October 27, 2020 by John Cunningham
There are so many important things going on in our lives that we really need someone to talk to and share ideas in order to understand their purpose. Whether those things are good or bad, it helps to talk about them with someone who will give you their undivided attention, even if it’s only for a few minutes. These dreams and difficulties we hold inside for fear that no one else could possibly understand us need to be shown the light of day. When you talk about your joys and concerns you make them tangible, and getting them out in the open you will give you a fresh perspective on them, allowing you to inspect and evaluate these issues in clear and vivid detail.
It may seem frightening to let those deep secrets out of the closet. But there is no better way to face the issues that plague you and find viable solutions than to talk about them. Explain what you want your friend to do. For example, if you want them to listen, you might say, “I’m so frustrated that I need to tell you what happened this morning.” Or if you need some advice, you might start the conversation with, “I am having a problem communicating with my daughter and need your advice.” Start the conversation with your expectations for the conversation.
Find someone you can share your deepest thoughts with. This may require you to hear what is burning inside them too. Welcome the opportunity to build a bond and improve your communication skills. In discussing their issues, you may gain deeper insight into your own as well. Understand that if they are a good listening partner but don’t want to share their secrets, you should also find someone else to help and pay their support forward. This allows their kindness to create a ripple.
The best feedback is actionable. It tells you something you can do right now to move forward. Often actionable feedback is direct and harsh. You may wince because it is something you don’t want to hear or have been avoiding, but take your medicine all at one time. You asked for the advice and you trust the person you are talking with. Keep in mind that it is through compassion and good intentions that they are providing you advice.. Don’t take them, or their time, for granted.
You should also ask questions to understand the motivation and perspective they used to devise the solution. You may not agree, but at least listen graciously and consider what they said. Before dismissing the ideas, consider how you would apply the advice. If you are not sold on their suggestions, create an alternative option that moves you forward. It is vital that you consider some solution to work with from these types of conversations, otherwise it’s just a pity party. Those don’t serve anyone’s interest.
Friends can be a great resource for talking through personal growth and persisting dilemmas. Real friends care about you and your progress. You have a shared history that may provide a basis for deep understanding of your situation. Friends may be inclined to present ideas in a manner similar to the way you do because of the commonalities. For these reasons, they are a good resource for talking through your issues.
However, friends may not always listen deeply or they may be dealing with their own overwhelming problems. They may still perceive of you as the kid from their childhood, or their drinking buddy whom they shared their woes with on Friday nights a few years ago. They may not see the version of you that exists today. That can be frustrating when trying to clear your current hurdle or get a fresh perspective on next steps to achieving success.
Psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors are all trained in the understanding of the human mind and how we handle crises, These people can help you cope with issues now based on conquering roadblocks in your past. They may show you new techniques for overcoming recurring problems and guide you to overcoming challenges one step at a time.
Professional-minded coaches and mentors differ from counselors and mental health experts. Coaches and mentors are concerned with your future progress, not your past. As a professional coach and mentor, for example, my concern is where you are going, not where you have been. To me, you’re the total sum of all your previous experiences, and you will carry that baggage with you wherever you go. This outlook is very different from what you will get when speaking with mental health professionals who often apply familiar labels for your situation in order to identify your predicament or friends who may see things through their personal point of view.
Coaches and mentors are more mindful of your development. They will work with you on where you are going and don’t pay attention as much to where you’ve been as mental health professionals do. Since their relationship with you is professional rather than personal, they are motivated to see you succeed. Unlike talking to friends, coaches sole objective is your progress with no hidden agendas.
Mentors have often been through similar situations as your own. They acquired wisdom through hindsight. This knowledge can help you avoid pitfalls and speed up your development, because you can learn from their mistakes. Working with a mentor can help you lay the foundation for success or be an ongoing relationship that sees you through valleys and over the peaks too.
A coach, on the other hand, will help you improve a specific ability. You may seek a coach for public speaking and presentations, to manage conflict, or improve your relationships. Their advice will be more specific and directed at solving the crisis of the moment. That is not to say they will not help you through other situations down the road. Some coaches will, while others are more specialized in particular issues.
Counseling and self-help groups are focused on bringing people together who are experiencing similar issues. They are also good places to discuss your concerns with like-minded people. Because they have walked a similar path, they will be more empathetic to you and the resources at your disposal to manage this phase of life.
These groups are often anonymous, so you can share your deepest thoughts without concern for who may find out about what you said later. Some groups like AA are beneficial for keeping on a path and handling struggles that last a lifetime. While others, like masterminds, will help you to climb to the next peak. If working with a group sounds appealing to you, try it out and see if it is a good fit. If it’s not, try another one. Good groups are about chemistry and they will all be a little different, even if the programs are the same.
Virtual mentors are people who you learn from via books, websites, podcasts, etc. Some people like reading biographies and find insight from the lives of others. Listening to talks and reading books from motivational speakers like Napoleon Hill, Zig Ziglar or Dr. Wayne Dyer may also help you tap their experiences to find answers on your journey.
Virtual mentors have made available hundreds if not thousands of hours of content you can use to develop yourself and find solutions to the dilemmas you face. While not communicating directly with these thought leaders, you are gaining a wider base of understating to apply in moving towards where you want to go. Digital mentors help you know that you are not alone and that others have walked a similar path to your own.
If you choose to utilize this do it yourself approach, you may want to write about your dilemmas and what you’re learning through their insights to give voice and consideration to how they would respond in your situation. Many good solutions start with the words, “What would Ben Franklin do?”
You need not carry life’s burden alone. There are people you can talk to that will provide you a fresh perspective on those predicaments you are facing. Consider what kind of help you need, an ear, advice or a model. Then seek out a friend, mental health professional, group or even a virtual mentor. The clarity you find will have you wondering why you didn’t do this before.