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Be the Sounding Board

female friends holding hands and supporting each otherI’ve received several notes and calls from friends and acquaintances about their New Year’s resolutions. Interestingly, what they’re struggling with the most is pushback from well-meaning friends who “know” what is best and are acting as naysayers in their journeys. As I read and listened, I reflected on how easily in the name of “helping,” I might also have blocked someone else’s path. Was I more of a hindrance than a help in spite of my very best intentions?

There’s a song from the late ’60s by Mama Cass Elliot called “Make Your Own Kind of Music” that speaks to this. In it is the line: “If you cannot take my hand, I will understand.” That is a most empowering statement! It acknowledges the right of each of us to map out our own journey and learn from that experience. Often, those of us who are trying to be helpful pay lip service to someone charting his or her course—but still try to adjust their map to fit the way we’ve found worked best for us to reach our own destination.

Being supportive is a critical part of why we join together. The caution comes in trying to control someone else’s course so that it conforms to the road we’ve chosen for ourselves. We run the risk of losing the ability to help and support when we insist that it’s “my way on the highway.”

Two other quotes by unknown authors popped into my mind as I wrote that line:

  • “All roads lead to Rome.”
  • “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

Sometimes we help best by being a sounding board on which to bounce ideas rather than being a travel advisor.

The most powerful lessons are sometimes learned the hard way through experience (often called the best teacher). The role of supporter at that time isn’t to say, “I tried to tell you,” but rather to act again as a sounding board and ask what lessons were learned to use for the new plan.

I Care, Barb

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