How Do You Know That Your Friends Are Not Supportive?

I’ve been thinking about the concept of support recently; how we define support, how we measure support and how we value support. In human relationships “support” is seen as a means of holding someone up, being a consistent presence who sometimes shares the responsibility or the strain of whatever is going on life. Support can be financial and it can be emotional or it can simply be a way to help. In business, being supportive comes in very similar forms but I think social media has had an impact on how we are identifying and recognising different types of support.

Ask yourself what does support look like in your world  in a business and even professional context. With the rise of social media we have developed a habit or even desire for instantaneous gratification. This means that for some people leaving a comment, retweeting  or liking a social media post is the support that they can quantify and measure. It is a visible representation of support and symbolic of our technological inter-connectedness.  In my opinion social media has had an impact on our very way of being, our collective psyche and how we communicate that’s why some people are convinced that if people do not show support via social media that they are not being supportive. But I have come to the realisation that this type of rationale is quite detrimental to how we view our networks. Social media engagement is quite fleeting, in order to remain satisfied we have to constantly be in the midst of seeking out engagement and being visible which puts a lot of pressure on our network but also on us as business owners or professionals to monitor who is liking and sharing every single post. I remember when I started my YouTube Channel I was nervous and projected some of my nerves and fears using the logic that people were not commenting on my YouTube videos and that no one was sharing my YouTube videos and so I thought that they were not supportive. However I came to some important realisations through that experience. First of all I didn’t make my videos for my friends and actually they don’t have to be interested in my content if it’s not for them, when I figured this out I started to put things into perspective. When I brought it up with some friends (because it’s important to have honest conversations offline with people you care about before you resent them) I realised that some of them had been sharing and telling people who would be my target audience which actually had more lasting impact. But then I really started to just go back the core of what support really means to me I realised that support is more than just the physical or obvious.  And look there are plenty of people who follow me on social media but don’t like my posts but people are just busy and they have other things on their mind that are more important than liking posts but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. To be honest it also doesn’t mean I should spend time over-thinking why they haven’t liked a post and neither should you.

I want to remind you that just because people are not necessarily engaging with every single piece of content that you share or if they cannot physically attend every single event that you are part of it doesn’t mean they do not want to see you succeed, the right people are supporting you in the best ways that they can. Taking it back to business, some parts of my network are not going to be my clients so cannot support me directly or financially but they speak my name in rooms that I cannot enter/I’m not in or keep me in mind when there are opportunities  to refer me to.  I’ve had so many opportunities from people who have recommended me and I didn’t even know that they were even paying attention to what I was doing but they hear something that they know would be a good business opportunity for me and bring me in.  

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For me support can come from a spiritual place, there are a lot of people in my life who are not on social media or rarely use social media and yet they’re very supportive through words of encouragement and even through words of prayer and affirmation.  Just because they’re not physically writing it down their prayers are an even more powerful means of support that protects and encourages me. I want to reiterate the importance of talk about spiritual support because for me prayer is really important. I strongly believe that there are people in my life who are supporting me through prayer and there are people in my life who are speaking words of goodness, joy and abundance into my life. I want to ask you what that means to you and how you can use this perspective to redefine what support looks like in your life. Look at how people show their support during challenging times, when the chips are down who can you call and visit? Who will give you space to be yourself outside of the pressures and stresses of your business?

What Does Support Look Like to You?

Of course we are not living in a Utopian society, there are going to be some people who are not necessarily for you and who do not want to see you win. They’re not champions of anything you do in fact they might discourage you and be confidence killers, however they show up in your life, whether it is online or offline seek discernment. You will know who is for you and who is not for you if you pay attention but do not allow it to consume you.  You have to ask yourself why it bothers you that those who aren’t for you don’t support you – to me that is a need for validation and by constantly seeking validation we can never truly be satisfied. Sometimes you have to have an upfront conversation or sometimes you just have to keep it moving but do not let misunderstandings block you from good relationships and do not let unrealistic expectations keep you disappointed in people. So take the time to think about what support looks like to you and how you can give and receive support more authentically and openly moving forward.

Are We Too Connected? How Technology is Making People Forget the Importance of Boundaries

Technology has made us so connected; so connected and yet so often alone*. This hyper connectivity is linked to the number of ways that people can reach us so quickly; tagging our profiles on social media, telephone calls, text messages, social media direct messages (DMs), emails, video calls, voice messages, voice notes, WhatsApp messages even comments on blogs or sites not to mention that people still send letters and postcards through the post! Thank goodness that faxes are obsolete! What happens with this amount of choice of connection and variety of communication channels is that, in my opinion, people start to forget about boundaries and sometimes even manners.

Being in PR means that the very nature of my work requires me to be accessible and for some this means that I have to always be available. The impact of this is not only overwhelming but it can sometimes be stressful. In 2019 the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) published its annual State of the Profession report which found that nearly a quarter (23%) of PR professionals “say they have taken sickness absence from work on the grounds of stress, anxiety or depression”. I would hazard a guess that some of that is to do with the expectation to always be available or switched on. I think this happens across a variety of industries and it boils down to people feeling entitled to each others time and attention based on their own demands/requirements. I have had people email me, DM and leave comments on posts in the space of an hour just to get my attention or to let me know that they have sent an email. Even if I’m visibly online whether it’s updating a status or tweeting something that does not mean that unsolicited emails deserve an immediate answer. In fact the majority of professionals know how to manage their messages well, if we’re tied to our email inboxes or to our phones how can we get on with the act of doing the very work that pays our bills or activities that bring us joy.

So how do we balance things out?

It’s important to become self aware – don’t be a person that is constantly chasing someone for a response unless it is an emergency or a time sensitive enquiry and even then try to stick to just 2 forms of communication. An email and a call or text if you have a number. Also take a moment to think about whether your message or request is such an emergency that it needs to be chased so much or is it that you have not adequately planned for something and so its more of an emergency for you but not necessarily for the person that you are chasing.

Switching off is OK – on the flipside many of us are guilty of being hyper visible online (I know I can be) which is my choice and whilst my visibility is not a reason for people to assume that they are entitled to my attention or time. I make the conscious habit to switch off when I know it won’t impact the quality of my client work or just when my brain and mind needs a rest from the virtual world.

Mindfulness really does help – when you feel like you are being bombarded with messages or demands for your attention take a step back, breath and find the best coping mechanisms that will work for you. Seek professional help and advice if it is starting to become too much for you to deal with.

I hope that this post helps us all to think about how we use technology to stay connected and how we can use it to be more conscientious  communicators.

*According to the campaign to end loneliness, over 9 million people in the UK say they are always or very often lonely, but almost two thirds feel uncomfortable admitting to it (British Red Cross & Co-Op, 2016)