Doing what works

Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am currently in training to become a counselling psychologist. In my skills practice the other day, I got this feedback from my peer who was observing my session:

“I’m still unsure of your facial expression. I don’t know if it’s congruent with the gravity of the situation. The way you are really shouldn’t work here. But somehow, it does…”

Firstly I am grateful for their constructive criticism, it is the only way that I can build my skills and really know that I am presenting a spirit of openness and genuine concern to my clients and their concerns. Secondly, that statement really sparked something in my mind, a seed of an idea, that has taken root and started to bud towards becoming a central pillar in my practice and in my daily life.

In sharing with the class at the end, I offered this:

I know that we are given tools and rules for these situations. I know we must be mindful of so many things – body language, tone of voice, eye contact, open questions –  in order to ensure that the signals we send are clear to those we are trying to help. But I also know this for sure. By being told that what I do should not work, but does, I came to know that I had to remember to bring my unique self to the relationship. What I was being was congruent with myself, congruent with how positively I viewed this other person, even in light of their situation. I view humanity positively; I think, like Carl Rogers, that we do dream towards our best selves, and that we strive to the fullest expression of our individuality. Because of that, I do not frown or gaze intently at the other person. I wear my expression gently, even positively, and sometimes I even smile. I smile when the going gets tough, because I think ‘I am here for you. Know that I can bear it. Know that I believe that you can bear it. I will be present for you as you figure this out’. I believe, totally and completely, that I have to bring what is uniquely myself to the encounter, that I may have a personal and particular expression that I bring to the caring. And that is untaught.

It shouldn’t work. But it does.

What unique aspect of your self are you bringing to your difficult situation today?

Published in: on October 30, 2012 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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Feedback vs. Opinion

I asked the question on Twitter today –

‘What do you do when you find out what someone thinks about you? Do you worry, justify or just put it down to what they think?’

A discussion ensued about the merits of the opinions of people you respect/trust as opposed to those with underlying negative motives. Some people believed that they just live by the tenet ‘I see the positive in people’ and that was enough to suffice. Some people thought that the feedback was only equal to how much they liked the people giving it.

So when do you place importance on what other people think of the way you behave, work, act and generally live? Is there a difference? Can any good be gotten out of criticism or another person’s opinion of what you are? When is it beneficial to listen? Should you truly discard what someone else has to say if it is something you don’t want to hear?

There is no easy answer to this. Perhaps others can see a mode of behaviour in you that isn’t working. Perhaps you are rubbing people up the wrong way, even if your intentions are sound. Perhaps your engagement is too aggressive or too passive? Perhaps others just want to say something negative about you because they don’t like the cut of your jib. Should all these opinions go unheeded, or may there be a seed of wisdom in these misguided or misjudged feelings?

Is it important to heed every bit of information coming in, in order to make a better product that is you?

Published in: on March 6, 2011 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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