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Intervention - How to help when resilience fails

Heather Grace, Guest Post. 05 March 2018, 6:48 am
Intervention - How to help when resilience fails

In the previous article about resilience, we looked at what happens when people don't have the tools or ability to bounce back from set-backs in life. It was probably a bit depressing to read about how we can make life worse for ourselves by the way we respond when things go wrong in our lives.   However, I am sure you will have identified with a few of the examples given in the last article. So, what do you do if your find yourself in self-destruct mode? Or if someone you know is filling the void with destructive habits?

The first step is asking for help. Some people do not ask, because they are afraid that others will look down on them or think they are weak. Actually, the opposite is true. Asking for help takes courage and strength and others will admire you for it. In fact, if you know that you have any of the destructive traits we talked about in the last article - go ask for help right now! You can ask a friend, a colleague, or telephone a help line, or go to see your Doctor. The important first step is that you are honest with yourself. It is healthy to ask for intervention. It is the first step in your journey to rebuild.

If you have a friend that needs help, it can be very difficult to sit on the side-lines and watch that person dig themselves into a deeper hole. Have a chat to them, voice your concerns as a friend. Be careful not to criticise their lifestyle as you may find they simply get defensive. Tell your friend you are worried about them and you can see they are hurting. Tell them you care. Let them know you are available to chat. Keep the door open for future conversations.

Not everyone comes straight out and asks for help. You need to be watching for clues. For example, you might find that your friend blurts out a few comments during conversation - such as "well, life sucks any way" or "nobody cares what I think". If you hear your friend or colleague using this kind of negative language, it could be that they are reaching out to you. Instead of ignoring the negative comments, ask them to explain - say things like "tell me more about that" or "why do you say that?" 

What is the most important thing to remember if someone does start to open up to you?

Listen, empathise, listen, validate.

So often, when people start telling us about their problems, we have the urge to jump in and solve the problem for them. If you try to give advice, or tell them not to worry, or to just "get over it" you will do more harm than good. Giving advice or telling them they should NOT feel a certain way, will build a brick wall between you and your friend. Why? Because your friend will feel that you are not listening. And if they don't feel listened to, they will stop talking. To anyone. And that is dangerous.

Your role is to encourage them to talk. Listen, show empathy with their feelings, listen some more. Ask questions to clarify or to make sure you fully understand - but make sure you are not coming across as judgemental. Even if you feel that are being overly sensitive to react the way they are, do not tell them that. Your most important role is to validate their feelings. Their feelings are real. They are hurting. They are sad, or angry or lonely. The first step is simply to understand how they feel and let them be allowed to feel that way. 

When people are feeling like nobody cares, or they are not good enough, or they are worried about something, it is the emotional part of the brain that is in control. Jumping in with logical answers will not help because the emotional part of the brain cannot cope with logic!

So, resist the urge to switch to logic and problem-solving mode. Do not criticise. Do not make them feel stupid. Listen. Really listen. Once your friend feels listened to and feels safe to talk about their problems, further discussions will develop. Then, once the emotions have been let out, your friend will start to use the logical part of their brain - and will be keen to think about resolving the issues.

That process will be the subject of a future article - coming soon!

Success With Grace is home of the TechBiz Success Academy, coaching and training to help technology based organisations thrive. Heather also invented the "Use your Yo-Yo" system for building resilience in people and organisations. For information about TechBiz programs go to 


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