Into every life a little rain must fall. But every once in a while, that rain becomes a deluge, especially when personal problems become too much for one person to handle. At some point, you might find yourself having to help and comfort someone who has a problem.
While you may have learned how to patch-up a physical wound, you might not feel capable of providing help with an emotional wound. You may feel at a loss when dealing with an employee, a friend, or even a family member who is angry, crying, or despondent.
Some people are afraid of helping others deal with personal problems. They would rather walk away, allowing their employees, friends, or family members to figure it all out for themselves. However, the act of helping someone deal with a personal problem is a mark of your success as a communicator, a problem solver, and a person.
No doubt you’ve heard the classic advice from a well-meaning friend: “Never let personal problems surface at work. " And no doubt you’ve been privy to some standard advice from a well-intentioned colleague: “When you go home at night, leave your work problems at work. "
Problems are not something you can switch off and on. A serious personal problem tends to engulf all of your time and thought no matter where you are. Personal problems do not respect time frames. So its illogical to have an argument in the morning with your spouse, and not expect to think about it at some time, more likely, several times during the workday. You just can’t pretend to be happy if you’re really miserable.
If you breakdown a typical workday, the largest chunk of time during a 24-hour period, is spent on the job, anywhere from eight to ten hours. Any problem from home will undoubtedly surface at work. Likewise, a problem at work will overflow into the time you’re trying to devote to family and friends.
Many people, especially men, feel that the idea of suppressing your emotions is a sign of strength. This train of thought is wrong. As kids, we’re taught to contain ourselves and not show certain emotions. An obvious example of this is that men shouldn’t cry; it’s not the macho thing for men to do. We get the idea that showing emotions is shameful. We need to let go, and get past these ideas, because they are destructive and counterproductive. We need to recognize that we can talk to other people about our problems.
The best managers are often those who know how to help employees with their problems. A good manager understands that people have problems that sometimes invade the workplace and take over for a while. A good manager knows how to listen and how to serve as a facilitator.
Emotional crises tend to involve more than one personal problem or distressful event. When personal problems take their toll, it’s usually because of a series of concurrent events. For example, you’ve had an argument with someone important in your life, a bad investment is coming to light, and a close relative is extremely sick and demands attention. When it rains, it pours. Things begin to unravel, and you feel overwhelmed.
Problems can manifest themselves in several ways. They can manifest in an inability to make eye contact, or the inability to concentrate, nervous gestures, or deep sighs. Other signs might be a loss of sense of humor, a quick temper, difficulty in performing routine tasks, or taking too long to perform tasks.
If an employee comes into your office in a fit of anger, or a sibling calls you in tears. What do you do? Remember, you’re not a psychiatrist; instead, you’re more like a practitioner nurse, assessing the damage to determine a course of action. You’re there to provide comfort and guidance.
If the person’s emotional reaction is severe, consider helping him or her get professional attention. If the outburst is not as severe, you might be able to help. Three of the most common emotional reactions you may encounter and be able to handle are crying, anger, and despondency.
Crying. Take the person to a private room. Offer something to drink, such as water, coffee, or a soft drink. Never hold or cradle an employee who is crying, only do this if it is family member. Give the person time to gain his or her composure. Don’t come on in a strong or overbearing manner. Instead, use a calm, sympathetic tone of voice. If the person declines to discuss the reason for the tears, don’t push. If he or she doesn’t want to explain, simply back off. But if the person does want to talk, remain understanding and sympathetic. Don’t make judgments. In the case of an employee, offer him or her a chance to go home early. Check at another time to show your concern for his or her well-being.
Anger. If an individual comes to you angry, make it clear that he or she must cool down before you take any action. Ask the person to explain, but cut of any tirades. Try to get at the facts. Once the story has been explained, the person may feel ashamed for the outburst. Assure him or her that anger, within reason, is an acceptable emotion.
Despondency. Maneuver the despondent person into a private room. Without conveying any kind of judgment, ask gently whether the person is feeling down or unhappy. State your willingness to help. If the person agrees to talk, be a good listener. If tears come, don’t’ stop them. They may provide a great relief for the person. Recognize that despondency is more serious than crying or anger, because it can signal deeply rooted depression. Look for an extended pattern of depression. If necessary, you may need to recommend some fairly serious steps, such as a leave of absence or outside counseling.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember in these situations is that you are providing comfort, listening, and trying to help solve a problem. You should let the rules of common sense and logic be your guide. Also, don’t let the event ruin your day or overrule your priorities. Recognize, that you’re only temporarily turning your attention to someone’s problem. Once the problem has been addressed, then return to your daily schedule.
Everyone deals with personal problems in different ways. Some people are vocal; some people hide; some call on their sense of humor; some get very intellectual or philosophical. Your goal should be to develop a method that works best for you.
As a starting point, you should simply acknowledge the situation. If you’re becoming overwhelmed, try to step back and develop some perspective. Recognize that personal problems are affecting your work and other aspects of your life. Then you can look for an appropriate path to get out of your dilemma.
It’s important to realize that you’re going through a rough time that will soon fade into memory. Know that you can manage it; don’t let it control, or consume you. There are ways you can go about your life even though you are thinking about your difficulties.
One of the best ways I’ve found to do this, is to simply think of the problem as a burden. Visualize your emotional issue as a weight that you carry with you like luggage. Take your burden to work with you. When you have to attend a meeting or make a telephone call, set down your bag and perform your work. After each task, pick up your burden and deal with it. This way, you can avoid letting your burden consume you and get some work done.
It’s important, that you never let your problems take on a life of their own. Sure, a crises is going to disrupt your life for a while. A crisis causes you to think and react. It is going to force you to turn your attention to it. But you must realize that you have control over it. You can decide how you are going to let this crisis or personal problem affect your life. Hopefully, you’ll come out of it a better person, having learned something from your problems.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could always walk around carrying a big umbrella for those rainy days? However, even if we could, it’s inevitable that there will be a time when a problem bigger than a dump truck will splash a lake full of water on us. It’s unrealistic to expect to stroll through life high and dry.
That’s why personal problems are such problems. You know they’re out there; you know you’re going to get hit by a few of them. Your success in overcoming your problems all depends on whether you let them take the form of a light summer shower or a downpour that rains on your parade.
Copyright©2006 by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and achieve total success. He is the founder and CEO of JLM & Associates, a consulting and training organization, specializing in personal and business development. Through his seminars and lectures, Joe Love addresses thousands of men and women each year, including the executives and staffs of many of America’s largest corporations, on the subjects of leadership, self-esteem, goals, achievement, and success psychology.
Reach Joe at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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