What if we treated those we serve as true partners?
Or, I thought I knew what they needed.
Several months ago, I changed up my approach. Instead of thinking of these conversations as problems to be solved (i.e., diagnose-and-treat), I thought of them as processes to be managed. In making this shift, I’ve learned an important lesson that has transformed my work: situations present themselves in similar ways, in part, because people often use the same words and images to describe them, and, in part, because I hear them as the same. However, since each individual is part of a unique web of interconnecting, dynamic systems, no two situations – no two individuals – are the same.
In other words, I can never fully understand exactly what this particular individual needs.
To adopt a less directive approach required a level of vulnerability I had not expected. It’s nice to be needed, to be the person with the helpful ideas and right answers. It gives me a sense of authority and importance to my work. When guiding a self-discovery process, I set the expert role aside and take on the role of supporter.
I let the authority for healing remain where it has always lived, with the person holding the concern.
Self-determination goes a long way. Those who discover their own path to wholeness own it with a depth of understanding unachievable in any other way. To be a partner in that process not only brings job satisfaction, it opens me to the wonder of human ingenuity and resilience and brings me new insights about my own journey.
In a real and palpable way, I come to view clients not as people in need whose lives we save, but as people we need whose lives we share.
Meaning is not created, it is discovered. Richard Rohr
In this brief post by Jack Kornfield on Love vs. Attachment, he sheds light on the question, “Do I care for others because of my need or theirs?” (read now)