Resilience is the ability to cope well with difficulties and to bounce back from setbacks.
While some people are naturally more resilient than others, resiliency can also be intentionally developed.
Not All About Content
Many of my tips have an emphasis on widening or shifting perceptions of an issue, putting the issue in a framework that is more easily amenable to problem-solving. Having a problem-solving focus is a characteristic of high-level resilience. By understanding the issue better, by being more flexible in how we perceive and relate to the information involved in the issue, we can more effectively problem-solve the issue.
One place where people continue to feel stuck, despite becoming skilled in the above, is when the content is not the issue. This is where empathy, another characteristic of high-level resilience, becomes particularly significant. Empathy is the ability to identify with, experience, understand, or be sensitive to, another person’s feelings, thoughts, attitudes, or experience. It is being able to see the world through the eyes of another. To be empathic we do not necessarily have (or have a history of having) the same feelings, thoughts, attitudes, or experience. It is also being empathic if we understand and accept the possibility that another person’s sense of the world around them is different from our sense of this same world.
The distinction between problem-solving content and empathizing with experience is particularly significant in difficult interactions with others, especially among family and friends. Some relationship issues are around the content of what is being said. Several frustrating and ineffective rounds of attempted communication may occur before the matter is sufficiently communicated so the issue can be problem-solved. For example, “Oh, you mean you need 10 minutes of quiet when you get home, and then you can be even more available to the family?”
And, sometimes it is not about the content. Sometimes the communication that is missing is about empathy. It is about one person wanting another person to get the way that they are perceiving, feeling, or experiencing. And that is the main, and sometimes only, goal at that particular moment. It is not in order to problem-solve, it is not in order to convince. It is in order to know that they have been truly understood by the other person, and that the other person is able to accept them and their experience. It is to be validated as a human being in that their experience has been heard and given a place in the world, regardless if the other person agrees with or has the same experience. For example, “Oh, you feel the family is demanding too much of you, and not recognizing what you need.”
An important gender difference should be noted here. Men tend (as in tendency, not an absolute, not a value judgment) to be more information and results-oriented. They tend to feel good when they can understand and fix things. Women tend (same qualifier) to like to share feelings, to be listened to. They tend to feel good when they can support and be supported, when they can make emotional connections with others. Given this situation, or gender opposite but equally dissimilar tendencies, one person is seeking to find a solution while the other is seeking to share an experience. This has the potential for incredible frustration, unless and until the distinction between content and experience is understood.
So consider the distinction between problem-solving content and empathizing with experience, in order to more resiliently address difficult interactions with others.
Carolyn S. Tal, PhD
Psychologist and Consultant - working with individuals, couples, and business partners 052-825-8585, firstname.lastname@example.org (Please contact me if you would like to have these tips sent directly to your e-mail.)
Psychologist and Consultant - working with individuals, couples, and business partners
(Please contact me if you would like to have these tips sent directly to your e-mail.)