I have never needed a therapist to help me cope with life’s personal and professional stresses. Let me rephrase that. I refuse to pay good money to a pompous know-it-all stranger to do a job that could and should be performed by a “trusted confidant.” Note that not all good friends are trusted confidants, but all trusted confidants become good friends.
Lifelong Distant Friends
Some of my best college friends are like brothers (ok and one sister) and we will always be there for each other in times of need. However, many of our daily stresses come from smaller decisions and conflicts built up over time. I can’t pick up the phone and call my college friends across the country to discuss the pros and cons of hiring a specific new employee. It would take too long to bring us both up to speed on the minutiae of our daily lives. Also, I am a big believer in face-to-face communication.
I have methodically developed and nurtured Trusted Confidants. Throughout normal personal and professional interactions, I identify who might be a potential trusted confidant. Developing trusted confidants is very time-consuming process, so I am particular that the person needs to be smart, funny, and successful. Equally important is that they have to show genuine interest in me.
Mutually Beneficial Relationship
Having a trusted confidant is a two way street. It takes time to develop trust in each other so that information and advice can be shared with 100% confidentiality. Everyone is different in the level of information they are comfortable sharing. Usually I have to break down barriers by sharing information about myself first. It may be something very embarrassing or so positive that it sounds like bragging. Once the other person realizes that I have made myself vulnerable by sharing, they often open up and the conversation shifts from small talk to real talk. The goal is to build a mutually beneficial and supportive relationship.
Schedule Time to Develop and Nurture
Once you have established the relationship, you need to make time to maintain and develop the relationship. It is best to schedule time for coffee, lunch or after work and put it on your calendars. I find the best schedule is weekly or every other week. You need to quickly catch up on important (and even trivial) events since the last meeting. Then and only then can you both begin to share what is really on your minds. Brain dump with each other, identify whose problem is most pressing or important, ask questions, offer other points of view, show support when support is needed and challenge faulty logic when appropriate.
The results of these relationships can be tremendous. There is a certain peace of mind by sharing your most lofty dreams and deepest fears with someone who has taken the time to get to know you and visa versa. I also get great satisfaction when someone thanks me for helping them think through and navigate their issues or opportunities.
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