Harnessing Resilience in an Uncertain World: Fostering Resilience in Others (Part 3 of 3)


The year 2022 has been a transitionary year. We’ve emerged from the isolation of a global pandemic and moved forward, courageously, to design a new normal. We have felt and expressed fear and gratitude, sorrow and laughter, and the full spectrum of human emotion. We have, at times, been energized and then equally exhausted. But we keep moving forward because we are resilient.

As we approach the close of this transitionary year, I’ve been reflecting on the nature of resilience and how we can harness it in an uncertain world. This three-part series will focus on Building Momentum, Ways to Activate Resilience in Ourselves, and thoughts on Fostering Resilience in Others.

Part III: Fostering Resilience in Others

When a colleague asks for help with a stressful situation, it may be useful to pause and employ one or more skills related to listening and empathy before attempting to respond. Doing so can help foster a colleague’s resilience, as well as your own. As an ombuds, here are a few skills, or aspects of coaching, that I have come to rely on:

Presence: Extending a safe space for people to be themselves, to speak freely, in their own words and in their own way; helping them tell their stories.

This involves: Being neutral; presenting an objective demeanor in words, tone, pace, inflection, and body language. Being non-judgmental; refraining from judging people, their circumstances, emotions, opinions, or views. Being self-aware; being attuned to, and checking, your own feelings, emotions, opinion, or biases.

Listening to Understand: Listening to learn, with curiosity, and without an intent to “fix-it”.

This involves: Listening for the facts of the situation and helping people separate facts from beliefs or assumptions. Listening to understand what the other person wants and needs; identifying what is most important to them. Listening to help others determine what is realistic and achievable.

Facilitating Action: Helping people shift to a solution focus.

This involves: Asking questions that identify a goal and encourage a reasonable plan. Helping people to test ideas, phraseology, and framing. Acting as a sounding board, mirroring back what you heard and how you heard it. Challenging with “what if” scenarios to help others prepare for a variety of outcomes.

Empathic Questioning:  Asking thoughtful questions to facilitate greater awareness and acceptance. Gradually shifting to solution-focused questions that facilitate moving forward.

This involves:

  • Questioning for awareness: Asking questions to help people look beneath the surface of their stories and gain insights from what they notice. Sample Questions: Is there another way to look at this? What else might be going on? What is your key takeaway? What can you learn from this?
  • Questioning for acceptance: Helping people to see the facts of their situation and figure out what they would like to do next. Sample Questions: Right now, what do you know to be true about this? What part of this is in your control? What is most important to you now, in terms of moving forward? What are some options available to you?
  • Questioning for action: Helping people identify meaningful steps to support moving forward. Assisting them in formulating a plan. Sample Questions: What would you like to do next? Who else can support you in this? How will you get started? What will it take to stay committed? How can I be of help?

As a final thought, a quote from Adam Grant on resilience: “Resilience is not resistance to suffering. It’s the capacity to bend without breaking. Strength doesn’t come from ignoring pain. It stems from knowing that your past self has hurt and your future self will heal. Fortitude is the presence of resolve, not the absence of hardship.”

By: Carolyn Esposito, Corporate Ombuds at AllianceBernstein and Certified Executive Coach

Harnessing Resilience in an Uncertain World: Building Momentum (Part 1 of 3) is available HERE
Harnessing Resilience in an Uncertain World: Activating Resilience Within Ourselves (Part 2 of 3) is available HERE

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