Thursday, March 17, 2011

Assessing your Social Support Network: Part 2

How supportive are the people in your Network? While it is excellent to have a moderate to large social support network, it will be of dubious help to you if the members of your network are discouraging, or point out all the negatives of a situation instead of offering positive ideas and solutions. After all, a supporter is supposed to help you succeed, not drag you down and make success harder. Even if someone is always available to help you in an emergency, if they do it with an unhelpful attitude, filled with statements like “I told you so,” or “You will never succeed at this,” then they might actually be making your life harder rather than easier. Every now and then, we need to take a closer look at the people we have around us, and ask some tough questions to see if they have your best interests at heart. Asking yourself the following questions about each person in your social network can be useful:
  1. Do I feel inspired and energized after interacting with this person or discouraged and deflated?
  2. Is there a reasonable balance of give and take in my relationship with them or do they demand much more from me than they give back?
  3. Do they help me see new possibilities for my situation or do they merely help me see how every solution I think of won’t work?
After doing this, you will be able to see fairly clearly how supportive your network currently is. If you find that a person in your network is dragging you down rather than helping you, you may need to find someone else to fill their role in your social support circle. If that person is a family member or co-worker, you may still need to interact with them regularly, but try to find someone else to lean on when you actually need support. Don’t share your frustrations and struggles with someone who will only confirm them and not help solve them—instead, create a list of other, neutral topics to converse about instead, and share those frustrations and struggles with someone who will inspire you. After all, if you sprain an ankle and need a crutch to help you get around for a while, you wouldn’t choose a bent or cracked crutch to lean on—it might break when you need it most and hurt you worse. Instead, you will hopefully examine your choices carefully to select one that is strong and supportive, to carry a little of your weight until you heal. These are the same qualities you need in the people you lean on for social support!

And finally since social support networks are healthiest when there is give and take on both sides, take a little time to answer those questions posed above about yourself.Do you encourage, inspire, and energize the people in your network? Do you give back to those people in balance with what you ask of them? Do you help them with constructive problem solving when asked rather than negatively shooting down every idea? If you fall short when you assess yourself with these questions, you might want to think of ways you can become more supportive to that person—in the end, it will keep your network healthy and strong!

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