“What does it mean to build a support system? Well, most people use it to refer to the people you have around you who can encourage, understand, nurture and care about you; people who will be around to share in your good times, your accomplishments, your crisis times and your depressions.
Who should you have in your support system? That is an easily answered question but sometimes it can be difficult to find people to qualify. Support people should be able to encourage, understand, nurture, care for and love you.
Here are some characteristics of a strong support person:
1) The ablility to listen for the duration of your need to ventilate or communicate something without changing the focus onto themselves.
2) The ability to then share regarding the given topic from their own personal history and/or perspective.
3) The ability to voice at the start if they are unable or unwilling, for whatever reason, to give you the time that you need.
4) The ability to inform you if the content of the converstation is harming them. This shows you that they are taking care of themselves and frees you from that responsibility.
5) The ability to share what is bothering them AFTER you have finished. Not changing the focus of the conversation from you (if you initiated contact) until it was completed.
6) The ability to comprehend what you are saying. Even if they don’t fully comprehend, are they at least trying to understand what you are saying or feeling?
7) The ability to repeat to you what you are saying to help you clarify your comprehension and communication abilities.
8) The ability to respect your right to refuse their venting on you if you are unable to cope with it.
9) The ability to respect your privacy in regards to your property, body and mind.
10) The ability to not violate your space, body or mind. This incorporates not touching unless gaining your permission, not telling you what you should do or how you should feel, or that what you are saying, doing or feeling is wrong in any way. It also incorporates not trying to make you adopt their point of view.
11) The ability to encourage you to choose of your own free will what to do and to help you explore and discover the various choices available to you, even the negative ones. Not trying to fix things for you or run your life for you.
12) The ability to accept and encourage your participation in activities without them and with other people.
13) The ability to accept not being told everything and not being your only support person.
Having and creating a strong support system is so important. We cannot stress enough the drama reducing, perspective giving, nerve calming, sense making, life saving benefits of having a strong support system. No matter where you find yourself on your life’s path right now—take a minute to evaluate who’s in your circle of support.
Don’t have a true support system? No worries. That just means you have a little more work to do. Humans are social animals. Our brains are built for social interaction. Look for opportunities to stay engaged in the lives of others, and to include others in your life. Consider joining or increasing your involvement in recreational, leisure or faith-based groups formed around activities you enjoy. Volunteering or taking a class are other ways to get out there and interact, planting the seeds for supportive relationships to grow.
You may also want to explore networking opportunities on the internet. There are hundreds of social networking sites that cater to virtually every need, interest and age group. While socializing via computer is one option to consider, this type of communication should be balanced with face-to-face connections.