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Supporting Colleagues

02 Feb 2022 12:30 PM | Anonymous

Dear Sophia,

It's 2022 and it feels like we are still facing one crisis after another. I have colleagues that are going through some difficult times but I don't know how to support them beyond just saying, "I'm so sorry to hear. I'm here if you need anything." What can I do to support someone in need?

Sincerely, 

Want to Lend a Helping Hand

Dear Want to Lend a Helping Hand,

It really is 2020 - too, huh?! Sorry, couldn’t resist saying that. Some levity is nice these days as we head into year three of whatever it is you want to call this. I can’t even count how many times I’ve talked about this ongoing pandemic and its impact on people. But thank you for asking this question, because it’s something I’m sure many of us are struggling with.

A lot of people are experiencing difficult situations involving loss, poor emotional or physical health, or diminished security and, honestly, sometimes the most important thing someone needs to hear is, “I”m so sorry to hear. I’m here if you need anything.” It’s important to open up the line of communication with a person in need, to use active listening, and validate how someone is feeling. That unto itself is a huge and very underrated activity in a period of overwhelming uncertainty for all. Of course, you want to make sure you mean those words and are actually going to be there for them if they do reach out for support. Leave space for the person to reach out when they are ready to ask for what they need. Check in and be present with them, but don’t push yourself onto anyone that isn’t ready. When they are ready, offer the shoulder, the advice, the validation, the caretaking, whatever they are making clear to you they need most. Again, be sure you are able to give it. Be mindful of what you are comfortable and able to do. I know many people who give so much that they forget to take care of themselves in the process and you don’t want to find yourself in that situation either.

I also want to acknowledge that a lot of us don't actually know how to ask, or feel comfortable asking, for help. So what do you do in those situations? Maybe you support by offering to do things that may be small (or big!) for you, but super helpful for others without necessarily overtly asking. For example, maybe you volunteer in place of that colleague to complete certain tasks or work on certain projects. Or help take on some of their existing work to give them a bit of respite while they deal with whatever they are facing. Another easy thing to do is to give your colleague the benefit of the doubt if they aren’t able to be present or produce like they may have in the past. This can apply to non-work related situations too. Maybe you drop off a meal, take a pet for a walk, offer to do some work around the house, or babysit your friend’s kids so they can get a small break. Consider what your friend/colleague enjoys (coffee, sweets, flowers, funny memes or videos). Make a plan to bring it to them knowing it will give you a good reason to check in on them and to show them you are thinking of them. I know I’ve appreciated even things like a text with folks checking in with me to say hello. So not necessarily asking me how I’m doing because that can be overwhelming to respond to, but a quick “Hey. Was thinking of you. Just wanted to say hi!” With a message like this there’s no expectation to respond but an underlying message that you care, which goes a long way. 

The key here is to understand the person a bit and what they may need but also to know that the littlest of things tend to go the furthest when it comes to supporting those around us. Added bonus, these acts of care and kindness impact the giver as well as the receiver.  

Confidentially Yours,

Sophia

P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Asking for a Friend? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

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