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COMMITMENT| 08.02.2022

We can all be pillars of trust for other people

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We rely on other people for support, but each of us plays a fundamental role in the lives of our loved ones. Although we may not realize it, we usually give more help than we receive.

When the subject of trust comes up, we often focus on the steps a person should take to build trust in themselves. Having the tools to face any experience is important, but so is being surrounded by people who can support your personal development. 

When you consider the people who have had the biggest influence on your life, in other words, the ones who have helped you to grow as a person, enabling you to overcome any challenge, important friends, family members and mentors probably come to mind. 

These people have served as pillars in your life, gaining your trust and helping you to move forward. But what happens when we look at it from the other side? Do you ever wonder how you can become a pillar of trust in the lives of others? If you’re a parent, you have probably thought about how you can be a role model for your children or help them to mature and fend for themselves. But we can’t forget that we are social creatures, and that in our relationships, we might be playing a far more important role for others than we assume.

The importance of emotional support

There is no doubt that emotional support is necessary. “It’s a need that exists since birth: in early childhood, we rely on our carers to support our emotional well-being, and only later do we turn to other people, such as our partner and friends, to seek this support. If this need isn’t met in childhood, adults have a harder time recognizing and managing other people’s emotions and therefore giving and receiving emotional support,” explains psychologist Gianluca Francia on the website Psicología Online.

So, we not only require support, but we also have to give it to others – probably a lot more frequently than we receive it, especially after leaving childhood behind and adopting an adult world view.

Indeed, the sheer fact of being important to others can help us to develop as people, because we are part of a social context, whether as friends, parents, children, guardians or any other figure whose mission is to become an anchor in other people’s lives.

How to be emotionally supportive

So, just about anyone can find themselves in a situation (whether or not they realize it) where they have to offer emotional support to a person who needs help. However, it’s not always easy. Sometimes you may not know how or when to do it. There are loads of articles by psychology experts with tips on this topic, but they could be summarized as follows: 

  • Choose the right place and time When someone needs help, you can’t just give it anywhere or be stingy with your time. You need to choose a place that’s far away from whatever is bothering the person you’re listening to.
  • And that brings us to our second tip: listen closely to everything the other person says. As German-American philosopher Paul Tillich once said, “the first duty of love is to listen.” To help someone else, the first thing you need to do is listen closely, without judging them or jumping to conclusions. Also, you need to be an active listener, encouraging the speaker to feel comfortable enough to share whatever is on his or her mind.
  • Showing empathy is extremely important. In other words, you need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understanding his or her problems before offering your own perspective to help them build a new “story.”
  • And if the person you’re helping needs it, you can offer physical affection in the form of a hug, a pat on the shoulder or a simple handshake. 

In short, it’s about gaining their trust, because that’s the only way the person having a hard time will open up and rely on you to help them move forward.

The benefits of helping others

While it’s not a good idea to look for personal gain in altruism and caring for other people, being an anchor in another person’s life also has advantages. Beyond the sense of satisfaction you’ll gain from helping others, you’ll experience higher self-esteem, lower stress, increased optimism (especially when you see how much your support has meant to a loved one ), better social relationships and stronger bonds.

Supporting others can make such a difference in the world that even the UN has launched a curious initiative that consists of spending at least 67 minutes a day helping other people, one for each year that Nelson Mandela spent fighting for human rights and social justice. And with his tenacity, the South African leader probably helped thousands of people to overcome adversity not only in his home country, but all over the world.

Avoiding the “savior complex”

Again, each of us can be fundamental pillars in the lives of other people, even though it’s sometimes involuntary. Offering support to others is not only recommended, but also beneficial for both parties. But if that relationship is taken too far, the person lending support can develop a “savior complex.” 

This complex consists of needing to feel needed. That is to say, a person becomes so used to fixing other people’s problems that, unless they’re busy “saving” someone else, they may feel useless and frustrated. Needless to say, this complex is not beneficial for either person, because when you’re helping and supporting someone, the objective is to provide them with the tools to move forward and overcome challenges on their own.