Learning resilience

Written by: Hannah Fitt
Published on: 30 Mar 2020

hannah fittResilience simply means being able to recover quickly from difficulties – an essential attribute in a changing world. Hannah Fitt provides tips to develop inner strength.

Becoming more resilient requires effort, insight and hard work. Below are five focus areas to grow your own and your team's resilience.

Develop self-awareness

The foundation of personal resilience is self-awareness, which often makes people feel uncomfortable – we tend to confuse it with self-confidence or even arrogance – but knowing our attributes and noting our reactions is necessary to make sure that we are behaving effectively.  

  • Tip: Spend some time thinking about your three best qualities – and don’t be bashful. Now, reflect on when, where and how you have used those qualities intentionally. How did it inform your behaviour, and how did it make you feel?

Build emotional intelligence

Once we have started to develop our self-awareness, we can move it to the next stage: emotional intelligence (EQ).

Actively and consciously preparing our emotional selves for tasks, events or activities means that we can deal with them in the best way possible. Practising emotional preparedness builds resilience and flexibility for those moments when we need it most – those for which we can’t actively prepare.  

  • Tip: Look at your diary for the week and take some time to think of the emotional attributes you need for the task to be completed. Bring to mind a time when you were assertive, for example, and remember how that felt and what motivated you to behave in that way. Doing so will help to reignite your ability for the future task.

Listen actively

Active listening can improve our capacity to recognise people’s suffering and mental health issues – and it helps us to assist them effectively. This is key to making team members feel empowered.

But when we practise active listening for others, it also helps us recognise when we are being listened to effectively and what to do when we aren’t. Listening in this way helps to streamline and improve communications, making them more meaningful and effective.  

  • Tip: The 10 building blocks to active listening are helpful to assess your listening skills and how you can improve them. You can find the full list at tinyurl.com/act-list, but some of the most important include:  
  • Don’t limit yourself to listening only to that which concerns you;  
  • Don’t try to solve problems before the other person has finished speaking;  
  • Don’t jump to conclusions; and  
  • Keep on topic.

Cultural sensitivity

Understand where you fit into the cultural sensitivity framework and consider where your team members do too. Being aware and respectful of cultural differences helps to reduce negative judgements while increasing empathy – one of the cornerstones of emotional resilience.

As workforces become more demographically diverse, cultural sensitivity is vital to one’s own professional development and that of your colleagues.  

  • Tip: Consult the Bennett Scale or Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) to determine where you rank in it. There are six points along the cultural acceptance continuum: denial, defence, minimisation, acceptance, adaptation, integration. Becoming more aware of cultural differences makes integration more likely.

Consider the impact

When we can critically understand consequences is when we can truly embrace our actions and adjust our direction when outcomes are not what we’d hoped for. Fear usually drives us to focus on the negative impact we make, but we should be looking at our positive impact.  

  • Tip: At an organisational level, it’s helpful to consider how individual and collective actions support social value outcomes or the organisation’s chosen sustainable development goals. Knowing that you’re working towards a positive impact can help to build resilience when the outcome is off-target. Impact development requires identifying the desired outcome, detailing how to get there, and planning what to do if the plan is not followed. 

Hannah Fitt is managing director of development charity The SAFE Foundation