By Evie King
The military spouse community is built upon shared joys, struggles, and dreams. We have so much in common but we each bring something unique to the group, too. As a community we can cultivate an atmosphere that encourages and motivates each other to be the best version of ourselves. Here are five ways to do that.
- Welcome a spouse and connect them to resources.
When a military spouse moves to your area invite them to a get-together, a workout class, or a coffee shop! Ask them what they enjoy doing, if they’re looking for work, if they have any questions about the area, etc. Then, connect them with people or resources that will help them succeed. Let them know which Facebook groups or blogs to join, too, so they can ask questions and meet more people. InDependent, In Gear Career and The Milspo Project are three great resources for military spouses to connect with at their new duty station. If you are going to attend an event, invite that spouse along! Even if you have not been at your duty station for long, you most likely know more about it than they do. You might not end up being BFFs afterward but you will always be someone they can turn to. We can all do our part to make sure everyone feels welcome.
- Listen to their story.
I am the first person to admit that sometimes I need to talk something out before I can solve the problem. That also means that I am not always the best listener. I frequently want to give advice rather than wait for the person to have their own “aha!” moment. Yes, sometimes a fellow military spouse is coming to you for advice, but most of the time they just need someone to listen to them. At almost every leadership or team building course the 80/20 rule is brought up. Listen 80 percent of the time and speak for 20. Usually that entails asking probing questions or giving words of encouragement instead of advice. Allowing someone to come to an “aha!” moment builds confidence because they realize the answer was within them from the start. After they reach the moment of enlightenment, dip into your resource pool and direct them to a resource that can help them accomplish their “aha!”
- Share your story.
We read or listen to stories for many reasons, but when we hear a story we develop empathy with the storyteller and experience the story for ourselves. For our upcoming Military Spouse Wellness Summit, InDependent recently crowdsourced members to seek common causes of burnout. One spouse shared that she felt burned out by the pressure of “appearing to have it all together.” She explained that having an accepting and nurturing environment that allowed for honest sharing of our struggles would be helpful, not just for the individual but for the group. There is power in a story. Stories of every day struggles and how you overcome them are relatable and have the potential to empower. Stories inspire us to grow, to ask for help, or to accomplish a goal.
- We are stronger together.
I recently attended a MilitaryOneClick MilSpouseFest 2017 in DC. One of the exercises in the event involved coming together to assist a spouse advocate on their family’s behalf. We gained strength by sharing our knowledge and created a plan of action. In the digital age, coming together is even easier than before. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all tools you can use to get a group together to make your voice louder or to get you in front of the right person or organization. Do you have an idea you want to become reality or have a solution to a problem you want to share? The online community is a great place to mobilize a support group.
I saved the hardest for last.
- Accept when someone says ‘no.’
I hear over and over that military spouses feel overwhelmed by the commitments of military life. In leadership meetings, I have witnessed spouses say they are burnt out by over-commitment. However, those same spouses hold it against others who do not volunteer for personal reasons or previous obligations. This creates an environment where many are afraid to say ‘no’ to a volunteer requests. When we truly give military spouses in our community the freedom to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, we allow them to bring their best selves forward and assist in a way that brings mutual satisfaction. A ‘Yes’ that is given freely is much more powerful than a ‘Yes’ said out of obligation or fear.
What would you add to this list?