“Meeting people where they are is about giving others what they need, when they need it.” — Tom Epperson
It’s a hard lesson to learn if you’re on any sort of path that involves trying to help other people.
Sometimes you want the other person to heal/grow/learn/advance more than they want it for themselves.
Teachers see it with students, doctors see it with patients, parents see it with children, and friends see it with friends.
If we’re really in the vocation of serving others, we have to learn to meet them where they’re at.
I had to learn this as a chiropractor, and I still have to remind myself of it today as a coach and transformation consultant.
Sometimes people are ready to change and sometimes they aren’t. Some people are willing to take one or two baby steps and others are ready to jump in full force.
There are stages of change, and people don’t jump from step A to step Z.
I’d be doing a pretty bad job if I tried to force someone to do that. It leaves a person feeling overwhelmed, intimidated, judged, and frustrated. (Like that time I thought it would be fun to try an adult modern jazz class for the first time. That was a disaster, but that’s another story…)
The first stage of change is even called “Pre-Contemplation”. This person has no interest in changing, and they may not even think any change is necessary or possible.
Eventually, people begin to think about change, plan to make change, actually start taking steps to change, and then finally they work to maintain the changes.
The best thing I can do to help people is to facilitate movement from one stage to the next stage.
I do that by asking questions to uncover priorities and values, by revealing motivation, and by encouraging my clients to choose their own path. Finally I help them remember why the change is important to them.
Manageable goals to work through the steps of change one at a time is what leads to long term success.
If someone gets stuck or relapses backwards, I take it back to the previous step and lovingly inch forward again.
It’s not up to me to decide what’s best for anyone.
If you think about it, it would be pretty disrespectful of me to think I know best how someone else should run their life.
Sure, we all have advanced knowledge or even expertise in certain areas, but behavior is more nuanced than that. It’s a setup for failure if I assume we all have the same skills, understanding, and knowledge base.
On top of knowledge base, there’s custom, culture, emotion, stereotype, fear, past wins and failures, and a host of other factors that play into where a person is willing to show up in the process.
My desires and priorities fit my life, and not everyone else’s
Meet people where they’re at if you really want to help them.
That means if a person is only willing to walk instead of run, work with that.
In time, they may choose to start running. Or maybe I help them progress to a certain point, and someone else sees them run.
“As people grow, their needs change. How we support their development should as well.” — Tom Epperson
Even if I’m being completely loving and positive, urging or expecting someone to do something they’re not yet equipped to do pushes them away. (I never went back to jazz class)
So if a person starts taking baby steps, that deserves some acknowledgement. Most likely, they live in a world where they’ve been sent the message that it wasn’t enough.
To change, people are venturing out beyond the comfort zone, and that takes damn hard work and courage. Sometimes, just that first step is all they can do at the moment.
I recently wrote about this…anyone who’s stepped out beyond the comfort zone has already succeeded because they’ve done something brand new. It’s a new personal best!
Finally, give yourself credit too, even if you’ve only begun to consider change.
This doesn’t mean I embrace complacency or not striving for excellence. I think we should all be seeking growth and movement in a positive direction.
At the same time, though, love and accept yourself right here and now. Love and accept yourself in an environment of openness and willingness to explore new possibilities, and change won’t seem so unsettling.
Learn more about me and my work here at my website, www.christinebradstreet.com