While conducting a de-brief the other day with some staff having difficulties after some incidents at work, something was highlighted to me.
Some actions are seen as being supportive but in reality they are not. Often we are uncomfortable with discomfort and do anything to ‘make it better’ when in actual fact it is healthy to sit with emotion and actually work through it rather than cover it up by talking over the person, justifying actions or moving on from the deep conversation.
One thing that really gets me revved up is the fuss and bother when someone is crying. Firstly there is the apologies from the cryee like they have done something wrong – when they are having a response to something that is close to them and the ‘sorry’ insinuates that there is a problem with their response to the situation, when the purpose of a debrief space (and other meetings) is to work through what ever is happening.
Depending upon the context it might be a tad embarrassing to let the flood gates open but it is the response of the other people in the room that I want to question. There are lots of different scenarios but generally it involves well meaning people fluff around getting the tissues and trying to comfort the person. I am not against people caring but something I want you to consider is that impact that your actions have for the person who is crying. When it is trying to be supportive, it sends a pretty strong message to stop crying. This action actually becomes about the comforters needing to help in the situation rather than the person who is actually crying – it is their need to fix it and that can get in the way of the emotion. the same goes for hugging, touching, comforting or saying you know how they feel (that’s another topic in itself).
The situation of searching for tissues during the week actually halted the conversation as there was a big wave of distraction and loss of focus about what was being expressed. It is such a shame as the person was really connected to what was happening for them and wasn’t able to go there again. When there is emotion we need to sit with it so that we can understand it and work through it. Please consider staying in the stillness, the silence and truly listen to what is happening – if you go to touch, hug, comfort or fuss around about tissues it becomes about that rather than being totally present for the person who is expressing or the importance of the discussion at hand.