But he was thinking about his child. And like I said, I stay clear of you should calm down, I understand, things will get better. I’ve been through a number of things. I’ve had cancer when I was a kid, testicular cancer. I have three stents in my heart. I had a very serious head injury.

Kevin Briggs:

So, I’ve been through some things, but I don’t talk about that stuff or compare my situation with them because it’s not about me. I tell folks, “It’s not the Kevin Briggs show. It’s about that individual.” And that’s what I want to tell everybody else. Make it about them. I don’t care what you’ve been through. If you’ve been through 15 things, and they’ve been through one, that one is trauma for them. Try to understand what’s going on and validate it. I’m like, “Kev, man, that sounds really tough. What you’ve been going through.” But then, I started focusing on his child a little more.

Oscar Trimboli:

Yeah. And when we talk about listening at level five, we’re listening for meaning, and what meaning people making from this. And as you explore the meaning as it relates to his child, I’m curious if you explained that as stories or roles as questions, how did you create a perspective for him around his daughter?

Kevin Briggs:

So, as he spoke about his child, I was thinking about this, the deeper meaning of all of this, but it was. He thought he was a failure to his family. But he also had it in his head that he’s suffered from a mental illness. So, maybe it wasn’t quite right, all the connections going on. So, he had this huge internal battle within himself. So, I asked him, and I do most people up there, and I questioned it, “Are you taking any medications or supposed to be taking any medications for anything?” I’m not going to bait them and say, for a mental illness.

Kevin Briggs:

“Are you taking aspirin for your heart?” Whatever that might be, and usually, they will tell me. And I’ll be honest with you, most of them I don’t know what they’re saying, as far as the medications. I don’t study their meds. I’ve been on a couple myself for depression, but I can’t remember the names of those things. Here’s the thing, and I take them. Make sure you take them on time. So, he was talking about it and he said, “I stopped it quite a while ago. And I know that’s not right.” I said, “Okay. I’m not going to tell him it’s not right.

Kevin Briggs:

But okay. Sometimes it’s the adverse effects. Sometimes it’s that cost of the medication, whatever that may be. Okay. Well, did they help? Well, they help somewhat. We’re trying to work on those when we did have the money to do this. So, I know that there’s a need there for him. Many people don’t need medications, just some therapy. But if you do need it, you need it. And it helps. So, we talked about that. And the bigger deal going on with him was he felt a failure to his family, to his child.

Kevin Briggs:

I said, “Man that sounds really tough and brutal. What’s it going to be like with you gone? What’s your child going to think knowing that her daddy is no longer here?” And I think the daddy thing caught on him, too, a bit. “There goes your opportunity to show and for this chance to become better and help your family. And Kev, you’re making the shots today. You make the calls. I just want to make sure that you are coherent about what’s going on.”

Kevin Briggs:

“Sometimes people, when they come up here, I think they have a horse with blinders on. Hopefully, I can just spread that out a bit. And I want you to make this choice. But I want you to be fully aware of everything that’s going on, also. It’s very important.”

Oscar Trimboli:

In these moments, how conscious are you of your breathing and their breathing?

Kevin Briggs:

I watched their breathing my own. I focused on what’s coming out of me, my tone, and my speech. Because I tend to speak rather quickly, so I try to knock that down. Concentrate on a couple things. There’s so many things going on in my head to make sure there’s not somebody else walking up on us. Sometimes a driver will be driving by, and because they’re inconvenienced and denounced stop and go traffic. They’re yelling out, “Jump, you SOB.”

Kevin Briggs:

So, a lot of other things going on my head, but I forced myself. I had two things. I want to watch their breathing. And also, for me to slow down some because I think at that stage of the game, they have so many things going on in their head. Maybe they’re not hearing every word coming out of me, so slow down.

Oscar Trimboli:

And when you’re noticing their breathing, apart from speed of breath, or are you looking at their chest? Or what is it in the breathing specifically, you’re looking for?

Kevin Briggs:

If you look, and you could see or watch their mouth, that’s another factor of in and out, of course. And that plays a significant part, in the whole role of everything going on here, besides trying to keep the pedestrians back from taking pictures, the whole gamut of everything. But I think if I initially come up to someone, and they’re breathing really hard and heavy, if I see that go down, that two things come into play. One, they’re becoming accustomed to me.

Kevin Briggs:

And they’re getting a little more comfortable. But it also may be, and I’ve seen this, where they become more at peace and then they go. So, it can be two different things. And I watched for that.

Oscar Trimboli:

So, we can take a pause right now because you take a pause too. And you gave Kevin a choice. You said, “I’m going to step away now.” Talk us through the choices you’re making as you give them an opportunity to listen to themselves.

Kevin Briggs:

So, if these progress for quite a long time… the longest I had was a little over eight hours, but I need a break. And I need to think about, “Am I the one doing this? Should I get somebody else in? Am I making headway on this?” If they are going with the programme, what I think it should be going how, it should be going, then I will stay. And I always try to personalise everything if they allow me to use their first name. And I will say “Kev, we’ve been talking for a while, I want to give you a chance to think about everything and take a break.

Kevin Briggs:

I’m going to take a step back, but I’m only going to do so if you promise me not to do anything before I come back up here.” And if they say yes, then I will take some time, step back, and that’s when I can get a hold of somebody else, maybe we can whisper something back and forth. If I think it’s appropriate because sometimes the individual over the rail doesn’t like that, “Hey, what do you whispering? So, I will just hang out and not try to look at them.

Kevin Briggs:

But I do want to see if they’re looking down at the water, if they’re looking at me, if they’re trusting at all. So, give them a little bit of time. And sometimes I’ll see them close their eyes. And just like this, “Okay. They’re pondering. It is really good.” I know if they’re looking down at the water, then it’s not going so well. But I will tell them, “Look up at the mountains,” because 99% of the time, the folks are in this instance on the Golden Gate Bridge, they’re on the east side of the bridge because pedestrians are not allowed on the other side.

Kevin Briggs:

So, they don’t even have access to it. So, they’re looking towards the bay, towards the city, towards Alcatraz, towards the mountains. And it can be a very beautiful view, it really is. And I tell them, “Man, take a look around. It’s really nice out here. It’s cold, but it’s very, very nice.” So, I want them to be looking around and seeing the beauty around them, also. But after a period of time, whether that’d be one minute, three minutes, or something, whatever you think is appropriate, then I will do the same thing.

Kevin Briggs:

“Hey, Kev,” right hand up, “Is it okay if I come back up?” And when I get their acknowledgement, I don’t want to scare them, spook them, then I will go back up, and we will start back over again. So, what we’ve been talking about, I’m going to cover that again to reaffirm and show them, “Okay. I was understanding. I was here. I was present. I get it. So, let’s continue on and talk about some other things, then. Tell me about your child. And what was that like, if you don’t mind me asking?

Kevin Briggs:

And sometimes, I’ll throw a little bit about me, I don’t mind it. But I go by the 80/20, 70/30 rule. I want them to be speaking 70 to 80% of the time, me 20 to 30 because if I’m the one doing all the talking, I’m not learning anything. And I’m not venting. Venting is fantastic for people. It makes them feel so much better to get that stuff off their chest. So, that’s what I want. If I have to throw something about me, “I grew up right over those mountains in Marin County over there. It’s really nice place.” And then, like Kev, “Oh, I was over in Oakland.”

Kevin Briggs:

And they’re completely different environments. But “Wow, what was that like? That’s pretty cool. What street?” And if I can stretch that time out, the longer I can stretch that time, the better chance I have of getting that individual back over. So, we will talk about sports, if I happen to know about it, dogs, cats, whatever that be. And I’ll show them pictures of my dog or something, anything to bring a smile to their face, that they can say, “Wow, you know what? That’s really cool. I may remiss this stuff. I want to come back.”

Oscar Trimboli:

Not everyone’s going to be in a situation where the person they’re speaking to is at risk, is standing on a bridge. What are three tips you would give people to help them, help others in a situation like this?

Kevin Briggs:

I would say if someone knows they’re going to be talking to someone who may be suicidal, have the conversation somewhere where that individual is comfortable, if at all possible. And try not to have a barrier between you. You’re not right on them. Give them some room.

Kevin Briggs:

So, I say in real estate, there’s location, location, location. Well, I would say location, list, and listen. Say, “Bob, brother, I’ve been seeing some things, hearing some things, and I want to let you know man, this is troubling to me. I care about you. You’re a friend of mine.”

Kevin Briggs:

“I don’t want to see anything happened to you. Whatever is going on, I want to let you know that I’m here for you. You do not have to go through this alone.” And I think that’s really big. Location, list, and listen, remember the 80/20, something in that range there.

Kevin Briggs:

Let them talk. When we’re talking, we’re not learning anything. And they’re getting angrier and angrier, and angrier because it’s supposed to be about them. Wherever you’re at in the world, if you think someone is struggling, don’t be afraid to have that conversation.

Kevin Briggs:

But go in prepared, do some research first. “What am I looking at for someone who may be suicidal?” Maybe they’re just going through a tough time. If they’re suicidal, learn how to ask that question. “Okay. Have you been having thoughts of killing yourself?” Be able to validate, normalise, and have gratitude.

Kevin Briggs:

If we can do those, we won’t lose nearly the folks that we’re losing. So, validate, that sounds really tough. By meaning that and telling someone that, and then normalise their situation. And anybody that’s been going through so many things like you have, in such a tough time, they may be thinking about killing themselves.

Kevin Briggs:

Have you been thinking about killing yourself? And then, have some stuff with you. Like in America, we have the 1-800-273 talk, Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can call that. Even though you’re not suicidal, you can call that. Have that with you.

Kevin Briggs:

Here, we know and around the world, most of the time adolescents do not like to talk on the phone. I have two boys. Had they ever call me? And they’re 17 and 19. But they will text, they love to text. So, we have 741741, a crisis text Line. You may have that wherever you folks were at.

Kevin Briggs:

Have that information with you. Because I will guarantee, you’re going to forget it. You’re going to be, “Oh, my God, it’s such a high-end conversation.” You’re going to stumble. And I stumble. I still do sometimes. But have it with you.

Kevin Briggs:

Maybe the community place where people can go for more services. Because we know money’s tight, and it’s difficult to get appointments for these things. But there is teletherapy. There’s a lot of stuff out there for folks.

Oscar Trimboli:

I’ve learned a lot today about being present, being completely in the moment, bringing and giving your complete and undivided attention to a conversation is what I took away from what Kevin explained. Kevin was a great role model for level one listening. When he explained as he approached the bridge, he was always conscious of what was happening around him.

Oscar Trimboli:

And he realised he needed to calm his mind down. These are the tips I’ve been applying since listening to Kevin. This reminds me of episode two, when we had a conversation with Alan Stokes about why questions. An example of an open-ended question sometimes that falls flat is the why question.

Alan Stokes:

Why questions are loaded with judgement quite often. Not always, but 90% of the time. “Why do you do that? Why are you asking me in that tone of voice? Why did you decide to stay with your abusive wife or husband? Why didn’t you do this?” As you can see in all of those questions, there’s an implied judgement , an implied negativity. It’s not a positive non-judgmental approach. It’s an approach that somehow comes with baggage.

Oscar Trimboli:

I’m curious how much you notice you use why questions when you notice you might get into judgement when people get you into a situation that you’re not as resourceful as you could be. And why questions are the place that you go to by default. If you’ve got a comment or a question, or you’d like to record yourself on audio for a question, please we’d love to share it with the Deep Listening podcast community.

Oscar Trimboli:

Visit oscartrimboli.comforward/contact oscartrimboli.comforward/contact. And I’d love to listen to the message you leave. I’m Oscar Trimboli, and I’m on a quest to create 100 million deep listeners in the world. And you’ve given me the greatest gift of all. You’ve listened to me. Thanks for listening.

 

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