How to lessen struggle through connection
I have a member of my support team who struggles with depression and clients who have ongoing depression, anxiety and complex grief. I have two colleagues who have suffered the death of their son’s much to early in life. I have clients who struggle with a wide range of addictions issues both behavioural and substance addictions. I have clients whose marriages or finances are struggling. Both men and women, young and old are all struggling and many around them would never know but I know.
Society tells us its ok to reach out and tell our toughest stories yet culturally I’m not sure it’s really safe yet to do so. The most vulnerable things we can do in life are to admit we need help, ask for help or admit that we’re struggling. When I was young, television shows and magazines made this difficult as they painted the picture of the ideal life with beautiful people who had everything figured out and were all happy and joyful reaching unattainable standards. Today, social media has elevated these unattainable standards and leave us feeling more and more alone in our struggle, grief and sorrow. Like we are the only ones that haven’t found happiness, haven’t found our passions, haven’t figured out how to make everything work like the beautiful pictures on Instagram.
What’s needed is connection. You can become a supportive sanctuary for someone. You can’t make their pain go away. You can’t fix their problem. You can’t even truly understand what they are experiencing. But you can be present with them and make the journey less lonely.
It might not be appropriate to ask even what someone is going through. It sounds trite to say, I’m here to talk if you need someone to talk to. For me this leaves the other person still in the position to ask for help, to ask for your time to talk. So what can you do?
You can reach out and spend time with someone. When you do, listen with your ears, your eyes and your heart. Listen to what is said and not said. Be willing to be vulnerable with them by sharing your struggles and be willing to listen to theirs no matter how uncomfortable. The second most vulnerable thing we can do in life is to sit with someone else in their struggle and not try to solve it for them.
This week, reach out to someone and have a coffee with them. And be aware that leaders are the ones that get invited the least even if they are your peer or direct report. Get deeper and more vulnerable in your conversation, risk a little and listen a lot. That’s presence and trust that it can be enough to profoundly impact someone’s struggle.