My daughter recently became very upset about her job. I found her stamping around the house in a terrible mood, making justifiable complaints. She plopped herself down on the couch saying, “I’m just going to call them up and quit. I’ve had enough.”
My initial impulse was to argue with her. The job gives her the flexibility she needs to take prerequisite courses for applying to nursing school. The things that were bothering her didn’t seem that overwhelming to me, and I knew she didn’t have the time to look for another job.
But instead of arguing, I just sat down beside her and put my arms around her. If I said anything at all, it was something low and vague and sympathetic.
Pretty soon, she was up and moving around again, only this time she was working out the details about how to deal with the day’s challenges.
What did I learn?
I already knew that arguing with myself when I’m upset doesn’t help. The first step toward a resilient response is for me to calm myself down.
The experience with my daughter helped me extend that learning to the way I operate with other people. The first step to help someone else be resilient is to help them calm down. When I saw my daughter unhappy, I felt an urge to do something, but I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut. Only afterwards did it occur to me that the maternal instinct that led to gentle touch was just the right way to help her calm down.
We recently published a little book of edited articles from Positive Psychology News Daily called Resilience: How to Navigate Life’s Curves. Most of the chapters are about ways to become more resilient yourself. My chapter explains why it is important to calm down first before trying to argue with yourself.
Perhaps we’ll publish a second edition some day with new articles about how to help others be resilient. I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Image: Maternal instinct courtesy of Tambako the Jaguar