Monday Mindfulness: Tangible Ways to Support SomeoneApril 18, 2016
In a world that is much too busy attending to deadlines, social media, and daily stress to slow down, we are often blinded sided by the tragedy of death that is difficult to fully comprehend. The news hits us, some more personally than others, and internally urges us to recommit to living a life of intention because we are reminded that it can be over at any moment. But in time, the stories that once showed us how precious life really is, soon fade and take a back seat to the demand of our busy schedules, yet again.
So I will share here, four tangible ways we can start right now living a life more fully engaged by genuinely addressing the struggles of those around us, without waiting for yet another tragedy to remind us to slow down and reconnect with one another.
- Be present with someone in their struggle, and avoid your temptation to want to take away their pain.
When someone comes to you hurting, they don’t need advice, even if they may be asking for it. What they really need is to be HEARD and validated. The angst they are feeling is real and will get in the way of them discovering for themselves what they want to do with it unless it has space to breathe and be acknowledged without judgment.
Some of us fight the misconception that if we had the right advice or knew the right thing to say, we could make it all better. While this may help in the moment, it rarely tends to the much deeper wounds that need more attention and care. So avoid the urge to make it right in that moment by giving advice or even worse, by handing out proverbial expressions like ‘it will get better with time’, ‘you are strong enough to get through this’, or ‘you just need to go have some fun’. This only minimizes what the person is really feeling and doesn’t actually give tangible steps to the other side of their struggle.
Instead, be willing to hear what a person has to say about their pain without placing judgment. You will be amazed at the power of simply being present.
This may seem obvious but unfortunately, it is the very thing that does not happen enough. In order for someone to be heard, we need to be willing to listen. Listening entails setting aside our agendas or initial judgments and really understanding what is being conveyed to us.
Too often people are talked at and told what to do or how to handle a situation when all they really need is someone to listen. The reason we are all so quick to hand out solutions is because it’s our initial instinct to shut down problems before they get too big or silent tough emotions we don’t know how to handle. Shutting problems down in conversation with one another only makes them bigger on the inside.
So try to just listen. It takes effort and engagement, but even if you don’t know what to say or how to respond, you can always listen.
- Share your story.
I am a firm believer that despite our differences, we, as humans, share the need to feel loved, safe, and acknowledged. And we find fulfillment of these needs through our connection with others. This is one of the crippling aspects of human struggle. Our disconnection results from our inclination to hide the part of us that is in pain so that we aren’t turned away or rejected as this can threaten the very essence of being loved and feeling safe. But when you are brave enough to step out and find common ground with someone who is struggling by saying ‘hey, me too’ it creates a safe connection that reminds us we are never alone.
While finding common ground in an experience can be healing, it’s also important not to assume that what worked for you to move forward will also work for the other person. This often is what leads to the trap of advice giving. Simply share your story to validate their experience and demonstrate your understanding of what they may be enduring, but then go back to points number 1 and 2 — these are what really can make a difference in the moment.
- Find beauty in the other person despite their struggle. Let them know you see it.
Suffering is inevitable and yet we try to find ways to avoid it or pretend it’s not there. When someone shares parts of themselves that too many of us try to hide, acknowledge the strength it takes to be authentic. Show people they are truly loved, safe and acknowledged by accepting them in their darkest places, not just when they’re at their best.