Chris Johnstone, in his work with addicts and alcoholics, encourages them to draw maps of their support network. We might all usefully do the same.
To begin, write your name in the middle of a piece of paper, and around it write the names of the people who give you the greatest support. Then draw an arrow from each one towards your own name, varying the thickness of the arrow to indicate the amount of support they give (a thick arrow means a lot of support).
Now map the support you give to other people by drawing arrows in the opposite direction. Add more names if necessary.
After drawing up such a map, you might consider whether there are changes you might like to make – relationships to strengthen, or others to back away from.
In the example I’ve provided, you see that I am giving lots of support to William, but getting nothing back. Should I drop him? Should you, if you find similar patterns, do the same?
Johnstone doesn’t say, but suggests that the most promising relationships may not be the ones where the support is strongest but where it is mutual. “They are valuable resources in your life,” he says.“Treasure them. Mutual support arrangements are stronger than one-way flows.”
Now that you have mapped your network, go and tell people what you plan to do – whatever it may be – and ask for help explicitly, says Johnstone, because when you do this you liberate helpers to do more than merely nod supportively when you come to them. They start actually coming to you with ideas.
They may even make your project their own.
Instinctively, we find it difficult to ask for help like this. We think it might be an imposition. But there’s plenty of evidence that people like being asked: it’s flattering. The only reason people don’t like being asked is if they can’t see a way to say no.
So when you ask for help in your mission, make it clear that you don’t mind if your people tell you they prefer not to help, for whatever reason – either now or at any time in the future.
And it should probably go without saying that you need to mean that. There’s no point saying you won’t mind if you will.
Similar, but different
I wrote more about support networks, and the importance of distributed connections.