Monday 22 May 2023

Thought Picnic: Making allowances in support of others

Making every allowance

There is an aspect of character development that I strive to improve that is a work in progress, one where I am ready to make allowances with understanding and latitude rather than immediately assume, prejudge, and condemn.

I guess where I began that journey was when I realised that no matter what experiences I have had and how similar those experiences might be to another person, even if I could understand what they were going through, I could not equate my situation with theirs to the point that I felt my empathy fully embodies their circumstances. I must make allowances for variance and impact, or I risk dismissing their narrative in the context of mine.

Understand then appreciate

Part of that learning has included resisting the attempt to insert my story into their narrative even if I mean well by trying to assure them that they are not alone in their suffering. The art of listening attentively and registering with concern and humanity the experience of another is an exercise in both discipline and self-control we can all cultivate.

For instance, through personal experience, I know what pain is, the pain of cancer especially and the four different kinds of pain medication I took to alleviate the pain. When my pain medication patch fell off my skin, I laughed myself into almost delirium to generate endorphins as pain alleviated whilst the new patch took hold. Yet, pain affects people differently I try not to assume and assert I feel another’s pain just because I know pain, I understand what they are going through, but their experience can be so radically different from mine.

Blog - Laughter follows my hospital visit

Blog - Thought Picnic: My laughter and my pain

Blog - Let's treat the cancer and laugh

Even where I do not understand what is being shared, I endeavour to learn rather than react and negate, it is better I work with my ignorance to acquire knowledge than project the pretence of being fully educated even if that might leave me looking stupid.

Be kind in questioning

That is not to say one does not have doubts or one is yet to be convinced, much as engagement is inadvertently the art of persuasion which might or might not be successful, the line of inquiry should engender a quest for understanding rather than an immediate and brutal antagonism especially where one has a sense of disagreement. I have to appreciate that to whatever extent in depth or superficially and only if I have clear discernment, whoever has engaged me has fully thought through what they intend.

The questions are phrased in ways to help clear the blind spots to provide additional insight I learnt from my professional life where implementations are assessed now on the premise of why they have done something in a particular way, but on whether they might have seen the significance of another perspective. Be careful not to repudiate and put people you would be working with on the defensive.

Exert yourself in support

It brings to mind a question I have dwelt on in terms of certain opinions, ideas, or plans that have been presented to me, how can I best support this person in their quest for whatever they have purposed to do? If at the time, I have nothing supportive to add, I should apply restraint, the least I can do is listen and be neutral, and I could go better with some encouragement, beyond which there are opportunities and a fuller engagement to help them achieve their goals.

Much of this includes having a lot of patience, and a readiness to allow people to move at their own pace while they sort out issues knowing that your support, understanding, and love are present whenever they choose to update you. In some way, I also realise that I cannot expect that from others, this is my personal character development programme, others are also doing whatever they can to relate better to others.

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