We all hit highs and lows in life. Some lows are minor, like when you get stuck in traffic and just want to be home after a long day. Others are much larger. When you hit lows, no matter how small, it’s generally the time you can use someone to talk to, even if it’s just to blow off some steam. It’s also true when you hit your highs. You want to share them, and sometimes seek advice for next steps.
Sometimes, you have people that are with you when things are going well but don’t seem to know your name when you need them most. Over time, I have figured out who I can turn to when things aren’t going the way I want, or for advice on anything. For some, I knew right away they’d always be there; and for others, it was a case of trial and error. I also know that people in my life have looked at me that way, and sometimes I have lived up to expectations, and sometimes I have let them down.
All this has taught me one thing; that people with strong support networks tend to manage through things better. Friends, family, and coworkers, or people at school, can provide you with feedback, help you confront hard situations, and encourage you to meet your goals.
For some, the hardest part of developing a support network is asking for help. You might be afraid that you’ll look weak if you do ask, or embarrassed to give up personal information. You might even worry that people will refuse to help, or that they’ll feel burdened by your request. But many people feel good about being able to help others. Think about how you would react if someone reached out to you for help.
Support networks are second nature for some people. I’m someone who needs to talk things through, even if it’s with only one person. Other people work hard to develop them.
If you haven’t thought about creating a support network, or are cautious about reaching out to others, there are some options for you to consider.
- Immediate and extended family members
- People who share similar interests, e.g. reading, music, sports, fitness, or cooking
- People that live around you
- If you are a parent: parents of children in your child’s day care, classes or activity groups
- Mentors: if your company doesn’t have a mentorship program, ask someone you admire or someone in a role that you are interested in
- Career advisors
- Human Resources
- Other students
- Professors or instructors
Get started building your network
If you’re not sure how to begin building your network, here are some ways you can get started.
- Social media. You never know the connections you can make. Take precautions as you would with anything or anyone else.
- Take classes in areas that interest you, for example, cooking, languages, or dance.
- Join, or start a group about something that interests you. For example, a book club, wine club or a support group for people experiencing life changes (marriage, divorce, children or illness, etc.)
- Volunteer. Get involved in community or charity work.
- Get active with a group. Join a gym, take yoga, pilates, or spinning.
There are many ways to build a support network; you can check online to see what options are available in your area.
All good relationships are a balance of giving and receiving
- Give people your attention. Find out what interests the people around you if you don’t already know. Ask them how they’re doing, ask questions about their goals, or what they like to do for fun.
- Give help when needed. Say yes when a friend asks you for help or to go somewhere with them when it’s appropriate.
- Take advice. People feel good when you ask for their opinion, and it makes them more committed to your success.
- Give praise. It doesn’t take much effort to make people feel good about themselves; say something when you notice someone’s done something well.
- Take the initiative with new friends. Make the first call. Invite a friend to join you for a concert. Ask a coworker or someone at school to join you for a seminar or course you are taking.
These are just some tips to get you started on creating and maintaining a support system to help you achieve your goals. What are some of yours?