Personal development
8 Jun 2023

It’s really easy sometimes to think and feel we are the only ones with problems in our lives and that everyone else is doing so well. We expend so much emotional energy in constantly worrying about our own plight, so we become blind to a similar fate in others.

As a manager, I try my very best to adopt a ‘servant leadership’ style. That is to say, I treat my colleagues like they are my customers and give them excellent service. This encompasses active listening and empathy. Sometimes, this means listening to them about their situations outside work.

One such colleague, who is always smiling, responsive and collegiate opened up to me around aspects of their own life: a teenager who suffers from acute anxiety and struggles at school because he ‘doesn’t see the point’. He has suffered some incidence of bullying and this engenders further withdrawal. The battle to get him to go to school is hard fought and, at times, physical. His anxiety manifests itself sometimes in anger and other times in playing with his hair so vociferously that it’s pulled out leaving him with a thinning patch. This gives his peers even more ammunition to goad and taunt him.

My colleague’s partner offers no real support. Although they work hard and provide for the family, their emotional attachment, especially to the children is severely lacking. My colleague carries that burden alone and I can see, hear and feel how they’re affected. Indeed, I feel they come to work to forget and immerse themselves briefly in a different way of life. I felt the sheer weight of their problems just by listening and it put my own sometime difficulties into stark perspective in this little life.

I showed my colleague some compassion by trying my very best to understand the root cause of their difficulties and how tough this must be for them day to day. Loving kindness can be quite difficult to give in an hierarchical environment, where as a manager, a certain distance is to be maintained. This excepted, I thought I would share some aspects of my Bipolar II with them, as a pathway to understand their own anxieties, the triggers and the support available. It remains hard for me to talk about outside counselling but sometimes it helps to share, if only to make someone else feel at ease. I felt a risible sense of relief from my colleague when I began to share details if my own situation.

However, I could not help feeling extremely sad for my colleague and their situation. I have resolved to offer and lend what support I can, even if this is just some active listening and sign-posting. To me, it doesn’t feel enough but it’s the best I can offer. I will be undertaking regular check-ins but not so as to be intrusive. I’d just like to ensure my colleague is doing ok. This, in itself, may well be enough as sometimes the compassion of others can be extremely important and powerful in equal measure.

I’m beginning to sound like the Good Samaritan; this is not my intention at all. Merely to listen to others is sometimes all it takes to allow them to unburden themselves. I know from my own experience, how useful and emotionally comforting this can feel.

My ask of myself and of you, goodly Moodscopers, is that we all take a little time for others and try and give a little back where we can. That friendly ear, that listening and understanding may well be the difference someone needs. Be kind to yourself and also to others.

Robin Goodfellow

A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. Posts and comments on the blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice.

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