It is important to create your own support network to help you navigate through challenges and provide you with the help and guidance you need, when you need it most. Have a diverse range of people in your support network will help you achieve this.
Your support group can include friends and family who have known you and watched you grow, as well as mentors and role models from work who can help you identify your true strengths and weaknesses, boost your confidence and help you reach your potential.
The key is to build and maintain these relationships with genuine sincerity and care. This is also a challenge in the workplace where not having a support network with people to turn to or working in a toxic environment, affects employee performance and mental health.
So how can you build strong relationships?
A conversation is always a two-way transaction and the key to a meaningful interaction is to be a good listener. Most people normally just listen to the first thing you say, think of a rebuttal while you’re still talking and wait for a break so they can jump in.
Listening means concentrating on the person you’re speaking to and being attentive. But listening is different than hearing. Hearing someone means listening with empathy. It means tuning yourself to the emotion, body language and tone of the other person to understand exactly what they’re trying to convey.
In a world where we are increasingly being told interpersonal and communication skills are key to employee performance, listening is the secret to success.
For more information and guidance on listening, here are some great Ted Talks.
Giving effective feedback
Giving feedback is tricky. Compliments are easy to give and receive – everyone wants to feel appreciated and positive about their capabilities. But delivering negative or “you need to work on this” feedback – that’s a challenge.
So how can you deliver difficult feedback without alienating your friends or colleagues?
- The most effective feedback is one that’s given right away. Don’t wait for a structured 1-2-1 or a quarterly review or the next Friday pub night. Talk to the person after the moment so it’s fresh and relatable.
- In the workplace, enforce peer to peer feedback. It is often much easier to digest uncomfortable news from peers and teammates then a manager. It makes the situation less formal and tense.
- Always try and give specific examples when giving feedback. Don’t say “your presentation skills are bad”. Try to be constructive. Say “when going through a presentation, maybe make it clear if they should ask questions at the end.”
- To avoid defensiveness, focus on your colleague’s work, not their personality or characteristics. Make them aware of a change in expectation in the workplace instead of telling them they simply aren’t the right fit in some way.
To read more about the power of conversations, click here.
Schedule time and use it wisely
With friends it’s easy. If it’s just the two of you, it’s easier to take a break. You can grab a quick bite or a coffee and talk through all the issues. You meet up when you need to – like booking a spa treatment for your emotional health. You may decide to take a city break together, as going away with friends is good for your health.
With work friends it’s difficult. You need to find a time that suits the both of you, find a meeting room or grab lunch somewhere nearby that’s quick or go formal and book in monthly recurring meetings.
Then you need to plan and prepare for what you need to discuss. An inattentive manager or a project that fell through? It is especially worse when it’s a session where you are given feedback and it feels out of the blue, you’re not ready to accept and process it.
Irrespective of who you’re speaking with, scheduling time and knowing what you want to get out of it (using the time wisely) is key to building and maintaining relationships. It reinforces the bond between people and is an effective way for people to support and help you grow. Having regular sessions where you can be yourself helps you resolve any emotional issues and creates better long-term mental health, avoiding states such as burnout.
For more information on creating a positive feedback culture, click here.
Identifying toxic relationships
Building and maintaining relationships with the right people is crucial to positive mental health. Signs of good people are those who listen to you attentively, give you effective and costructive feedback and schedule time for you. But how do you identify the bad ones?
The bad ones obviously don’t listen to you, don’t schedule time and give you little to no feedback. But the single most important factor in determining the good from the bad is:
How do you feel after you talk to that person? Are you feeling refreshed or calmer after talking to this person, or are you still full of the same doubts before the conversation started?
Building a network of supportive people in your life is key to happiness. They may be friends, family or mentors. Whether it’s in your personal life or at work, you need people who want you to be happy and thrive.
For more articles about mental health and wellbeing, click here.
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