Close Quarters

This week I attended a refresher training course on mentoring.  I believe in keeping my skills and knowledge fresh and up to date, so do this as often as I can.

During the session we were asked to work in pairs and to use some of the techniques we had been looking at.  My partner and I decided to work on a real life issue. Role-play can be so faults sometimes, but there is a place for that when nothing real is available – I digress.

Anyway, one of the issues that came up as my partner and I worked together was the difficulty we all sometimes experience in helping and supporting family members, particularly when they are adults.

When we work with relatives this can compound this particular issue even further. 

Those closest to us can sometimes be the most difficult to work with because they are (and we hold them) so close to us our hearts; our emotions are more involved and acutely heightened.  Our expectations and judgements are much higher and we tend to give more credence to whatever is said and done by each other – taking it all, sometimes too seriously.

At times, this can be quite unfair if you look at it objectively, because our closest relatives are in reality just human, like everyone else.

The colleague I was working with shared that he had wanted to and had been trying for years to support a close relative in business.  My colleague was himself  as  much more experienced in business and could see just what his relative needed to do.  However his attempts to support this individual were not being received or accepted. Needless to say, this was leading him to feeling more and more frustrated.

Our discussion took the form of firstly looking at his approach, his expectations, motivations and methods.  I then asked him to compare his approach to this individual to the one he might take with a client, a complete stranger.

I also asked him to reflect on his true motivation – the question being ‘Was his attempts to help truly about his relative or himself?’  I know this might seem a little hard, but when things appear difficult sometimes, it helps to go right back to basics within ourselves and recheck our motives.

Another approach is to try to view the situation i.e. his attempts to ‘help’ from the other person’s point of view.  How might his close relative be viewing his approaches?  Might he be as convinced of my colleagues motives or might he be being thinking differently? How might he perceive things?

When dealing with our closest relatives it can be difficult to disengage our emotions, personal motives and ‘parental’ intentions when dealing with our adult relatives.  But doing just that is important so that we can become more objective and find different and more effective strategies of approach to be effective.  When dealing with clients or strangers, well anyone we do not have a strong emotional bond with, we tend to engage a variety of  methods and approaches when dealing with difficult or what we may view as resistant people.

This is quite important to understand and necessary if we are going to be in anyway effective.  And as in this case, if we are going to use our years of acquired knowledge and experience for the benefit of our relatives; and if our relationships with those we love and hold dear, is to remain healthy and positive as we all mature.

As a parent managing the career of a young aspiring author, I also have to put these things into practice regularly. 

I really enjoyed this session and working with my colleague.  It reminded me that we all need to learn and put into practice what we learn as professional into our own lives.  Using the same levels of flexibility and objectivity we are prone to use when dealing with strangers, clients and staff at work, with those who are closer to us – they deserve it and so do we.

We all need to be honest with ourselves about our motives i.e. is this more about me than them or more for my benefit and pride that their success.

If we not objective and flexible or if we do not take the time to learn different strategies for dealing  resistance, we may well find ourselves stuck in our relationship and frustrated in our desire to help our loved ones.


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