Monday, August 31, 2015

3 Things You Must Do To Support Your Friend Who Needs A Lifeline

People who need a lifeline need something specific from you

Had the most epic text conversation with a great friend recently who is in the midst of an enormous amount of change in her life.

Personal change.

Relational change.

Vocational change.

As we commiserated on 2 out of 3 of those aspects of change, we delighted each other in our responses to one another. . We left one another feeling much better and vowed to pose the following question to the rest of the world. Why do so many of us suck at supporting each other through rough patches? Why do we feel compelled to give "an answer" to our loved ones when they are experiencing difficulty? This is especially true in Christian circles. Both my friend and I are strong believers who just happen to be swallowed up in a crazy season in our respective lives. As we "chatted" intermittenly over 2 hours - it was clear why we felt so much better having interacted. Three very different things happened during our exchange: pure unadulterated listening,  no comparisons, no cliches.

Pure unadulterated listening

This one is the hardest to do but really the most important. Just listening sometimes is all our friends need, especially people who are mired in complex situations. We must train ourselves to listen. Fight the compulsion to wander in thoughts or think of solutions to the challenges you are hearing. Literally, stop everything and just listen. Respond with "I hear you," or "I feel you," and genuinely do hear and feel your loved ones concern. Sometimes you just need to listen and listen more because some people have very few people they confide in.  You may be the only person they are sharing their adversity with so it is imperative that you just listen. And listen more. Make space and time to just listen.

No comparisons

No. Nope. None. Even if you have been through this or you have a friend or cousin who is in the EXACT situation as your current friend, don't compare. Am I saying that you cannot use experiences you've had to speak wisdom into this new situation? Yes. I am. In the moment of despair or when people are raw, it is tough to hear other stories that appear similar but are not necessarily apples to apples. Even when they are very identical to someone on the outside, there are always nuances and differences, even if they are slight to the person actually experiencing the difficulty.  Respect your friend's unique story. And if you have information you are convinced will help them - ask first if you can share it. And if they give you the green light, frame it well and give them the space to see the similarities -don't push them.  We are all special and while we all experiences similar challenges, it is difficult to invite someone in and have them compare what you are going through to something else. It is good policy to do your best to not compare at all but if you must, get permission.

No cliches

This is another tough one. You all know them and in the Christian world there are so many.

Everything happens for a reason.

God isn't gonna give you more than you can handle.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronnger.

Let God and let go.

And there are many many more.  In fact, my friend and I chucked because we both balked at what we called "flimsy Christian talk" that people pull out when you confide that you are struggling. Please keep your sayings and cliches when someone shares their doubts and fears. I have a relationship with God and like most of my relationships, there are times when it is strained and downright difficult to deal with. That's right. Sometimes, it's hard to be in relationship with God. And for me, some of those moments come during my most difficult hours; when all I can see is darkness and when I hear no reply to my screams for respite. Pulling out every cliche about how it's all gonna be ok is not the right path. Really. It's not. And you wanna know why? It's not very convincing and chances are you don't really believe that. Yep. I said. Most of those cliches are lip service that we've been fed in our difficult moments and we just regurgitate it when we see a chance. No. Don't. Do better by your friend.  Listen. Feel. Reassure that you are there and that you care. Allow them to vent and have those feelings. They need to go there, so don't prevent it with a quick fix saying that isn't going to add any value in that moment. Even if you are one of those people, like me, who lives by Genesis 50:20 or Romans 8:28, you don't have to shove that in people's faces when they are hurting. Pick a less raw time and remind them of what they know to be true or introduce how you handle your difficult times.

And while we both hope to be out of our respective slumps soon, I am so glad for our exchange because it highlighted for us how we all can do better to support people around us when they need us most.

What would you add to our list to better support friends in crisis?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Transform Yourself Now With 3 Moves

What do you do when you know change must occur in your life?

If you are like most people, you resist. You first deny and then vehemently fight and finally, reluctantly acquiesce.

I am one of those strange folks who run toward change. Leap on the transformation train. Drive others around me to look for opportunities to change.

Currently, me, my family and my business are in a huge season of change and I find myself resisting the personal change that is thrust upon me.

It is easy to see change that must happen in others. How quickly do we diagnose and "solve" for change opportunities in the lives of others? We dissect and analyze with few data points and feel extremely confident that our resulting "answer" is solid. Slam dunk.

However, when it comes to our own transformation, we are blinded by the data. We are impaired by the narratives we've built to survive and thrive until this point. I am facing huge personal change and find these three tips very helpful.

Get Outside Help

Yes. I said it. Enlist a counselor, therapist or coach to get you where you need to be. I am so excited right now. As I foresaw some of the change that was on the horizon and sensed my own resistance to it, I started asking around for resources. Last Spring, a therapist was recommended to me and I was excited to learn that she had an office very close to my intended new location. That was no coincidence. Further, we connected well and have begun to lay out a plan to get me where I need to be.  Asking for help as a Type A - Enneagram 8 head strong Scorpio like myself is a tough, tough act. But it's also an amazingly freeing one. As the person who helps others both professionally and personally, it is imperative that I open myself up to outside help. How can you offer and deliver well what you yourself will not accept? So I have a B.E.S.T. coach for my whole self, a therapist for the emotional journey and some professionals contracted to help me with the business side of my current transformation. A dream team - unleashed to move me from here to there.

Make A Plan

Now this is not a concrete, set in stone plan but a framework for what it is you'd like to see through the change. In my case, some of the change was self-driven and some was thrust upon me. Either way, I need to start to crystallize in my mind's eye what the other side might look like.  I am not committing to the outcome but merely imagining what could be. Not only is it fun and cleansing to do, you'd be surprised at how making a simple framework starts to unearth resources that you may have never recognized without some structure to realize them within. My family's move to Evanston is a classic case of this point. We landed on Evanston after extensive research. We started to walk toward it without a specific plan in place but with some framework - a few thoughts on location and budget but the rest was up to the universe. And boy, did the universe deliver. This is also playing out in a few other areas of life right now. Trust me. Put even a skeletal frame together and watch how it opens doors.

Be Vulnerable

Open up. Share your story. Again, I cannot state enough how important it is to keep it real with as many people as possible. You have no idea who may be a resource in your transformation. Additionally, the ability to be vulnerable is without measure because it will cause you to rethink how you view yourself and the world around you. One of the things I've noticed is that my narratives, the ones I've built that have rocked and got me to this point are tired and no longer serving me. That is a very tender and raw space but again, I see the value. Busting my myths and replacing them with real truths about who I am, what I'm capable of and who deserves to be part of that journey is an unbelievably difficult task. And had I not enlisted help and made a plan, I'm pretty sure I'd have turned back as I face my own vulnerability.

Whatever you are facing that appears impossible or insurmountable most certainly is your chance to transform yourself to overcome. Whether its personal or professional, the first major transformation or one of many you've experience in your life, NOW is the time to run toward this next chapter with all you have. 

Enlist support. Set some goals. Expose yourself.

You can do it.