“A nonjudgmental professional can often calm tensions.”
This week in the NY Times featured a story about a moving company for seniors. Hiring a third party to come in so you don’t have to argue with Mom about giving up placemats from 1970. It definitely brought back memories of conversations I had with my mother about her stuff and where it would all go. It also reminded me of having this same impulse as Alzheimer’s felt like it was stealing her sense of humor. When she looked at me she saw a daughter, I needed to bring in a not-daughter to make her laugh. Someone with whom she had zero history whose sole purpose was to engage her and make her smile. As reported here with the stress of moving, an outsider made it happen.
In the last few years we have found the same pattern often to be true in business settings where leaders are trying to get their people to connect with each other and retain a sense of belonging against the toughest odds. The head of a team will come to us and say, “I’m out. I can’t think of another “fun” activity and no one wants to be led in team-building experience by the person who’s controlled the ZOOM for three years. We need an outsider!"
The phenomenon of bringing in a fresh face – someone unfamiliar - whether to move an aging parent, to support mental wellness with laughter, or coming up with activities to build teams, works consistently.
We shouldn’t take this as personal failure because although not tasked with moving aging parents, or creating corporate cultures, even the 14th C philosophers were hip to this reality. A phrase that’s been bandied about perhaps a bit too much in our house over the last work-from-home, school-from-home, exercise-from-home 3 years is the quote from Roman philosopher Lucius Apuleius, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Never more true than in times of stress. How lucky that there are options out there – someone not-you to help. And as we love to advise, when you are up against it, don’t be afraid to say, “yes…and” to knowledgable strangers for support.