December 2009 marked my 20th year in social work. This anniversary has led me to reflect on what I’ve learned and how (I hope) I’ve matured in the profession. The idealism of my younger self has morphed into a more resolute state – there’s only so much you can do in the time you have. Sometimes cynicism does rule the day and needs to be tempered with a reminder that I cannot rely solely on the outcomes to tell me that I made an impact. There are other smaller intangibles that can illustrate change.
So, I thought I would come up with a list of twenty powerful tenets I’ve learned, try to mentor & live by:
1) Don’t work harder than your client.
2) Check yourself before you confront anyone on their stuff. Very often it’s your stuff you’re reacting to, not theirs.
3) You can get along with anyone if you establish a common ground after finding something you can love or admire about them.
4) You learn things all the time and from every source. You easily close yourself off from it by allowing the mindless clutter of everyday life cloud your awareness of this.
5) You need to have a tolerance for emotional pain – life is full of it and you’re not called in to counsel the happy.
6) The less you judge, should on or have rules for others the more you will be in the present and the more you will have compassion in your life.
7) Start with the premise that you are responsible for your thoughts, feelings and behaviors at all times.
8) With tact and grace you often need to call bullsh*t for what it is and tell the emperor he’s naked as a jaybird.
9) At the end of the day we are farting burping animals that can’t be taken seriously.
10) Think stridently about the consequences before you bring up something that might change a person or family – there is always some kind of fallout when a change occurs; ying and yang can be feisty when things adapt and transform.
11) You will get blowback because you have the nerve to think things can change and be better.
12) Do start where they are at, and remember that you have no answers, just the means to elicit theirs.
13) Relationship does matter most, especially when you focus on the present attributes of that relationship between you and the other.
14) Don’t get bogged down in content; focus on the process and patterns.
15) Give up trying to be right, rather concentrate exclusively on understanding.
16) Encourage responsibility and awareness more than encouraging change; change is already happening with or without you.
17) Go beyond looking for strengths; believe stubbornly that the individual already has good tools in their toolbox to affect a positive outcome.
18) You don’t have to tolerate bad behavior towards you just because you’re supposed to be “non-judgmental” and “accepting.” If they crap on you then they crap on others too. That’s not tolerable.
19) Your emotional state can be a tuning fork for others, especially to your children.
20) If I cared too much about client or patient satisfaction, I don’t think I could ever do my job.