In general, most people intellectually understand that receiving support from someone else can be beneficial and offering support to others can be valuable. However, they still do not do it!
People often have beliefs about giving and receiving support that touch on their worldview and even their very identity.
Think for a minute about how you define “support” or the images the word conjures up for you.
At its’ simplest, the word “support” means: “to give assistance to “, but you would be amazed at the embellishments that I have heard from people over the years: “hand holding”, “putting an arm around” “comforting”, “making up for weakness” etc.
These kinds of definitions take the idea of support in one direction, but can it ‘give assistance to someone’ when you give them challenge them with honest and direct feedback that points out poor performance? Yes! In fact, most, if not all of us, have had an experience where hearing some piercing feedback, while not pleasant, was of great assistance to our future performance.
Your definition of what constitutes “support” and what does not, will give you a good insight into your views on giving and receiving support, in general.
Barriers To Requesting Support
The unwillingness to ask for support is extremely common and, in my experience, is actually on the rise. What makes this interesting is that so many people are claiming they are stressed, burned-out and have no time. However, instead of asking for support, they battle on, vainly fighting a lonely battle against an increasing tide of 21st century expectations.
There are many reasons that I have heard while working with people on this matter, but most of them eventually boil down to one of these two beliefs:
“Asking for support makes me look weak”
“Asking for support makes me a burden”
No-one wants to be seen as “weak” or as a “burden” and hence the request for support is never uttered.
Barriers to Offering Support
The unwillingness to offer support to someone else is also extremely common in today’s world.
Once again, this unwillingness boils down to the person’s definition of the word “support” and their underlying beliefs about it.
Most common beliefs that impede offering support include:
“If I offer support, then I’ll look arrogant or superior”
“If I offer support, then the other person will think I don’t trust them”
“If I offer support, then the other person will think I am interfering, and, after all, it is their life, and we are all busy.
No-one wants to be seen as arrogant, un-trusting or as a busybody and hence the offer of support never comes.
The breakdown occurs when people begin to see their beliefs about support, not as beliefs, but as facts.
Is it possible to ask for support and appear strong? Yes it is!
Is it possible to offer support and be seen as humble? Yes it is!
The secret to having a healthy relationship with giving and receiving support is being able to identify your beliefs as beliefs. If you are willing to do this, then you have choices available to you: on occasion you will ask for support, on other occasions, you will not; on occasion you will offer support, on other occasions, you will not.
A person with a ‘scarcity’ belief (there is not enough) is very unlikely to offer or request support, whereas a person with an ‘abundance’ belief (there IS enough) is far more likely to do so.
Typically, people fall into one of two camps:
i) comfortable to offer support, uncomfortable to ask for it
ii) comfortable to ask for support, uncomfortable to offer it.
Noticing your own tendency and looking at the beliefs that underlie it, can be a powerful exploration in self-awareness. A consequent willingness to challenge those beliefs through new action can lead to surprising new results, for you and for those around you.
Managing Partner TWP