When people first hear of the DBT skill of contributing, they often imagine that they have to do something huge for it to count. This is not the case. Contributing is any act that you engage in to lift someone else up.
I had a couple of appointments today. One was a medical appointment, and the receptionist opened her station up only 40 minutes into her 60 minute lunch because she felt bad for the people who were waiting. She told each patient, "The lights are off because I'm not even supposed to be here. I just don't want you all waiting, and I don't want my co-workers to have a huge line when they get back."
As I stood in line, I contemplated on how thoughtful it was of her to do this, but it also sounded as if her choice was a bit self-sacrificing. Although I of course don't know the full story (maybe she was late for work and her coworkers covered for her earlier in the day -- who knows?), when I got up to her station, I looked at her and said, "Thank you so much for opening up early. At the same time, take care of YOU, too. You deserve to take your breaks."
She smiled, thanked me, and was very sweet throughout the transaction. I don't know what, if any, impact my words may have had on her, but that was my intention, and I hope I contributed to a better day for her in some way with my words.
The other example that comes to mind from today was an opportunity that I had to validate a peer in group therapy. He is a father to two grown children, and he was talking about how difficult things have been since his divorce. It was obvious this man was hurting and that he desperately wanted to to do right by his children. When there was a pause, I told him, "They are very lucky to have a father like you who really cares." He smiled and thanked me. Others nodded and agreed. I hope I also contributed something positive to his day.
Why not practice contributing today? Perhaps you can offer a kind word, validate someone, or find another way to let another person know that they matter. And, remember, your choice to contribute matters, too.
Check out this awesome, short, independent film on validating others. It made me cry the first time I watched it (via My Dialectical Life), because it made me realize what a difference we can make, with rippling effects, if only we try.
Today I can check off the following skills on my DBT Diary Card:
- Build Positive Experiences
- Improve the Moment
- Distract (Contributing falls under this category in DBT, as it is a way to decrease your own distress by focusing on something outside of you and the distressing issue.)
Thanks for reading.