Setting the Stage and Listening… Christine McDonald

Maybe you are working with a program, and your encounter with an individual will be long–term, or at least on a more regular basis. You’ve made it through the intake appointments! You both know this was hard. Ask if they need or want anything, and if there is anything they would like to talk about. Remember, this is about them: their thoughts, their journey, their hope and their process. So it has to stay about them.

Refrain from sharing your lived experiences at this time. This is not the time to try to connect with them in that way. They are hurting, and sharing your experiences, although they might look similar, takes away from it being about them. This is not about you or your attempts to make them feel better or lessen their hurt or connect. This is only about them, and they will help you determine the speed at which they need to go. All of this needs to be about them.

If you feel it would help them to bring in your experiences, you can say, “You know, I have some lived experiences. Not exactly like yours, but somewhat like yours. So I know this is tough. Maybe sometime after you are more settled in with our program here, I’ll share some of my experiences with you. I understand that it’s hard right now, and you have many things going through your
mind, and it’s scary. So right now, we are just going to get you settled in so you can get to know us better and so we can get to know you better. How does that sound?”

Always ask them how they feel. Trying to connect too soon by sharing a part of your journey can come off like someone telling a war vet who has PTSD, “I totally understand where you’re coming from. I was in a car accident / I had a house fire / I had a family member who went through the same thing!” Even if your story is much the same as theirs, you are essentially taking their moment
from them. It can make their pain seem less important by sharing your experiences. After all, you are the helper and the professional; they are the hurting one seeking to recover.

Don’t get me wrong; there are times for sharing your experiences, but there are times that are not. Don’t force a connection by sharing your experiences. You are the professional who has made it to the other side, or the professional who might not have the lived experiences. Validate the individual’s pain by keeping the focus on them until they indicate otherwise.

During these first weeks, it must continue to be about them. This is the time for questions about their thoughts, their needs, and their fears. You are bringing them to a place where they feel safe.

Contact Information:
Christine C. McDonald
636-487-8986

“Love your neighbor, all of ’em.” -Christine Clarity McDonald

Through The Eyes of Grace – Christine C McDonald

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