Prosilience #23: Collaborative Resilience
You don't have to do it alone—the why and how of resiliencing with others
As we resilience our way through life’s challenges, it’s easy to feel like we’re alone.1 Self-sufficiency is often seen as a virtue, and when we are under stress it may be harder than usual to ask for support. Yet it’s clear that our ability to anticipate, endure, master, and recover from difficulty—and our willingness to stretch into new opportunities for growth—benefit from the encouragement and assistance of others. We also have a great deal to offer others who are working through their own set of challenges. Here are a few thoughts on why and how to build collaborative resilience.
Building Blocks of Collaborative Resilience
Self-regulation is the process of managing our own thoughts and feelings to enable us to operate more effectively in stressful situations. Engaging with others can help us learn and apply self-regulation skills more effectively. Here are some of the ways this can happen.
Teaching and modeling—one of the ways we learn to self-regulate is by being in the presence of other individuals who show us how. They can show us strategies for calming, reinforce our effective use of self-regulation skills, and serve as a calm presence in stormy situations.
Supportive environments—when those around us show respect and caring, recognize the signs that we are stressed, and respond with appropriate and helpful words and actions, we feel safer and more secure.
Presence in the moment—even when we have strong self-regulation skills, there are moments when we feel less able to cope with the world. Simply having a calm person near us can affect our physiological reactions and enable us to move more quickly into a state of self-control.
Collaborative resilience means that sometimes you are on the giving end and sometimes on the receiving end of co-regulation support. See if you can identify one or two people who provide a calm presence for you at stressful times. Can you think of times when you were able to do this for another individual in distress? How might you work on intentionally building your own self-regulation capabilities so you can play this role most effectively?
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, here’s an interesting article that defines co-regulation and outlines strategies for helping children and young adults build self-regulation capability.
Human energy is the currency of resilience. We use physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy to work through both the challenges we encounter and those we choose. The good news is that we can increase and replenish our personal energy supplies. The even better news is that we can draw on others to supplement our own energy, and serve as an extra “battery” for others.
Physical energy—we use physical energy for challenges that require us to move our bodies, get things done, and exert effort. Whether it involves moving furniture, fixing a broken vehicle, watching the kids while you take a nap, or some other form of practical support, there are many ways you can draw on others to supplement your own physical energy.
Mental energy—we use mental energy to solve problems, plan, and think things through. Whether it involves helping research treatments for a medical issue, brainstorm ideas for increasing sales, proofread a resume, or some other form of thinking-related support, there are many ways you can draw on others to supplement your own mental energy.
Emotional energy—we use emotional energy to work through fear, sadness, uncertainty, anger, and other difficult feelings in ourselves and others. Whether it involves offering a hug or a listening ear, providing encouragement, consolation, a space to vent frustrations, or some other form of emotional support, there are many ways you can draw on others to supplement your own emotional energy.
Spiritual energy—we use spiritual energy to help us stay connected to a sense of meaning, purpose, and belonging. Whether it involves talking through an ethical dilemma, creating a shared sense of community, considering questions of life direction, or some other form of spiritual support, there are many ways you can draw on others to supplement your own spiritual energy.
Collaborative resilience means that energy flows back and forth between people. Sometimes you are drawing on energy from those around you, and sometimes you are a source of supplemental energy for others. What types of energy might be most helpful to receive as you work through your current challenges? Where can you see potential opportunities to contribute energy to others?
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, here are two books that offer strategies for building and managing energy: Prosilience: Building Your Resilience for a Turbulent World and The Power of Full Engagement.
Our “resilience muscles” are a set of mindsets and skills we apply to use our energy most effectively when dealing with a wide range of challenges: Positivity, Confidence, Priorities, Creativity, Connection, Structure, and Experimenting.2 Each of us has a unique set of capabilities we can draw on and strengthen through practice. Here are some ways we can use these muscles as we collaborate.
Complementary strengths—the most obvious way we can work together on challenges is to recognize and combine our strengths. I might be good at spotting the possibilities in a situation, while someone else might be great at putting structures and plans in place. Being able to identify and leverage these complementarities allows us to team up more effectively.
Diverse perspectives—while each of the muscles represents a strength, there is also value to be gained from understanding the perspectives of people who find it more difficult to engage that muscle. For example, the Experimenting muscle energizes people to move out of their comfort zone, which can include taking some risks. Building on this momentum while incorporating the views of someone who prefers to avoid risk can help us guard against potential dangers while continuing to move forward. Recognizing how differences such as these can be useful is another step toward effective “co-resiliencing.”
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Shared development—just as we work with coaches and training partners to develop our physical muscles, we can identify shared activities to build our resilience muscles. For example, we may take time as a team or a family to identify and clarify our individual and shared Priorities and apply them as we move into a challenge. We might build shared habits, such as the gratitude practice that my husband and I have established for our dinnertime, that give us a chance to exercise one of our muscles (in this case, Positivity).
Collaborative resilience means that we can join forces to apply and strengthen our resilience capabilities. Think about your own strengths and how they have helped you work through life’s challenges. How have you teamed up with others to work your way through challenges together?
Moving Toward Collaborative Resilience
Here are some things that can help you move into more collaborative resilience practices.
Connecting—the starting point for collaborative resilience is finding others who are open to both giving and receiving support. It’s easy to fall into either the “giver” or “receiver” role, but the best resilience partnerships move back and forth. In looking for collaborators, you may already have organizations, communities, families, and friendships to build on; you can also establish new relationships. Connection is a muscle you can strengthen through practice, and there are people (therapists, coaches, colleagues, etc.) who can provide guidance and support in how to build human connections.3
Common language—our physical muscles have names: biceps, latissimus dorsi, piriformis, etc. These allow us to coordinate our efforts to apply and strengthen them. This is true for resilience muscles as well. When we have a vocabulary that lets us describe what we are seeing and doing as we work through challenges, we can work together more effectively and efficiently. You and your collaborators can learn together about the ingredients of resilience and build a shared language to discuss what you are experiencing and doing.
Planned development—when you have identified potential resilience collaborators and started to build a shared understanding of the process of resilience and how you can work together, you can also invest time and energy in proactively building your capabilities. That’s the idea behind Prosilience. This involves intentionally exercising your resilience muscles, learning new skills, and using everyday challenges as a place to practice and learn.
Can you identify people in your life who are already resilience collaborators, even if you’ve never discussed this with them? What opportunities do you see for further collaboration and shared learning? Are you more comfortable giving or receiving support? How might you stretch yourself toward both ends of the spectrum? Is there a first step you might take to build a common language around challenges, energy, and resilience with one or more collaborators? What possibilities do you see for pursuing shared development?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this issue of the Prosilience newsletter! See you in a couple of weeks for the next installment.
I’ll be writing about each of these in future articles and will link back to this post as each one is completed. You can find an overview in this post, and a lot more information in Prosilience: Building Your Resilience for a Turbulent World.