Skip to content

Support that Works

If you are supporting a friend, you first need to get into the right attitude for support  (From The Arbinger Institute,and Leadership & Deception)

  1. Focus on helping things go right - rather than fixing things that go wrong
  2. Think about the other person as a person with fears of their own, not obstacles in your way
  3. Stop worrying about how the world sees you. You don't need to follow 'social tradition' (e.g. avoidance, persecution, hate, telling off, and punishment)
  4. Don't try to be perfect - do try to be better. That's for all people in the process. It is situational - so use what works
  5. Don't worry whether others are helping you. Do worry whether you are helping others. i.e. are you really helping, or just fixing? Are you doing for hem, or showing your ego by being superior

Change your mindset from the ‘parent teacher’ to the ‘fellow journeyman’ by:

  • Joining your friend on a journey
  • Learning together the elements of change
  • Trying to find safety: mutual respect and mutual purpose - not judgement
  • Creating the space for failure and recovery (not punishment and coercion)
  • Helping set a joint, regular catch ups
  • Being compassionate – accept them
  • Supporting – not solving. Present options and guide them to decide
  • Taking care not to place yourself in the drama triangle

It’s okay not to support – you don’t have to. You may have too many commitments, issues that you need to handle, too much anger or involvement in the situation to be impartial or realise you don’t have a supportive temperament. Bow out gracefully and help point the person to a more appropriate resource.

Two Caveats:

  1.  There are certain ‘confidences that you cannot ask or oblige anyone to keep – e.g. acts that might endanger or harm others or your self
  2. Where a person needs professional help that a friend cannot provide, e.g. counselling, or medical support.

Six Steps in Support

Confront with safety and allow a shameless exit

(from Jan Sutton, Healing the Hurt Within)

  1. Avoid blaming and shaming - critical and condemnatory attitude reinforces the negative beliefs that drive self-injury
  2. Avoid ultimatums - it just drives behaviour underground
  3. Avoid confiscating loved one's coping tools - they will just go elsewhere
  4. Maintaining rapport in difficult situations
  5. Focus on listening - Don't talk more than you listen
  6. Simplify your language - Don't confuse with jargon and make sure language is not open to misinterpretation
  7. Talk Positively - Stress what you can do, not what can't be done
  8. Give space physically and metaphorically. Don't push the other into a corner and allow them to save face
  9. Minimise 'trigger' language Take care of words that might escalate the situation
  10. Don't Argue This will become a no-win situation

When we confront, we can take two perspectives, (James MacGregor Burns) Transaction Management):

Constructive Transactions 

When the supporter or counsellor offers inducements to the follower to comply with their request. For example, ‘If you work tonight you can have Friday afternoon off. ‘, or 'if you put the money you would have spent on alcohol in a jar, we'll go for a weekend away'

You are motivating by 'towards values' - what you will gain.

Corrective or coercive transactions

 When the supporter or counsellor threatens the follower if they refuse to co-operate or if they fail to stop acting in a certain way. For example, ‘If you do that again I’ll make sure you get no overtime for the next month.’

You are motivating by 'away values' - what they will lose

Corrective or coercive transactions occur when we threaten the other with a sanction if they continue to oppose the change. However, it shifts the responsibility for loss to the person with power, and not the recipient. (If you continue to smoke then I will fire you, means that you take the responsibility of them losing the job)

So whenever thinking of support - try constructive transactions wherever possible.

What to do when you meet a friend to support them

Firstly build rapport with them. People open up when they feel safe and that you are on their side. Give them space to talk.

Paraphrase By putting the message into your own words, you concentrate more on what was said, ensuring that you listen better.
Repeat By repeating the information back to the other, you ensure not only that you are listening to what they say, but that you really understand what was said.
Probe By requesting or asking questions, you will find out any information that may have been missing in the communications.
Clarify This ensures that you have heard exactly what the other person intended to communicate.
Remember Remembering helps you retain the most important points of the communication

Showing empathy is important. It is a capacity to truly understand the experience of another, emotionally, mentally, and sometimes even physically. It doesn’t necessarily agree, condone or support the other’s feelings and behaviour. (from Wendy T. Behary). You can show empathy and yet totally be revolted by the source of the crisis. Compassion is a radiating desire to console, comfort, and alleviate the pain and suffering of another.

Structuring the regular conversation

Catching up with a friend can be scary – “if I tell them the truth will they desert me or punish me?”. A regular structure of a catch up can help, such as:

  1. What have been the highlights and lowlights of this week?
  2. What emotions have you been feeling?
  3. What’s been your effect on other people?
  4. What triggers have you had, and how did you deal with them? (no judgment
  5. What patterns do you see and how can you break them?
  6. What are you working on (skills, techniques, tools) and how is that going?
  7. What do you need to work on, right now?
  8. What does success look like next week?
  9. What will you do (differently) towards that?
Next 

Building the Personal Contract