HappyAtWork01“You are not responsible for another person’s happiness,” I told my 7-year-old.

“But Mom,” she lamented, “it feels like I’m supposed to. It’s really going to be hard not to…”

My daughter recently experienced what many of us experience – a desire to connect in friendship and relationship.

Unfortunately, many of us didn’t learn that we don’t have to take on the challenges of others as our own to feel connected. We didn’t learn detached involvement.

This one skill directly relates to the effectiveness of engagement and connection in relationships.

So what is detached involvement?
  • It’s being fully engaged in relationship without taking on the emotions of another.
  • It means being engaged with a distressed person as they experience anger, frustration, sadness, guilt, or grief while not losing oneself in the throes of emotion as well.

By practicing detached involvement, a leader continues to give support while still being able to distribute constructive and growth-oriented energy. This is actually better for both parties in the long run.

If a friend falls into a giant pit and can’t get out, jumping into the pit, too, is like taking on their burden. You may keep them company so they’re not alone, but now you’re both stuck in that place. To make an impact, maintain a different viewpoint––detached yet wholly involved.

Over time, a lack of detached involvement creates physical and emotional burn out for many leaders because…

…what begins as an attempt to alleviate pain turns into embitterment that it has inadvertently become our own.

Here are two things to remember when practicing detached involvement:

  • Recognize your Emotions

You don’t have to identify with the pain and jump into the story, too. Misery, disheartenment, or anger doesn’t diminish by joining in with it. In other words, stay out of the hole. By remaining neutral, you’re allowing another to get whatever it is off their chest so they’re able to move forward. (Or while in success, remaining neutral gives another the chance to stay in the moment and truly experience the fullness of happiness.) Emotion ebbs and flows. Keep yours neutral to the tide.

  • Stay out of the Story

Let the successful celebrate! And let the frustrated or hurt or angry feel that way, too! Wanting to save someone from pain is normal, but while it feels that we’re bearing another burden, often both parties walk away carrying the burden––and no pain has truly been alleviated.

It can feel backwards to allow a colleague to experience catabolic emotion, but being presently detached creates one of the best environments for true growth. 

Many times, the only way out…is through.

Reflect: What makes this concept most difficult to swallow? Think of a time you felt most supported. What was most helpful for you?


Rachel is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) through International Coaching Federation (ICF) for INspired Leadership at ESSDACK. She helps professionals get where they want to be, faster.

INspired Leadership coaches use detached involvement to give clients the best possible coaching experience. Contact a Coach. 



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