Although we wish for a smooth ride through life, life brings with it many surprises. We almost can not always be prepared. This is not just about a pandemic that took the world by surprise, this is about the everyday events happening around the world.
Economic challenges, family huddles, health issues, failed projects, rape, wrong investments, etc. At one point or the other, we will or have all had to deal with one tough event. The emotional response we give when going through such times differs from one person to another.
In discussing how to deal with challenging times, we have decided to move away from the sufferer and zoom in on those who can help. If you are in a situation to help a colleague who is going through difficult times, you do not want to misuse the situation, either leaving your colleague worse off or not having another opportunity to heal.
Below are a few suggestions on how to support a colleague;
Start the process without crossing boundaries
As much as your intentions are good (to help) you want to start on a good note by understanding the boundaries of the person going through the challenging event. It may be honestly challenging to know when or when not to approach a person going through trauma to talk about what has happened, but it is safer for both parties when the person trying to support can ascertain to what extent can they lend a helping hand.
Meeting them in a private place is a good way to start.
Intruding while trying to help may most likely aggravate the situation.
Do not bank on symptoms
You may have noticed how a colleague started acting strange lately and quickly draw a correlation between their behaviour and a recent event that happened. Now you think you know what has caused their traumatic/challenging experience and you are diving in to help.
Never assume you know what the problem is. Always ask to be sure what events have led to their current state.
Do not interrupt – Let them speak
Active listening is an essential skill when engaging with a colleague going through a traumatic experience. Most times, people going through trauma feel they are all alone. They feel they are riding on a lonely path and no one can understand them.
Active listening will not only help you hear what they say but also decode what they are not saying by scanning through their non-verbal cues.
When providing support, allowing the other party to speak uninterrupted will allow them to flow and equally allow you to better understand what their challenges are. Also providing the opportunity for them to speak uninterrupted can unblock the energy they need to weather the storm.
Offer to help with work
Once you begin to discuss with a colleague going through a trauma and a rapport has been created, this is a good time to help them with their work. When you offer to help, you not only take some burden off their shoulders, but you also show that someone truly cares about them beyond words.
If you have a relationship that allows you to, you could also offer to help with things outside work.
Please, do not relieve your colleague from work (except you are their manager. It is good to give them some time off to heal), rather, help them out on days when you see they have a lot more than they can take on their desk.
Check-in from time to time
Coming out of a traumatic/challenging experience is a process. It takes time for people to come out of such experiences. One-off support and/or care may not provide the enthusiasm they need to beat the challenges.
Check in regularly to know how your colleague is progressing, to understand how previous support has impacted the situation, and to see how else you can help.