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Finding Common Ground

We’re all the same but in a different kind of way. Blood runs through all of our veins and we all have brains too! Speaking of brains, we all use ours, some better than others, to navigate and understand the world. And we all come with unique stories that shape who we are in the present based on our past and sometimes even influencing our future. 

In the work of a peer recovery specialist, we come alongside another peer who needs support. Sometimes it’s enough to just sit in silence with that peer allowing natural emotions to surface and to be open to anything that is helpful to that peer. Most importantly, the gift of listening cannot be understated. 

However, often times, PRS’s will engage in conversation with a peer and there will be a building of mutuality, encouragement, and support. Sometimes, unfortunately, even the most adept PRS will cross paths with a peer in distress who refuses to open up, which is their right, making peer support a bit of a challenge because common ground is often the catalysis for connection, understanding and support. Below are some tips to help you try to find common ground with a peer(s) you are supporting. 

How to Find Common Ground

1. Honor where they are at that moment– Try to remind yourself that this peer comes with a story and life experience and making a space for them to breathe, collect themselves and decide how they want to proceed in your time together is a very valuable gift even without words. 

2. Feelings – They say you can’t heal what you don’t feel. Sometimes, sharing your story about how you deal with feelings of all kinds can normalize them and give the peer permission to feel their uncomfortable feelings and start to accept their feelings that may be mired in shame and/or embarrassment.

3. Hobbies – Not everyone has a hobby and you don’t have to introduce your hobby as a hobby. I just use the word here to illustrate the opportunities for common ground to be found when you share from your own experience. For example, you might have a favorite sport or movie.  In contrast, the peer you are supporting may really like participating in Full-Contact Tackle Shuffle Board Competitions (I completely made that up) and you may know zero about such a thing. Perfect. That is the opportunity to show your humility and genuine interest in understanding a hobby that is of value and importance to the peer you are serving. 

4. Ask Questions – Fact: people love to talk about themselves even if it is negatively, unfortunately. As a peer recovery specialist, you can use this tendency to your advantage in providing quality and sincere peer support. DISCLAIMER: This is absolutely not manipulation or an attempt at mind control or any other such nonsense. People feel valued when you ask questions about them as long as those questions are genuine. If the peer doesn’t want to answer a question, simply drop it and ask a different one. However, to increase your chances of success, start the process off by asking if you could share a little bit about your interests and that you’d like to ask them a few questions to get to know them, if they are ok with that. 9 out of 10 people will give you the green light because you have taken off the pressure for the ‘right’ answer and you have created safety for them coupled with genuine interest. 

 We will not always connect with every peer we serve. However, the tips above born out of trial and error in my own work as a PRS could be a game changer for you and the peer(s) you serve. 

Do you want a chance at the title? Little know fact: I am a 5x Full-Contact Tackle Shuffle Board Champion. No autographs though.  

 

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