Year of Resilience Tip 5: Build a Network of Resilience
Building resilience and defending against stress isn’t an individual skill. Simple conversation strategies like listening, collaboration, giving feedback, and coaching can help you build trust and safety with those you surround yourself with. The tip this week is to develop strong relationships that build resilience.
In ancient times, survival was paramount. Clans and families developed networks to provide resistance against a wide range of threats. Eventually, these networks developed into physical structures such as walls around communities that allowed the members inside to thrive under protection. In today’s world, threats are not as easily seen and rarely have a direct impact on our immediate survival. In fact, many times we struggle to even recognize the stressors that are putting pressure on our ability to thrive in work and life.
Think of your network like the bricks in your fortress against damaging stress. With healthy relationships, you borrow resilience from others and greatly expand your ability to withstand the stress of everyday work and life.
Stories of Network Resilience
There’s an interesting story from the world of medical research that illustrates the power of networks against the stressors of life. In the early ’60s, medical researchers in an attempt to fend off cardiovascular disease began studying communities that exhibited positive health outcomes in order to extrapolate that data for principles society at large could apply. They found one community in an old steel town in Pennsylvania that baffled them. The vast majority of people did everything wrong about diet and lifestyle. They ate terrible diets comprised of fatty and fried foods, smoked, and didn’t participate in the recommended exercise. Yet, they outperformed most communities in their area in measure of health and happiness.
When researchers dug into the factors in their community, the only element they could point to that contributed to health and happiness and warded off all the dangers of modern life was community. This had originally been an immigrant community, but unlike other areas of the country, they were committed to the well-being of each other through traditions and strong personal networks. The deep networks and community strength almost created a magical barrier of resilience around them.
You probably have similar stories you’ve experienced in your own career. I can remember one particular incident early in my career that proves the power of resilient networks. I worked in sales in a very competitive industry. My products had benefits but there were a lot of negatives, and clients weren’t shy about pointing those out. Some days, I came home feeling like I had gone 10 rounds with a championship boxer.
Yet, I thrived and continually hit my performance goals. The key to my survival was 3 other co-workers that shared the larger territory with me. We talked daily, supported each other, traveled with each other, and even partied with each other (we were all 20-somethings). That network kept all the negatives from destroying our mental health and performance.
How Your Network Impacts Your Resilience
Why do networks work in building resilience?
- They can help us share the workload and pressures of performance
- They broaden our vision by helping us to make sense of circumstances
- They embolden our confidence to push back and self-advocate
- They give us insight when we are stuck and help us see a path forward
- They provide support so we can release negative emotions
- They offer comic relief and help us to laugh at ourselves and the situation
- They remind us of the purpose or meaning of our work
- They give us perspective when setbacks and obstacles enter our path
You can add many more benefits to this list. Unfortunately, this is something we often forget and try to take on the world as isolated individuals. Reminding ourselves of those that have helped us along the way gives us the courage and impetus to continue building those relationships.
Remember it is not a sign of weakness to seek support and help from others. They can become the defenders that help you develop deeper strength and build new skills.
Tips for Developing a Resilient Network
Networks don’t appear overnight and require a bit of work on our part, but the effort is worth it. Building resilience through a strong network of relationships involves several key steps:
1. Create Trusted Circles – Identify the people in your life who you trust and feel comfortable confiding in. This may include friends, colleagues, managers, and mentors.
2. Deepen Positive Connections – Make an effort to spend time with these people and build deeper connections with them. This can include activities such as going out for coffee, exercising together, or simply sharing stories and talking about your experiences.
3. Develop Communication Skills – Communicate openly and honestly with your network. Share your thoughts, feelings, and concerns with them and actively listen when they share their own.
4. Find a Lifeline – Seek out support when you need it. Identify those top resilience needs where you need help. Find others will those skill sets and begin to learn from them. Whether you’re going through a difficult time or simply need someone to talk to, reach out to your network for help.
5. Practice Gratitude – Show appreciation for your network and let them know how much they mean to you.
6. Celebrate Diversity – Lastly, work on building a diverse network of people who have different strengths and perspectives, this can help you to cope better in different situations
Remember, building resilience is a process and it takes time and practice, but by building a strong network of relationships, you can create a support system to help you navigate the challenges of life.
Simple communication strategies such as active listening, collaboration, giving and receiving feedback, and coaching can help to establish trust and foster a sense of safety with others. Having a supportive network of people can also help to increase resilience and mitigate the effects of stress. It is important to remember that building relationships takes time and effort, but the benefits are well worth it.