This week my five year old friend shared with me that she was sad because she didn’t know if she would remember how to make friends when she starts back to Kindergarten in a few weeks or when she finally gets a chance to take dance classes.
No amount of reassurance was going to flip her into a better mood. So, instead of trying to convince her I asked her to tell me about a time she made a new friend. Where was she? What did she do? How did it work out? When she finished I asked her to tell me about another time and then another. She shared a story about sitting next to a girl on the school bus who was by herself and then one about going over to a boy who was playing by himself and a third one about another girl at her school.
We discovered as she shared that not only did she remember how to make friends. This little girl had superpowers, a knack for engaging others who were alone and starting up a relationship. Pretty soon she was saying, “yeah I’m good at making friends.”
Two things to ponder here. The first is evidence is a poor substitute for experience. There was no way I was going to persuade her that she would be fine. Drawing on her experience though helped her connect with her unique gift and style for making friends. She hadn’t forgotten how. Like most of us it was just below the surface waiting to be called back up.
The second thing to think about is how we need each other to call those gifts and superpowers and strengths back up. When we aren’t seeing it, that simple question, “tell me about a time when…” creates the opening we need.
Dr. Melissa Peet, in her work at the University of Michigan and The Generative Knowledge institute has developed the science and the art of this approach. Please check her work out. Whether you do it as a coach, a friend, a teammate or a partner, it’s something you’ll want to learn and something we all need.
For my little friend it was enough to move her from anxious to eager.