When people go through change, whether in their work life or in their personal life, it can be both challenging and scary for anyone! Each person’s experience going through change is unique and often as friends, coworkers, family, etc., we are called to show support, love, and concern during those situations. Especially in work settings, being able to understand the impact of change and how to support our friends and colleagues through change is an incredible asset and can help build and grow meaningful and trusting relationships with those around us. The person going through the challenge of change has the responsibility for their reactions, but in this blog, I provide three things to consider on how to best support those around us as they tackle change in their lives!
It Is Not About You
Have you ever been in a situation where someone comes to confide in you about something they are going through, and your brain starts thinking about what you would do? I am guilty of this, and honestly it happens often! It is a natural response. While this can often help in certain situations when we are asked for advice, when taken too far, it could make their situation worse and/or change the relationship.
Often, someone comes to you because they hope you can understand or empathize with them, even get some advice from you. However, if you are too focused on your reaction to it, then you are not supporting them — you are making their situation about you. Remember, they are different people and may have different goals or desired outcomes than you. Putting yourself “in someone else’s shoes” can be beneficial to relate better to that person but be careful not to overstep and cause unnecessary stress. Remember to distinguish that their changes and what they are going through is not about you, and that you are there to support them!
Listen, Listen, Listen
I am confident that everyone has experienced this next situation at one point in their life: going to someone and they either talk over you or tell you they “know exactly what you are going through” and proceed to talk about that one time they went through something similar (or something they think was similar). This response is one of my biggest pet peeves! Telling someone that they know “exactly what you are going through” is a statement that I feel is dismissive and does not recognize that each person is an individual, with diverse backgrounds, values, thoughts, and experiences. Two people could go through the same situation, but their experience could be drastically interpreted differently. That is what is so beautiful about life: it is so personal and unique! When you are in this situation, remember - less talking and more listening!
Also, while listening, do not give unsolicited advice unless asked for it! My personal coach once pointed out to me that when I start giving advice, I am inadvertently telling that person that I do not believe they know how to resolve it or react in the right way. I was mortified! Yes, I do understand, that it was a harsh realization, and that it was not my intent or my perceptions of them, but it shocked me into the reality of what the other person might feel when I lead with my knowledge or advice. Unless someone comes to you seeking advice or confirms that they want your advice, just listen to them. Oftentimes, they are just looking to vent or have already found a solution. The best thing you can do is listen, listen, listen. They will let you know when they want you to talk!
When someone comes to you, remember to follow-up with that person later. It can be done in various forms, a quick comment, pass-by talk, formal meeting, etc. Each situation is different and use your own discernment on which method would be better. Checking in shows that you listened and are invested to support them while they are being impacted. By following up, you allow the person you are supporting a moment to reflect on the change, and you all can work together to determine any future follow ups or conversations if needed.
Call to Action
In closing, each of us goes through change uniquely, being supportive through change shows empathy, acknowledgement, and care. Each encounter is different and may require different methods depending on the situation or relationship. Relationships play a key role in all of this and help determine the direction one should take when showing support.
Just because someone comes to you on something does not mean that will come to you on everything! Read the room, and when in doubt, ask. They will tell you what they are looking for or need in the situation. Do not assume you know! Applying these methods will help strengthen your communication skills and your relationships. If you would like to share your experiences with similar situations, please leave them in the comments or reach out! I am always looking for better ways to support my friends, colleagues, family, and other people in my life as they go through change.