Connection is the goal of peer support. Like electricity, we need energy to flow in a circuit between both people in order to experience real, meaningful human connection.
Connection is like a dance with give and take, where each person gives and each one receives. When this occurs, we can’t help but feel a sense of well-being and belonging.
However, we are imperfectly human, living in an imperfect world, and sometimes we just are not able to connect. We can be having a crummy day, and that affects our ability to connect. There is no shame in that. So it’s important to give ourselves and others compassion when we miss the mark on connection.
Sometimes something gets in the way of that energy flow between people, and disconnection happens. Disconnection can come from a misunderstanding, misinterpretation, miscommunication, or simply from one person becoming distracted.
Let’s look at an example. Jesse is a peer working a shift at the peer support drop-in center. Sam comes in to talk, and is quite distressed about a family issue they are dealing with that is affecting their schoolwork. Sam feels quite comfortable with Jesse. At one point in the conversation, Jesse excuses himself for a washroom break. When he comes back, his mood is different. He is quieter and more distracted. Sam notices, and wonders if it was something they did to upset Jesse. After a few minutes Sam decides to leave.
Clearly Jesse’s mood changed after he came back from the bathroom. That created disconnection.
When Jesse left to use the washroom, he took a moment to check his texts. He read a text from a friend that contained some difficult news, and it stirred up a lot of worry and anxiety. He tried to put it out of his mind, but he couldn’t distract himself from it.
Jesse was so worried about his own situation that he didn’t realize that his mood had changed and affected Sam in the way it did.
When disconnection occurs, it is important that we acknowledge the disconnect, and work towards reconnection.
The goal is that we become more attuned to our emotions and how they may impact others. We are not saying that you should stuff or repress your emotions. Rather, we invite you to become aware of the fact that the emotion is there, and consider communicating about how it’s taking up a lot of space in your mind.
Consider this…What if Jesse came back to the table and noticed that he was distracted? He could tell that Sam also noticed, so he decided to tell Sam that he got some difficult news and was experiencing stress about it. Just saying that may have diffused the situation, and let Sam know that the disconnection they were feeling was not about them. Sam would have known what was going on, and the disconnection would be addressed.
This is reconnection.
- Can you recall a time when you have been in Sam’s position? If so, how did it feel?
- Can you recall a time when you have been in Jesse’s position? If so, how did it feel?
- There are many other ways disconnection can occur. Perhaps someone says something that triggers a reaction in the other person. There’s an infinite number of things that could happen. What would you do if you, as the peer support worker noticed a disconnect in the person you were with? Would you address it? Ask about it? If so, what would you say?