When they go through a difficult situation (a setback at home; a difficult relationship with their boss; some doubts about self, or about how to move forward; …), many leaders and high potentials decide to keep this completely to themselves. ‘Nobody else has any business with this’. Whilst we admit having adopted this ‘solo approach’ in the past, we now suggest (and practice) a more nuanced approach… Opening up when you are facing difficulties has some advantages…
Dare to share with a selected few.
Yes, we recommend sharing thoughts and emotions related to difficult situations – but only with a selected few.
Why ‘dare to share’? When we keep our problems to ourselves, many of us ‘play the same record over and over again in our head’ (and usually the song is not very positive…) By contrast, when we present our challenge to other people, our thinking often expands. We start seeing new facts and new possibilities we hadn’t seen before.
But there’s more. When we consider ‘absolutely nobody is supposed to know about our problem’, we are making ourselves wrong (“I’m not allowed to talk about this because this problem shouldn’t have existed in the first place – if I were ‘perfect enough’, I wouldn’t have gotten in this position – if people find out about this, they might stop appreciating me”). This might lead to doubt about self, which is proven to make us less resourceful…
Why only share ‘with a selected few’? Some people make you feel better when you share your story – others make you feel bad. Choose the right person: somebody trustworthy, somebody non-judgmental, somebody caring, somebody optimistic.
Reality shows that, when we discuss our situation with such people, not only does the interaction bring relief (and a lesser feeling of ‘being wrong’) but it also tends to bring new insight (brought by self and by the other). In addition, the connection with the other generally become stronger (and not weaker, as one might have feared).
If you don’t really know how to ‘open up to others’ (because you’ve never done so) you might be interested in reading the following article: https://www.succeedsocially.com/defensive
Whilst we suggest sharing your story with a limited number of confidents, we would not recommend making your challenge ‘a discussion topic for all’ – especially if you are still struggling yourself. There are many reasons for that (and, if so far you keep your problems to yourself, you probably know these reasons very well).
First of all, as stated above, some people don’t deserve to hear your story – they would just make your situation worse.
Second, you don’t want your struggle to be ‘constantly present’. Struggles are true ‘energy-consumers’. That’s why it’s good to create moments where you ‘switch off from the problem’ (and have fun with others, marvel about what is, and have a great time). These moments will strengthen you.
Does this mean you should make your problems a true secret? No – just don’t over-share. You could tell on a neutral tone that you are facing difficulties at work, or that there are challenges at home – without giving too much details and without inviting the other party to discuss the situation more in depth. And then switch back to a great discussion about something else. Yes – you can be authentic, without oversharing.
Apply both strategies (discussing in depth with a few, and limited-or-no-sharing with others), and you give yourself the best chances of dealing effectively with the situation at hand. Good luck.