For the past couple of months, each of us has been dealing with our own version of change and challenges during this crisis and unprecedented situation. We have also clearly seen that each of us had unique aspects to our situations. Some are struggling with losing a job or a loved one. Others are struggling with maintaining a work from home career on top of homeschooling. Even others are trying to keep their small business afloat despite a lack of customers and income.
During these times, we may each go through waves of feelings. From overwhelmed to bored, from stressed out to grateful, and everywhere in between. One of the things we may be encountering is a significant difference between your personal situation and that of friends, relatives, and colleagues you encounter on a regular basis.
I know personally I have both struggled with my situation and also felt guilty that I had it so well while others were struggling so much more. Finding the right balance of how to be there for others, and take care of myself and family, has been a challenge. However, I have found three approaches that have worked well for me.
Listen Carefully and Thoughtfully.
In a situation like this, many people desire to share their situation and be heard. One of the best things you can do to support in these situations is listen. Listen carefully and really hear their situation and struggles. Listen thoughtfully and ask questions about how you can support or encourage them. Specifically, make sure you are paying attention to what they are telling you and not assuming you understand their situation or jumping to conclusion about their struggles. Just listening, hearing what they say, and acknowledging their situation, will go a long way to show that you are there for them and you care about them.
Be a Connector, not a Divider.
There are a lot of opportunities to disagree about how to quarantine or distance, whether or not to reopen, how the government is dealing with the situation, and many more. Instead of dropping into the disagreement trap and separating yourself from others, find opportunities to connect each other. If you know someone who has recently lost their job, or is on furlough, but has the skills to help someone else struggling with a task, see if you can make an introduction. If you know two business owners brainstorming ways to pivot their business, see if you can connect them for a collaboration. Helping to make the world a bit smaller, despite not being able to leave the house, is a great way to support those around you and feel community at the same time.
Everyone seems to be struggling with making the ‘right’ decisions. Be there for others by reminding them to give themselves grace for the decisions they make, and for changing those decisions when new information becomes available. Don’t participate in judgment of people for the decisions they are making particular to their unique situation. Remind people that they are doing the best the can with the information they have. Remind people, including yourself, to give grace to those who make decisions they later regret, or are beating themselves up over. This is an unprecedented situation and no one knows the right answer, remind people all we can do is our best.
In difficult situations, especially when others are suffering more than ourselves, we often worry about what are the right and wrong things to do or say.
These strategies should help to give you confidence that you are appropriately supporting your friends, family, and colleagues. All reflect compassion, concern, and caring.
Even if these particular strategies don’t work in your situation, remember that your intent speaks louder than your actual words. Approach each situation with compassion, concern, and caring so that the words you use are less important than the feeling you leave behind.