Step 9A: Assemble Your Team
Perhaps you already have a team of effective helpers available to you. Perhaps you don’t, or perhaps you need more support. Here are some tips for recruiting your change team.
♦ Who’s got your back? Identify those around you – family, friends, coworkers, schoolmates, neighbors – who will support your change and relapse prevention. One or two solid people will do it, but three or four might be a delight. The ideal change team consists of people from at least two different locations, be it home, work, school, friend, or online.
Also factor in the type of support you seek: is it a good listener, a fellow gym rat, a lunch-time companion, a seasoned self-changer, or a strict coach? Enlist the support of those most able to help, not simply those most convenient or close. Decide what you need before proceeding to the next steps.
♦ Cyberfriends. You might desire members of your change team to be relatively new to your life, independent of your ordinary routine, or fellow travelers working to improve the same problem as you. In that case, consider joining an online support group. Search the web for an inexpensive (or free) group devoted to your goal.
♦ Hit the road, Jack. Not all of your friends or family members will match with your needs. No need to apologize or explain to them. Monique, for example, realized that her ‘best friend” was omnipresent and “would do anything” for her, but the friend could not stop herself from giving unwanted advice. She would definitely clash with Monique’s efforts to bolster her self-esteem! We are seeking available and positive helpers here.
♦ Beware the toxic helpers. Also enshrined in the Helper Hall of Shame are the naysayers and the my-wayers. Please avoid adding to your change team the Eeyores, the gloomy, grey donkey from Winnie-the-Pooh. Their naysaying pessimism, the “It’ll never work,” proves contagious. Instead, we seek those who encourage your dreams, celebrate your successes, and fan your commitment. Let them hang with the my-wayers, the narcissistically inclined folks who insist that what worked for them will automatically work for you (and everyone else on the planet). Their advice might be well-intended, but chances are that it will not fit your agenda.
♦ A formal invitation. It might sound a bit hokey, but we recommend a formal invitation via person, telephone, or email. A sincere, real-time request to assist you. In fact, a few creative types have created formal written invitations, like those used for weddings or anniversary parties, and mailed them to their intended supporters before calling them personally.
There’s an extraordinarily high probability of a favorable response; indeed, most folks are downright tickled pink to be asked.
♦What you need. Be prepared for their immediate queries: What can I do to help? What are you expecting from me? Here you can be concise and similarly direct. “Just a couple of things: You have already done the first – supporting my efforts and being part of the team. Second, for now, listen to me as I express both my fears and excitements. Third, as I proceed along, I’ll probably ask you for help in keeping me on track, reminding me to keep going, and being around should I slip. That’s it.” And that is it: a two-minute conversation that leaves them feeling honored and you feeling empowered.
♦ The two-way street. At the same time, you cannot realistically expect that any friendship will meet only your needs; we will build in reciprocity. Spend time nurturing your helping relationships, and prioritize their important events, birthdays. Ensure that some of your time and conversations together pertain to them; this is not psychotherapy where 99% of the time is spent on you alone! As they listen to you, you can listen to them with deep interest, genuine empathy, and an optimistic outlook.
♦ Minimize collateral damage. Some folks in your life will not fit the bill as a member of your change team; still other folks will probably be opposed, directly or indirectly, to your relapse prevention. Best we tackle their potential for sabotage from the get-go. Andrew, for instance, was dreading his partying buddies’ ridicule for leaving clubs early and attending church on Sunday morning.
Getting your change team in place early enhances your chances of maintaining your change. It also creates a small victory and improves your self-confidence; several people have my back!
In the box below, please complete this checklist to determine whether you have enlisted sufficient social support - by checking which activities you have completed: