How resilient would you feel right now if you had 107 kids? (Yes, parents, think about managing a virtual learning experience like that!).
It seems that Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, grew up with that many siblings. I’m not sure how that worked—there were certainly a lot of adoptions and fostering relationships along the way. What’s very clear is that Claire grew up witnessing the effects of poverty and hunger on those young lives. And she formed a lasting sense of solidarity with people experiencing the deeply damaging impact of food insecurity. That affinity shapes her very resilient response to what’s going on in the world around her right now.
This is the third of 12 weekly posts I’m presenting on resilience. Each one will look at a different story type and the unique way resilience can be tapped and leveraged for people who relate to that character. I’ll also be writing about the non-resilient state most common to that story type—and how to shift it energetically and motivationally using a related resilience gift and focus.
You’re probably an Everyperson if you care deeply about the groups that you’re part of and relate strongly to the plight of those around you. You may be skilled at community building and helping others feel like they belong, too. You likely believe in justice, fairness and equality. When those values are repeatedly challenged and you don’t feel empowered to respond, your non-resilient state can feel a lot like voicelessness. The shift back to resilience involves feeling directly into the empathy you have for others and using that sense of solidarity to shape how you either hear them and/or want to speak up.
Fortunately, you’ll find yourself in very good company these days if you’re able to do that. There’s a lot of Everyperson energy in the world right now—and it’s being felt almost everywhere you look. Even if Everyperson isn’t one of your strongest story types, the failure to develop it may well come at your peril (especially if you want to succeed in a leadership role or move forward professionally).
Understanding the Everyperson’s gift
Every story type has a non-resilient state that gets activated under stress, and both a gift and focus point that can help create a shift back towards greater resilience. Here’s what that looks for an Everyperson (and the other two types we’ve already covered):
|Type||Non-resilient state||Resilience-building attribute or gift||Resilience-building focus||Related values|
|Everyperson||Voicelessness||Empathy||Solidarity||Community, justice, fairness|
|Caregiver||Overwhelm||Compassion||Human potential||Service, Kindness, Development|
|Innocent||Disillusionment||Optimism||Hope||Ideals, Faith, Values in Action|
Something has blown the lid of voicelessness in the United States and much of the world in recent years and months. We have the Black Lives Matter movement, the Me Too movement and multiple others designed to shine a light on individuals and groups harmed by injustice. We have people speaking up in ways they haven’t done before, such as athletes publicly calling out coaches and school administrators. We also have people sharing their voices, often loudly, about the impact of toxic organizational cultures.
Organizational leaders need to pay attention to every one of these Everyperson-motivated movements and work very hard to both understand and respond to them if they want to build cultures where people are engaged and committed. Command-and-control styles of leadership are making a hasty retreat in most places. Resilience now mandates an adaptive and human-focused response. That means really taking in what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes; honestly examining your own biases; and learning how to really listen (and not just react to what you’re hearing).
Certainly, all of those things come more easily to people who are natural born Everyperson types. They’re usually perceived as empathetic and fair to begin with. Sometimes, though, a catalytic event activates an even deeper level of solidarity for them. After a bout with cancer, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot left an executive leadership position at Walmart to join Feeding of America (the nation’s second largest charity). She made that move when she needed resilience most—and she did it by acting on her solidarity with people whose need she understood and felt at the deepest of levels.
She’ll certainly need that resilience as Feeding of America responds to a dire situation. The organization has seen at least a 60 percent increase in the number of people needing their help—and a daunting gap between need and available supply. That scenario could leave anyone feeling crushed by the weight. Claire relies on her solidarity with the people she serves to keep her energized and committed.
“Most of my siblings who joined my family throughout the course of my childhood came into our family having been malnourished,” she recently told the New York Times. “I witnessed firsthand the devastating implication of a lack of access to a nutritious mix of food on a child. I also witnessed the restorative powers of food on their bodies and their spirits as well. So I bring all of that into the moment that I’m in right now.”
Solidarity is one of the most powerful forces in the world. So is empathy. If you’re an Everyperson, remind yourself about where your deepest affinity lies and consider what might need to be said or done to support that group. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to speak out yourself. Listening to the stories of others is a powerful form of empathy itself, allowing them to find their own voices. It provides the gift of affinity and community back to you in return.
Getting involved in a social justice movement is richly rewarding for many, and far from the only thing you can do. Your affinity group could be lonely senior citizens, a spiritual community, your co-workers, hobbyists who share a passion. You’ll feel more resilient and figuratively if not literally “voiced” when you build and support those ties.
Activating the Everyperson resilience quotient
Here are some reflection questions to consider if you want to build your Everyperson resilience quotient:
- Where can you join up or join forces with others?
- Who needs a more empathetic ear—and how can you really listen to what others are saying to you from a curious, interested place?
- How do your own biases (and privilege) get in the way of empathy and fairness—and what do you need to do about that?
- Who are you willing to stand up for, and what would that look like?
And here’s a really big inquiry for you: Are you in the right place to find your voice? After her bout with cancer, she told the New York Times that she asked herself if she really wanted her last professional act to be something she did at Walmart. She decided it wasn’t. Nothing against Walmart, but it’s a question we might all want to be asking ourselves right now.
Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help professionals, teams and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world. She’s the principal of The Storybranding Group and Founder of the Narrative Intelligence Collective. She’s also co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here).