Every once in a while, one of my colleagues in the dental world really nails something so precisely that I think it should be shared far and wide. This is Monday’s post from Katherine Eitel, on her blog, Monday Morning Stretch. Most of the people I associate with are extremely helpful by nature, but often we fail because our communication is wrong, or mis-perceived, or our efforts over-enable rather than help someone to grow and solve their own problem.
In her blog post, which follows, Katherine presents a simple, brilliant, four-step process for offering help in the best way. Read on!
BEING HELPFUL, by Katherine Eitel
Someone near and dear to my heart is struggling. She is lost in what seems like a life without options or choices. Feeling powerless, she is caught in a vicious cycle of despair, depression, and exhaustion with no end in sight. The conversations and common experiences of her daily life as well as larger world events seem to confirm the immediate and unchangeable reality of the decline of decency and corruption of mankind. In this state, she feels a loss of hope and sense of tired resignation.
I understand it. I’ve been there. But my world (the same world actually), at the moment, looks very different. I see constant evidence of the generosity and courage of the human spirit. I see bright minds creating amazingly creative solutions to age-old problems. I observe a groundswell of people shifting to a new way of communicating, negotiating, perceiving, and operating in the world we live in all around me. I see possibility in my work, my relationships, my income, my health, and my personal life that seems more expansive and prosperous than ever. It’s just where I am right now. But I have been where she is and at that time there were people who were where I am right now. They tried their dead-level best to help me. A lot of them failed and a few thankfully succeeded.
At the same point in time, we hold different views of the same circumstances. Case in point: My friend and I both flipped through a new local magazine recently and both commented on something in it that had caught our attention. She noted the materialistic focus on wealth and luxury and how wholly out-of-touch the publication was with the real world. I noted the fantastic enlightenment for me that there were so many pioneers, artists, activists, athletes, and iconic entrepreneurs of national and world acclaim living right in my hometown. Of particular note to me was a quote by a local wedding and commercial photographer who is in demand not only locally but on international shoots such as Slovakia and the South Pacific, “My work has opened up a whole new world of travel and it’s all tied in with families and love. I don’t think of myself as being in business, I think of being in pursuit of a wonderful, fulfilling lifestyle.”
Here’s my point. I’m making no judgment about where my friend is other than to say that it pains me to see her unhappy, depressed, and feeling so powerless. At one point or another, most of us will find ourselves in a spot just like this. The question on my mind this week was, “How can I help her?”
In the past I would have lectured incessantly on the virtues of positive thinking, making peace with “what is,” living in gratitude, and on and on and on. But this week I decided to be thoughtful before I offered my help and my opinions. I went for my morning walk and crested the most strenuous hill where my blood always pumps wildly, my endorphins kick into full release and my view is 360 degrees of beauty… and where I seem to get my most valuable ideas and inspiration. I asked the question there. How can I best help my friend? How can I show her all the possibility, hope, and joy that is immediately available to her? How can I help her find her own power again?
The answer came swiftly and boldly. (And I laughed out loud knowing my Monday Morning Stretch had just been written. I’m telling you, I’m mostly just a conduit for this stuff!) The clear, resonate message that entered my mind was this:
1. Model it.
2. Offer it.
3. Support it.
4. Release it.
It’s so perfect, I get chills just remembering and writing it.
1. Model it. Before you preach it, you need to do it and master it yourself. Be the unashamed, unwavering, ongoing, living example of prosperity, joy, gentle strength and self-powered happiness.
2. Offer it. When you do decide to speak, do so gently by simply offering an alternative to consider. Remember that your truth is not the truth, it’s simply one truth. Your ideas and beliefs are just that… yours. There are as many right ways to address a situation as there are people on the planet. Softly offer an option that has worked for you without any hint that this is the only right way.
3. Support it. Hold them in your mind not as the struggling, helpless friend you currently see but rather as a fellow traveler on the path of life who must be “here” to ever see or learn their own strength and abilities to get over “there.” Hold them in the knowledge that it’s all perfect in its unfolding for them. See them, speak to (and of) them, and treat them as someone you know they can, and will ultimately, become.
4. Release it. Model, Offer, Support, and then… let go. Move on. This is not your life or your fight. We’ve intersected somehow with those we care about to support and be supported in turn. But inherent in the word intersection is the idea that we are moving through this interaction on the travels of our own life. At their best, these intersections are learning or re-affirming moments for us… as much as for them.
Model, Suggest, Support, and Release. I plan to practice these with my children, parents, friends, colleagues, clients, and partner. They were a gift to me and one I pass along with gratitude to you. This week, focus on someone for whom you can see a greater person within than they can currently see for themselves and practice these four ideas of being as much for yourself and your own growth as for theirs.
So, pretty darn amazing, isn’t it? If you know Katherine, she truly does model this positive behavior. And I plan to apply these steps in my own interactions and intersections with people. I hope you found this as valuable as I did. Thanks, Katherine, for allowing me to share it on my blog!