We don’t recognize it as such, but we are constantly teaching or learning, informing or being informed, when engaging with others. Whether we are observing, speaking with another, listening, texting, emailing, coaching or reading, we are either teaching or learning something. Most of the time, we don’t think of all the information we acquire and share with others as teaching. But as you will discover, informing about and encouraging others to enjoy and reap the benefits creating their own PSN is an aspect of teaching.

There are two teaching methods of a PSN. One is informal, more casual with family and friends, and the second is the more formal teaching of PSN in a classroom setting, which many of you will be doing in your work or for your community. What is important is that informal or formal teaching about PSN is all about engaging and supporting others in their efforts to build their PSN.

We have developed teaching modules for you which can be found under the link to Resources on the PSN home page. Teaching materials, including curriculum, will be helpful when engaging another in the process of developing their PSN. Knowing how to engage others well creates the best environment for teaching and learning.

For many of us struggling with building sustainable relationships, engaging others successfully, being supported or supporting others, some of the skills below will be very helpful.

Engage with Others

Life is about engaging with others. It’s a constant interaction of give and take. Whether it’s at work, at home with partners and kids, with extended family and friends, with service providers, in a classroom or in social activities, we are connecting and interacting throughout each day, either in person or electronically. Others are reaching out to engage us or we are reaching out to engage others. With each engagement or interaction, there is a reaction. We will focus on how to achieve the best reactions from engaging and how to ensure we have a supportive PSN that succeeds for us and for our PSN team.

These skills are essential. They ensure that we are not navigating life in isolation but with support from those we engage with intentionally to be part of our PSN team. These skills help us develop sustainable and rewarding relationships with most all we come in contact with but especially those closest to us and part of our PSN team.  The most successful engagements with others and support given is the result of give and receive. All take and no give is a win/lose engagement. These skills encourage a healthy exchange of give and receive whether being supported or receiving support.  

Support and compassion are companion skills. When we extend compassion to another, engage a stranger or friend, we are extending a form of support. It may be something as simple as holding a door open for an elderly person. It may be a text message or phone call to a friend letting them know you’re thinking of them. A simple thank you note of gratitude is a form of support. A smile for some is an extension of support that you noticed them – you let them know they matter. And, there is the support we extend to family and friends that often involves our presence or some action on our part. It’s the stuff that takes our time and sometimes our patience but always our love or the ability to care for and have compassion for another. It may not be easy but it is very rewarding and fulfilling. It’s something we should practice each and every day. It’s a vital part of a successful PSN.

Supporting others is also a great opportunity to practice asking for help, building resilience and improving our strengths. Our PSN gets better, stronger and more powerful when we reach out to others; engage with them in a positive, productive and encouraging way.

Important Note: Engaging and supporting others is not a trade-off. What we give, we will receive back in abundance. It may not come back to us from those having received our compassion, support or good will, but it does come back. Oftentimes, it’s from strangers or those we least expect it – it’s paying it forward.

The Skills Required to Teach, Engage and Support Others


This important skill is the foundation for all successful interactions of engaging and supporting others. A fundamental need of all human beings is to be understood and that includes understanding our differences. Those differences include simple differences in the way we do things, how we think, how we act and react to life and its challenges. Our upbringing, our genetics, cultural differences, ethnic backgrounds, education, financial status and life events we’ve each had to deal with effect how different we see the world and people around us. To successfully engage with others takes a willingness to understand the perspective of another to make engaging and supporting another and being supported valued.

Simple Steps to Acquiring Diversity Acceptance

  1. Ask questions and demonstrate sincere interest in other people.
  2. Be respectful towards others.
  3. Seek to understand the values and beliefs of others.
  4. Build bridges of trust and respect.
  5. Be flexible and willing to learn new ways of doing things.
  6. Search for commonalities you may have regardless of how diverse you may be.
  7. Be a curious learner and celebrate differences.

Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Believe your values, beliefs and lifestyle are superior to an others.
  2. Attempt to force your beliefs and values onto others.
  3. Arm yourself with fear, distrust, and prejudice in unfamiliar surroundings.
  4. Fail to have compassion and understanding with differences.
  5. Believe there is only one way, your way.

Manage or Resolve Conflict

Some believe all conflicts can be resolved. Most cannot be resolved but can be managed and managed well. Resolving a conflict implies that we must figure out how to come to an agreement. For many conflicts, there will be no agreement and that’s okay. If no agreement is in sight, then the next best thing is to manage the disagreements well. Think first about the objective(s). Next think about the importance of the conflict in meeting the objectives. Does it matter? If it does, negotiate how to best move forward without a win/lose situation, if avoidable. Be willing to compromise when appropriate. If it doesn’t matter, there is no need for a conflict.

Simple Steps to Manage or Resolve Conflict

  1. Identify what each party really wants or needs.
  2. Differentiate between wants and needs. A want is something we don’t need – we just want it.
  3. There are usually two parts to a conflict – emotions and logic. Manage emotions, especially anger, (see link to Ask for Help to learn how) and build your case with logic – think it through before engaging.
  4. Describe the conflict and support each other in discovering how to move forward so that each has gained something of value.
  5. Be clear with agreements made, boundaries established and commitments made.
  6. Keep commitments and respect all aspects of the agreement to ensure the objectives are met and the relationship is not damaged.

Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Inflexible or rigid when engaged with people. Unwilling to compromise or support the value of the other person.
  2. Failure to realize the importance of making and keeping commitments.
  3. Believe that managing or resolving conflicts is about a winner and a loser.
  4. Not caring about the other person’s needs or wants.
  5. Allow emotions to get out of control and damage the relationship.
  6. Make commitments that can’t or won’t be kept.
  7. Ignore the importance of respecting boundaries.

You matter and so do others.


This is one of the hardest skills to master and yet it is one of the greatest gifts we have to offer one another, and it doesn’t cost any money to do it. Many of the people we really like to be around are people who listen and ask questions. When we think of engaging or supporting other, being of service to others, and being supported, listening to understand and with compassion is the easiest way to attract and be surrounded by good people. It’s basic to connecting with and building sustainable, rewarding relationships.

Steps to Becoming a Good Listener

  1. When engaged with another, focus your attention on the speaker.
  2. Use respectful verbal and non-verbal expressions of understanding.
  3. Allow the speaker to finish before you begin to speak. Ideally, you ask a question about what was said, if appropriate to do so.
  4. Restate what you heard to confirm that you have understood what the speaker meant by what was said. It’s not uncommon for the speaker to make a correction.
  5. Listen with compassion.

Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Tune the speaker out or respond without thinking.
  2. Interrupt the speaker needlessly.
  3. Say ‘yeah, yeah, I know’ repeatedly while the speaker is talking.
  4. Fail to confirm what you thought the speaker meant by what was said.
  5. Be insulting, condescending or patronizing with body language or words.

Time, People Management and Boundaries

When supporting others in their time of need as a PSN team member or being supported, good time and people management skills serve all well. The bigger the task or the longer the need, these skills are essential for tasks and functions to get done, on time and with minimal confusion or conflict. Clear expectations and with boundaries defined allow teams to work together much more effectively.

Steps to Time and People Management

  1. Be clear and realistic with expectations and timelines.
  2. Be open and honest with priorities and timelines.
  3. Use the PSN calendar for scheduling and tracking.
  4. Ask the right people to do the task most suited to them and their other obligations.
  5. Use constructive language and compassion when stating an error or missed timeline.
  6. Avoid gossip and mean spirited criticisms.
  7. Be specific about information or tasks that must be kept confidential.
  8. When something goes wrong, seek solutions instead of obsessing about what went wrong.
  9. Setting boundaries are simply another way to describe being respectful and mindful or another’s needs or wishes.

Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Volunteering for more than your obligations will permit. Over promising and failing to fulfill a commitment.
  2. Not stating what you mean or want clearly and accurately.
  3. The wrong people assigned to tasks they cannot perform or have demonstrated not trustworthy.
  4. Being overly critical, unappreciative, too demanding or controlling.
  5. Destructive gossip about other team members.
  6. Complaining about what went wrong instead of seeking a solution.
  7. Embracing an entitlement attitude instead of an attitude of gratitude.
  8. Failure to seek help if unable to complete a task in a timely manner. 

Manage Emotions

See link to Asking for Help and follow the steps to managing emotions. If you’re quick to anger, steps to managing emotions will be very helpful.

You Matter and Others Matter too. Life is a PSN in action – let’s make it matter for good. 


How do I participate? How do I practice kindness? Can I inspire?  Enrich?  Serve? What are my assumptions and values? How do I help others build Personal Safety Nets? Would you like to be an advocate by suggesting that friends and family get and use wallet cards? Do you want to teach a class?

Download: Helping - What Can I Offer to Do?

Would you like to be an advocate by suggesting that friends and family get and use Wallet Cards?

Wallet Card


Whom could I help? Where could I volunteer? What do I like to do for others? What am I willing to receive? How could I help in areas that interest me most?

PSN Instructor Guide