Monday, January 12, 2015

Lean In and Show You Care - for caregivers especially

Sheryl Sandberg, of Facebook fame, wrote a recent best-selling book called Lean In. An important message in this book is her recommendation that people lean in to the challenges that face them, rather than avoiding and running away from them. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated that this approach has worked for her, in spades.

This idea of leaning in can be especially useful for spouses and family members as they try to understand the nature of long-term pain. When someone in pain his trying to explain how they feel, it is important to pay attention, to lean in toward them, and to try to learn and understand what they are trying to say. It is not easy, for the person trying to explain how they feel, nor for the people trying to listen and understand. It is necessary, however, to lean in. Even if you do not understand all of the details, leaning in will show that you are at least trying, that you care.

Sometimes, the best way to lean in is to just stay silent, listen and pay attention. Caregivers often feel that this is inadequate and does not accomplish very much. It is also very hard to sit there feeling helpless. You want to jump up and do something. Rather than jumping up and leaving the scene, a better option is to calmly and compassionately ask if there's anything that you can do to help.

In my 25 years of working every day with people in pain, I have found that listening, learning and leaning in can be a very powerful healing tool. It is more practical and useful than you think.

Go ahead. If it a try. Lean in and watch the magic happen.

Yours with care - Michael.

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