Therapy. Our members would never call it that but sometimes associations provide therapy. Therapy is a very good thing. Members crave talking to others like them, those who are going through the same things they are going through, others like them who really understand them.
Members use words like: validating, affirming, acceptance and supporting when they talk of this experience. They say things like, “it has really helped me to know that I’m not the only one in a leaky row boat” and “I can’t tell you how relieved I was to realize that I’m not the only one dealing with a little bit of crazy.” They say they it was a bitch session, or that they got to complain a bit and you know what? They actually feel better for it.
One part of networking is problem solving the other part is therapy or emotional support. This post is about emotional support.
Nearly every job comes with some kind of trauma.
It is easy to imagine that some jobs have intensely traumatic situations: a first responder giving CPR to a child, or a fire fighter crawling along in the smokey darkness trying to find the source of the fire, or the life of a soldier or a emergency room doctor. None of us are exempt however. Traumatic things happen in less extreme jobs: students crying in yoga class, design engineers calculating the maximum acceptable fatality accident rate for a new plant process, or CEO’s wondering if their business is going to take off or tank.
No one understands what the job and these associated experiences are like except for colleagues like them. Friends don’t understand, family doesn’t understand and spouses really don’t understand. Beyond understanding, it may not be safe to share experiences. Member’s often can’t talk to peers in their office, if they even have them.
The only place to share experiences and the associated feelings and to receive emotional support is with others like them.
Those associations that are providing this safe space to share emotional experiences are attuned to these needs:
- Making time for members to talk, the agenda isn’t just packed with speakers on the stage
- But it’s not a free for all, these associations provide some structure so like-people can find each other with ask the expert, small roundtable or other small group interactive formats
- Setting the expectation of confidentiality and set the stage for non-judgmental listening
- Getting the ball rolling, it’s hard to be the first person to say, hey, I have this painful problem. We can pave the way by starting the conversation or identifying a member or speaker who would be willing to start the conversation.
Think of how much more helpful associations could be to members if we didn’t just help them with step-by-step how-to’s but also with the emotional support that goes along with trying new things, getting knocked down and doing hard work.