Ahead Behind Beside

I recently received feedback that I tend to jump in too quickly to help others solve their problems. My intent is noble. Whether at work or home with my family, I want those around me to know I care about them. However, I’m starting to understand that genuinely caring about someone doesn’t necessarily mean fixing their problems.

Instead of jumping to solutions when someone shares a problem with me, I’m trying to ask myself, “What does this person need from me today?” Sometimes caring for others involves listening, asking questions, or having them solve a problem on their own so they can learn and grow.

I discovered a valuable framework that helps me determine what someone needs from me. I’m considering whether the person needs me to be Ahead, Behind, or Beside them.

Each one of these options looks different depending on the situation. I can adapt my response based on where the person needs me to be.

  • Ahead – I can provide guidance or direction and clear the way. I can be an advocate.
  • Behind – I can push them, encourage them, and have their back. I can be an encourager.
  • Beside – I can provide a listening ear or comfort them. I can be a friend.

It’s not always easy to stop and apply this framework before jumping to problem-solving. But when I do it consistently, I can uniquely care for everyone who crosses my path.

As you interact with others throughout your day, I’d encourage you to consider, “What does this person need from me today?”

Catherine Bloom, Chief Marketing Officer

This blog was originally published in the Current Connections Fall 2022 issue.


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