Problem Solving


In order to claim you’re good at solving problems, you must have not only had problems arise in the past, you must have successfully resolved them. If you claim you’re an expert at resolving major problems, it logically follows that you’ve not only had major problems in your life, but again, you’ve eliminated them.

What however, defines ‘major problems’? When an interviewer asks you to share examples of having resolved some major problems in your past, you have to hope that your definition of a major problem and theirs is a shared understanding. If you share something they perceive as a relatively easy problem to have faced, and you view it as a major challenge, you might not be up to the demands of the job being discussed.

You have to also be mindful of what you perceive as an acceptable compromise in resolving challenges and problems compared to the person you’re speaking with. When they don’t tip their hand or react in any way to how you describe the steps you took to resolve the problem you’re relating, it can be difficult to know if you’re on the right track with your answer. There may be no way to amend your answer, provide additional commentary or even move to a better example altogether.

One of the poorest things you can do is claim to have none whatsoever in your past that come to mind. This response either comes across as a flat-out lie or if you somehow come across as believable, it only serves to prove you’re inexperienced when it comes to resolving problems. Neither of the two responses to your claim will help you if they want a problem-solver.

Having had problems is a given in your personal or professional life. I’ve yet to meet the person who has sailed along without having had any problem come up. Owning up to having problems in your past is not a weakness. What is of significant interest is your reaction to the problem(s) you’ve elected to share. So faced with a problem, did you a) ignore it, b) face it, c) tell someone else to fix it, d) make it worse, e) make sure the circumstances that led up to the problem were changed so it didn’t recur or f) give up or give in and let it overwhelm you.

One key to dealing with big problems is learning how to tackle small ones; and I mean small ones. Finding yourself ready to go to work but being unable to find where you left the car keys for example. Hardly a life or death problem, but nonetheless at that moment, a problem that must be resolved. Retracing your steps, asking for help from other family members, checking the usual places, the pockets of whatever you wore the night before, all good. Finding them still in the outside door where you mistakenly left them overnight, maybe the lesson learned is hanging up the keys in the same spot from then on as your usual practice so the problem does not arise again.

Building on the idea of adjusting your behaviour and hanging up keys each time in the same place, you can apply this lesson to other situations. You learned to act in a way that anticipates a potential problem and head it off before it occurs. If nothing changes in your behaviour, you’ll repeat misplacing your keys. While that might be frustrating, the leap in reasoning is that you’ll repeat behaviours that bring on self-inflicted problems in other areas too, and that could be costly for an organization when your problems become theirs.

All problems have two things in common; a goal and one or more barriers. There’s something to be achieved and there’s one or more things which need to be addressed and resolved to remove the problem and reach the desired goal.

Successful people are often viewed as people who face their problems head-on, tackling problems before them and reaching their goals. When they do so, they not only reach the goals they desired, they reinforce their belief that they can solve problems. Their confidence rises, other people come to regard them as capable and recognize their problem-solving skills.

People who struggle often hope problems will go away if they ignore them, or they fail to resolve the problem even when they try because they lack the resources or skills to do so. Their past experiences with problems did not prepare them sufficiently to handle the current problem, so they make what others see as poor decisions which either allow the problem to continue or even become bigger.

If your confidence is low when it comes to solving problems, asking for help is a smart thing to do. There’s no shame in knowing your limitations and seeking help but do make an effort to learn from the person helping you. When someone does something for you, that may resolve the problem this time, but it may not prepare you for when the same problem or one of a similar nature comes up again. Having someone guide and support you while you solve the problem will improve your confidence in not only resolving the immediate problem, but similar ones as they arise.

You’ll likely experience failures and setbacks when facing problems; this is normal and okay. Problems will always come along in life. They really present opportunities to grow.

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Not The Judgemental Type? Yes You Are!


Well it seems pretty harsh to say, maybe to some insensitive or cruel, but the fact remains that you’re being assessed and judged by each person around you daily. Yes, those you talk with, those who see you coming down the sidewalk, those you meet while shopping and so why is it any different to expect it carries on in job interviews as well? And just so I go all in with this assessing and judging angle, I’m including you as well; don’t think you’re immune to judging others.

Now maybe you’re the type who doesn’t agree with my point of view? “Not me! I accept everyone for who they are! I don’t judge others lest I be judged myself! Really I don’t!” Oh get over yourself, you certainly do assess and judge others, and you need to own up to it. Assessing others and forming opinions and judgements is a good thing; why it’s kept you safe and alive all these years!

Prove it you say? Prove you’re this judgemental person? Fine. You’re walking down a street in the evening in a neighbourhood you’re not familiar with. Coming towards you is a person with a grimace on their face, they’re muscular and they don’t seem to be sharing the sidewalk. Nobody else is about. Something inside you starts pumping some adrenaline, and you start looking for alternatives such as a store to walk in until they pass, or you think about crossing the street, looking around for help if it’s needed etc. At the very least, you clutch your purse or wallet a little tighter, avert your eyes at all costs, and lower your head, stepping up your pace and leave lots of space to avoid the encounter. You are in fact, assessing your safety and potential danger the person coming towards you represents. This could keep you from being assaulted, robbed, etc. Sure they could have that grimace because they’ve just broke a tooth while working out with the young man at the gym they’ve taken on in their role of Big Brother, but you’re not taking any chances!

Another example of assessing and judging? What about dating? Do you just go up to the first person you meet and say, “Hi! I know nothing about you, I don’t care whatsoever about how you look, what you think or believe, and being totally non-judgemental about absolutely everyone I see, I’d like to date you, but no more or less than anyone else. Shall we?

That’s ludicrous. Of course you assess and judge people. You might be initially attracted by their physical appearance, then you continue to assess them as you talk, finding out what they think, like to do, their background etc. and you either change or reinforce your first impression.

Assessing others and judging them is something we all do. We assess possible careers for what we’d find enjoyable and worthwhile. We assess the distance an employer is from where we live, we judge the time it will take to get there and home, we assess the co-workers we work with and we even try to change some people to help them realize their potential. We make good choices and bad choices, some that reward us and some that we regret. We choose and judge potential partners – again with varying degrees of success.

While on that subject of partners, we might date a number of people in our teens and early twenties, learning as we go from the relationships what we really want in a long-term partner. The more we date, the more we find what we like, what we’ll accept and what we want to avoid in the next main squeeze. (Main squeeze? Who says that anymore?!)

Jobs and careers are no different. We take a job in our teens and find out what we like and don’t. We soon learn what we’d like to do more of, what we’re good at, or what we want to avoid in future jobs. Every job, just like every relationship has its pros and cons. Even in the best relationships, there are some things we’d like to improve; some quirks or things we’d change if we could. So too with jobs, even the best jobs have some aspects we’d alter if we could.

Now some people hold out for the perfect job; you know, the ONE that will give them purpose, define their life and really make a difference in the world. What it is remains a mystery, but when it comes along they’ll know. They become so fixated on finding this particular job or career that all other jobs become entirely unacceptable. I believe it’s more the IDEA of the perfect job they’re really after.

If you’re looking for the job which will define your purpose in life, may I humbly suggest there isn’t one. That doesn’t mean you’ll spend your life unsatisfied; rather, I believe there are multiple jobs that will bring you immense satisfaction and fulfillment. The idea that there’s only one on the planet you’re destined for is what I debate.

So my advice? Work.

Take a job and invest yourself in it. Assess as you invest in it, judge what you’re good at and what you want to do more of. If the job doesn’t bring you the measure of satisfaction you’d like, move on. Learning never stops.

 

Aging And Job Searching


“Well, my age is a barrier that’s for sure. I mean, come on, I’m 48 and employer’s look at a guy like me and they want to go with someone younger.”

“Well, I’m not as young as I used to be. Employer’s look at me and just see an older person. They want someone younger, prettier. Oh I’ve got curves, but their in the wrong places.”

Age. Is it working for you or against you? Age is a curious thing to me. I mean on the one hand we’re aging every second of every day, and chronologically we can’t do anything about it if we wanted to stop it or reverse it. On the other hand, our thoughts are well within our power to control. What we think, how we choose to think definitely is. As our thoughts guide and steer our actions, we can opt to behave anyway we so choose – and make no mistake it is a conscious choice.

The two opening quotes are from real people; the first a 48-year-old man and the second a 50-year-old woman. The two statements both make comments about what employer’s are looking for when they hire, but as an Employment Counsellor working with them, the two statements say more to me about how the person see’s themselves than anything else.

I recall with great fondness and admiration a woman by the name of Anne. When we met, Anne was 64. I knew her age and had her résumé in hand before I met her. My instinctive reaction was to make some assumptions about her. Hmm… 64. Her best years were likely behind her and I wondered about the kind of work she’d be after and what kind of physical shape she was in which would affect her performance.

When I met Anne I was so impressed. Here was a woman who obviously took great care to look healthy and vibrant. Her hair was neat, styled beautifully, and her makeup was applied with care and expertise. She obviously cared about her appearance. There were no furrowed browns, her mouth wasn’t set in a grimace, she didn’t shuffle with her shoulders bowed forward in submission to the years passing. She walked with purpose, shoulders back, her smile was electric and her eyes warm and full of life.

Now before you think she doesn’t have her share of problems, let me assure you not only does she have her share, she’s got enough for a few people. An abusive ex-husband, lost property, bankruptcy, adult children who mistreat and abuse her, a huge slide in social standing, health scares; yep, she’s got lot’s of reasons to feel sorry for herself and then choose to let that sorrow turn to bitterness.

Anne however believes in the positive. While there are many things in life she cannot control, her personal appearance and her attitude are two things she feels she not only can, but must hold on to. Age is something Anne is proud of at 64. “Why would I choose to worry about something that I cannot change?” she often said. Anne not only got a job when I was partnering to help her, she got multiple offers. Would you believe 5? It’s true.

So how does she do it? First of all, she’s reprogrammed her thinking. I cannot state how critical it is to believe you’ve got what it takes to succeed, for when the opinions of others threatens your self-confidence, your self-perception is the anchor that keeps you grounded. If you choose to see yourself solely as others see you, then you’re dependent upon others for your self-worth. If they like you, you’ll like yourself. If they tell you you’re too old, too weak, too frail etc., you’re self-worth plummets.

As you read this, check your posture. Are your shoulders hunched over? Are the muscles in your face tense? If you smile – go ahead and try it now – do you feel a release in tension? That tension you’re holding as in your natural facial expression might be coming off to others as grim, overly serious; negative in general. Anne smiles constantly. She lights up others when she approaches them. I’ve noticed that as she speaks with people around her, they too start to smile when they face her.

If you’re older and looking for work, take some care with your appearance, the energy in your voice, the fit of the clothes you wear; take care of your health, to the extent you can, walk with purpose and smile. As for your words, listen and curb any tendencies towards the negative. Choose to look for and comment on the positives.

There are always going to be people competing with you for employment; many of them younger as you grow older. The one person you cannot allow to beat you however, is yourself. If you allow yourself to take the easy cop-out; I’m too old – well, perhaps you are. But chronologically speaking, there are older people than you who will win those same jobs because they show a vitality and positivity that gets rewarded. They don’t in short, beat themselves before even trying.

This change in attitude is not something that can be instilled within you unless you yourself invite it in and then make the conscious decision to own it. Take pride in your experience, your knowledge, your age!

When Sharing A Skill


Whether you’re a newbie or a long-time, seasoned veteran, you could be guilty of making a rookie mistake; sharing a skill and assuming the other person can do it without actually observing them try it on their own.

Now it’s not that you’re smarter than the people you’re sharing what you know with. No, it’s more than that. It’s that you’ve had practice over time and have come to master or improve what you once found new and they haven’t. If you make the assumption that someone who is nodding their head in the affirmative can do for themselves what you are instructing them on, you’ll be surprised to find they often can’t. The danger here is that when you do discover they can’t perform up to your – or their – expectations, you might actually even set them back further than when you started, as they wrestle with a drop in self-esteem and question their abilities.

Case in point, the dreaded resume. I know, I know, why that! Ah but it’s true my readers. Yes, as an Employment Counsellor I help many people daily and one of the most common things I’m passing on to those I help is how to craft a winning resume. This is something many people think is pretty simple to put together; they believe anybody can make one. On the one hand, this belief is absolutely true; however, not many can make an effective one, and that’s the difference. I regularly see people genuinely show they understand the suggestions I’m passing on, and most importantly, the reason behind those suggestions. Yet, if they sit down on their own to implement those ideas and suggestions, there’s often a gulf between what they understand and what they produce.

So may I suggest that when passing on a skill, do more than just tell someone how. Perhaps for the auditory learner; those who just need to be told how to do something, this might work. However, the majority of learners I’ve found need to not only hear what you’re passing on, they need to also see it done and then have the opportunity to try it themselves under some watchful guidance.

Again, it’s not that the learner is inferior to the teacher but rather, the teacher has had more experience learning a new skill, practicing it repeatedly and mastering the subject. A new learner has neither the practice doing what you’re passing on, or the time to have mastered what you impart.

A trap you also want to avoid is feeling somewhat smug about your superior knowledge in whatever you’re teaching and then making the leap to feeling superior as a person overall. Whomever you’re sharing your skill with is without question the expert in other areas; certainly better skilled say in what they do for a living than you are at the moment. So a trained and experienced Office Administrative professional might not be able to market themselves in a résumé as well as you, but they may well have superior knowledge about keyboarding skills, shortcut keys, use of tabs etc.. if you’ve never had formal training in Office Administration and everything you know on a keyboard has been self-taught, they just might be able to share a few things with you!

As I say, the majority of people I’ve come into contact with as an Employment Counsellor, Trainer and Facilitator learn best by being given the opportunity to practice newly learned skills. A tremendously good thing to do during this learning period is to give encouragement and recognize the skill development so watch your words. If they hold you in high esteem and value your opinion, they’ll be greatly influenced by both your praise and your corrective criticism.

I have found that taking a few minutes while sharing what I know, to learn something from those I’m working with does us both a lot of good. First of all, I learn and appreciate what this person can do; a little insight into a job perhaps that I only have a basic understanding of. More importantly by far however, the person I’m helping feels good that I’m both interested enough to want to know, and they experience some measure of improved self-worth in knowing what I do not. We are after all, two people with skills in different areas, both having strengths and areas to improve upon. We just happen to be in a situation where my strengths are being showcased and drawn upon. This however, doesn’t make me better overall, or in any way superior.

It is also of critical importance to recognize just how much a person can take in during your time together. If you’re working together for 2 or 3 weeks, you can pass on much more than telling them everything you’d like them to know when you’ve only got 30 minutes together. Your expectations of what you can share and what they can grasp and retain must adjust to the circumstances.

So share what you know while checking both the learners comprehension and ability to do for themselves what you’re sharing. Share to the ability of the learner in a partnership model; working together to pass on a skill or series of skills and not the model where one is the, “Wise One” and the other an empty vessel to be instructed. See if this makes a difference.

Problems In Addition To Unemployment?


If you’re out of work its a pretty safe bet that the lack of a job isn’t the only problem you’re facing. Quite the opposite is likely the case; you’ve got a growing list of issues that would seem to be multiplying.

As these multiple issues arise, you’ve also likely come to doubt your ability to handle things effectively, and this is yet another thing that’s giving you reason for concern, because handling things effectively so they didn’t get out of hand used to be a strength of yours. Now though, well, you’re doubting yourself. And this self-doubt is happening more and more isn’t it?

Here’s the thing about problems; we all get them from time-to-time. For many people, the problems can be anticipated and quickly averted; say in the case of knowing you’ve got a bill to pay by the end of the month. The smart thing to do would be to pay the bill, avoiding any more charges for a late fee and then crossing this potential problem off your list. Seems easy enough.

The thing about mounting problems however is that when one problem comes along, it often brings several more. So not only is a particular bill due, there could be several due, and just as you’re thinking it’s going to be difficult to pay all the bills, this is precisely when the furnace acts up, the curling shingles on the house you didn’t repair or replace blow off completely, the dog has an untimely medical visit to the vet clinic and suddenly the washing machine is knocking so loud you can longer ignore it. Then your child innocently reminds you it’s hotdog day at school and they’ll need the permission form signed and $3.00 to cover a dog and a drink. That’s the last straw!

All that pressure and strain erupts like Mount Vesuvius, and you’re snapping at people one moment and apologizing the next. Great! Yet another thing you’ve got to worry about! You’re losing it! Sound familiar?

Thing is, the above scenario is more common than you’d like to think. It’s not just you experiencing these issues, it’s many of the people around you – even though on the outside, they – like you, are doing a really good job of appearing totally in control. Why, you’d never guess from looking at them that they’ve got a similar set of problems all their own.

There’s a certain irony you know in that when problems first arise, many people don’t mind sharing them with others, but as the problems mount and multiply, sharing with anybody all the problems we’ve got becomes less and less an option. You see, it’s in sharing our problems with others that we often find workable solutions. Perhaps what you’re dealing with now is a problem someone else has recently dealt with and put behind them. Even if you don’t get a ready-made solution from sharing your problem, just talking it out to a receptive ear is healthy; better for you than you might know.

Another good reason for talking through the things you’re dealing with – or rather finding hard to deal with – is that you’re usual good judgement isn’t what it was. This isn’t a long-term issue to worry over in addition to everything else – let me stress this. However, at this particular moment, right now, your decision-making skills are under pressure. The result? You think you’re making the best decisions possible but to outside, objective people looking in, those decisions are questionable at best and poor at worst.

So, what to do? First, do you have someone you can confide in with confidence? You know, someone who you can trust? If you do, ask for their ear and tell them how much you’d appreciate sharing some of your immediate challenges and worries. You may get some ideas and possible solutions, but even if they only listen, that’s a start. If you have someone, great. Remember, this person you’d like to confide in won’t judge you or tell you to keep your problems to yourself. If such a person isn’t easily found, seeing a Mental Health Counsellor through a local Mental Health organization might be an option. Often at no charge, you’ll get a confidential appointment, judgement-free and yes, maybe some strategies to deal with some of your current problems.

You’re smart enough to know that a problem ignored doesn’t usually resolve itself or just go away. A problem ignored usually escalates and becomes a bigger problem over time. Facing the problem head-on might not seem like something you can take on at the moment, but it may be exactly the thing to do. If it helps, start tackling a relatively minor problem and clear it from your mind. You’ll feel better! Don’t immediately worry about the big problems you’ve yet to deal with until you acknowledge your small start and give yourself credit for this success.

Could be that the income from a job will resolve many of your worries – especially the financial ones. However, would tackling some problems outside of getting a job be a better place to start? Perhaps. You see without tackling these other issues, you might not do as well as you need to be in a new job, and problems ignored could mean time off to deal with them – resulting in losing the job. Only you can decide what’s the best strategy for you given what you’re experiencing.

Too Hot To Job Search?


Mother Nature, The Weather Network and Environment Canada did it to me again. You’d think by now that I’d know better; but alas, I placed my faith in the expertise of those in the weather forecasting business, only to be let down again. Yes, I didn’t water the lawn and yes it didn’t rain.

Now sure it called for rain yesterday – 70 percent chance. Why at one point in the day the apps on my phone had a large thunderbolt icon which indicated a high chance of thunderstorms and lightning with up to 15 mm of much-needed rain. However, like some over-priced and over-hyped job search service providers, what was promised and what was delivered turned out to be two different things.

Lindsay Ontario where I live is about an hour and a half north-east of Toronto Canada if you’ve ever got the inclination or curiosity to know where it is I call home. We’re in the middle of an extended heat wave at the moment, which has gone on now for about 4 days and is due to continue for a few more. All kinds of warnings are out there; the radio, mobile apps, local newspapers, etc. are providing constant reminders not to over tax the body in such conditions lest such exertion bring on Heat Stroke, Heat Exhaustion or in the worst of situations, Death.

Certainly these are warnings not to be taken lightly; especially if you’re elderly, frail of health or have respiratory problems. Take it easy and stay hydrated with lots of water and stay out of the direct sun. Head to a local cooling centre or even an air-conditioned shopping centre to relieve heat-related symptoms. All good advice.

Now, of course to the unemployed person looking for work, these heat conditions are either a good reason to put off the job search or an opportunity to seize. Just like rainy days or heavy snowfalls, a stretch of intense heat will shut down the job search activity of some people. It’s true! Many people are affected not just physically by such weather, but mentally as well. They wake up, look outside the window and seeing the weather for what it is, many will roll over and choose to shut away the unfavourable weather. “Maybe tomorrow” is their mantra.

Job searching of course has evolved so much these days, it’s not like pounding the pavement and knocking on doors is in vogue as it once was. Looking for a job and applying for jobs can be done from the relative comfort of one’s home or if you lack comforts there, the climate controlled libraries, malls, coffee shops etc. many of which have wifi and welcome users to sit and use their laptops and mobile devices for hours without seating fees.

The challenge for many comes first in the decision to get up and get going when the temptation is greater to do nothing. Employer’s often say that they would rather hire someone who is already working than someone who is not, and the reason for this is that the employed person has already established good behaviours and routines. Getting up, showered, dressed and having the stamina to put in a full day once out the door might not sound like much, but it is. Many employer’s will tell you there is a surprisingly high number of people who interview well enough to get job offers, but then over the first weeks of work, the new hire will be late or absent entirely for some reason which they attribute to sleeping in, missing a connection, etc. The new hire if previously unemployed often has to go through a reprogramming of their routines and behaviours to adjust to the new demands of work.

I often tell those I work with that should they wake up and see rain pelting down, snow falling or yes – another day with soaring temperatures, seize the opportunity of the day for many of their competition will roll over and stay beneath the covers of their beds. I suppose this is another way of saying, “How bad do you want it?”

Sure I get it; job searching is frustrating. We both know how hard it can be to put in the effort and seemingly get nowhere. Yes, it’s hard to stay positive when you’re applying in good faith and doing your best but feel let down by employers who don’t reciprocate. Weather that doesn’t cooperate would only seem to be yet another reason to defer this job search that seems to bring so little for such effort required.

And yet, how are you going to get that eventual job if you don’t throw yourself at this job search with enthusiasm if you give in and decide to put it off? Waiting for ideal job search conditions; the market, the weather, hiring blitzes, raises in minimum wages or government programs and initiatives might be the strategy of some people, but not you surely.

So yes, the Weather Network is calling for another scorcher today. Will you choose to see this as a reason to hide in the cool basement and read a book or watch television, or will you attack this job search with commitment and defiance? If you were waiting for some sign to get going, maybe this is it. Then again, if you’re listless, lacking energy and haven’t the energy to do much, you’ve likely stopped reading long before now.

The Climate Dictates What You Hear


There are a lot of jobs where one person listens to another to offer a service. Mental Health Workers, Social Workers, Employment Counsellors, Teachers, Psychologists, Addiction Workers, Real Estate or Investment Brokers just to name a few.

In all these occupations, the degree to which the provider of the service creates a trusting atmosphere often dictates the length of time the consumer of the service needs to fully share and disclose. Most people are pretty good at keeping what’s really going on – the BIG stuff, sufficiently buried in a conversation, revealing the small stuff as a testing ground.

I know when I meet someone, I make the point of saying I’m going to do my best to earn their trust by creating a safe, trusting atmosphere. The quicker they come to fully trust me and share what’s really going on – the big stuff – the quicker I’ll be able to personalize the experience for them; addressing their experiences and making the experience richer.

In short, I can only help someone with what I know to be their issues if those same issues are shared with me. If a person gets around to opening up with me late in our time together, that leaves less time for an in-depth response if they’d prefer one over me being a sounding board or an empathetic ear only.

Now if words alone were all someone needed to open up and share their biggest, darkest thoughts, fears and struggles, “Trust me” would suffice. Yeah, most people have heard these uttered before and been burned trusting those they felt could be trusted, eventually to be let them down. Those same people are ironically, often part of the problems people present.

Actions which support the words spoken are much more effective at creating a trusting atmosphere. So when you’re in a job where listening to people and providing help is involved, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those same people before you are listening and watching. In a group setting, they want to first see how you respond to other people who open up a bit. Do you make light of what somebody shared? Do you seem interested or uncomfortable? If someone in a group shares something personal, did you give them an appropriate response or steer the conversation back to your own agenda?

In my job, I hear a lot of personal tragedies, I see the pain and shame on a lot of faces as people tell me things they’ve held inside for a long time. Every so often someone says, “I don’t know why I even told you; I haven’t shared that with anybody else. I said more than I’d planned on telling you.” If you’ve ever had someone say this or something similar, you know first-hand what a responsibility and privilege comes with such a disclosure.

Of course if you haven’t the time to listen to someone or the supporting resources to offer up when someone takes you up on your offer to listen, you should be careful of inviting the disclosure in the first place. After all, you may not like a lot of what you hear; what you hear could be more than just uncomfortable. Be ready to feel angry, shocked, troubled, concerned and if you’ve never feel these things you may not be as emotionally invested as you might or should be. I don’t mean you take on their issues; never that. However, taking what someone discloses, holding it for a time with care and sensitivity, then returning it to them in a way they can better carry the load can be more of a help than you know.

You’d think in some cases, that one’s position alone puts us in a position of trust; that it should come automatically. The biggest place of trust for most people is their parent or parents. “You can tell me anything” is something a parent might say, but children know that they can often only disclose so much to a parent. How many kids have kept their gender identification secret? An unexpected pregnancy hidden, an accident with the family car, or problems with bullying.

It’s not enough to say, “you can tell me anything.” People are often conflicted about wanting to share things – big things – but also afraid of ridicule, embarrassment, hurting the listener in the process, etc. Sharing often makes a person feel vulnerable, open to judgement; and if they respect you greatly, they may not want to risk having you think less of them for their behaviour, weakness, poor choices – past and present.

Shut down, dismissed, ignored, not believed; these are also the kinds of things people who want to open up and share are afraid of. “You don’t know what you’re talking about”, “You’re smarter than that”, “I don’t want to hear this!” are examples of being shut down and dismissed.

Fail to create an atmosphere of trust and you add another worry to the person you’re trying to help who may be burdened to the point of becoming numb and paralyzed.

A key is to find out what the person disclosing would like as an outcome. Are they looking for solutions or just an ear? Rushing to ‘solve their problem’ is often NOT what they want. When you, “solve” another’s problem yourself, you remove the learning moment, seize the empowerment you could have left them with and keep them dependent.