My oldest niece is set to graduate high school next week. As she charts her next steps towards success and autonomy, there is a level of stress that accompanies this. Thankfully, my sister and I had a reassuring phone conversation that helped ease everyone’s fears. Here a few of the takeaways from that phone call:
ASKING VS. TELLING
A few weeks back my sister shared some of the dilemmas about my niece’s college choices. As she talked, even though I had a distinct opinion, I kept it to myself. I was mindful to remain present for what my sister needed to share. At that time she needed support not advice. When you reach out to someone else when faced with a tough decision, be clear up front about what your needs are. Do you need direct advice? Or, do you simply need to vent your fears and frustrations? Make sure the person you reach out to is open to where you are in your process. If you happen to be on the receiving end of a distressed phone call, wait until you are asked for your opinion before you give it. Oftentimes, the caller already knows their answer, all they need is the space to air it out in the open. Be that space for them and watch what happens.
TRUST THE PROCESS
As stated above, we often know the answers to our questions before we reach out for validation. Therefore, as I listened to my sister share all sorts of pros and cons of the various schools my niece was considering, my instinct was to step back and trust my sister’s process and problem-solving ability. This made everything flow. I could hear the answer in her voice the quieter I became. By the time she was ready to ask for my opinion, it was already obvious to both of us what the best choice for my niece would be. Listening without an agenda is one of the greatest gifts we can offer someone else.
TRANSFORMATION IS A LIFETIME ENDEAVOR
One of the biggest blocks to decision making lies in our fear. We fear that if we make one false step, our life will fall to pieces. There is some truth to this. Sometimes we choose the wrong school among other things, but a single choice does not define us. If my niece happens to dislike where she lands, it will be unpleasant of course, but it does not have to be permanent. She can thoughtfully evaluate what she learned from her experience and then make an informed choice moving forward. To give some perspective, I had no idea I would end up a social worker with a passion for writing when I first began my college career as a tentative business major.
To this day I am still changing and growing.
If we are lucky and open, we can keep evolving for the rest of our lives.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW