Would You Remove Them From Class?


I’ll put my position right up front; never. Nope, I’ll never remove someone from any class I lead with one exception. (Drat! There’s always one exception; and if there’s one exception I can hardly say I’d never remove someone now can I?)

Seriously, the only time I’ll remove someone from a class I lead is when it is clearly in THEIR best interests. I’ve known a lot of people over the years who kick people out of their classes simply for their own personal benefit. Oh they may say it’s for the good of the other participants but in reality, well, we know better!

Now you might not agree with my position on refraining from removing people from a class for sporadic attendance as an example. Well, here’s how I see things. Perfect attendance is ideal; after all you can’t learn what you miss hearing, seeing and experiencing. When you’re in a class where success is achieved by building on what was learned the previous day, missing class is a huge barrier.  However, the way I see things, when referring to adult participants, treating them like adults means the accountability lies with them rather than me. In other words, they get out what they put in. I’m here, I’m sharing and instructing to those who show up, and if you come and go, you have to assume the responsibility for both what you learn and what you miss.

I know unemployed people have more than just the job hunt taking up their precious thoughts. I’ve met a vast number of people who earnestly want to get a job. All they can control however – and make note of this point – is what they can control. That sounds trite but my point is unemployed people never just have the lack of a job to focus on; no, not ever, and they may lack resources to solve problems too.

Right off the top, the lack of a job often means the person lacks an identity. Instead of saying, “I’m a Carpenter and I work for ________”, they can only say, “I’m a Carpenter by trade”, leaving out the shared identity with an employer. Coupled with this loss of identity as employed is a huge hit to self-esteem. Why after all do you think people hide their unemployed status from family and friends as long as they can? And when was the last time you asked someone what they do for a living and they responded with a confidently delivered, “Why I’m unemployed and in receipt of government financial assistance. Thank you for asking.” Yep; never.

So lack of status, self-esteem and obviously financial income. No job, no money. No money, mounting bills. Mounting bills, increased debt. Increased debt, poor credit score. Poor credit score, no job in some organizations. All of these lead to soaring stress, anxiety, confusion; a trip along the rollercoaster of applying for jobs with high hopes, crushing defeats of being ignored completely, rising hopes when interviewed, dashed dreams of success when rejected..

Now let’s add the stuff that isn’t shared by everyone. You know, the specific problems a person has. Here you can choose from dysfunctional families, homelessness, threats of eviction, physical ailments, concerns with being too young or too old to be taken seriously. Literacy issues, isolation, depression, single-parent status with no childcare, lack of appropriate clothing for interviews, transportation, gaps on the resume, lack of current education and/or expired licences and certificates. Take a breath. How about rent payments due, lost bus passes to agonize over, mislaid identification, court proceedings with the ex to discuss support payments and visitation access. Let’s round things out with the parents who fret and worry about you being so vulnerable and who keep saying you just need someone to take care of you; totally undermining your long held belief that you are independent, strong and quite able to take care of yourself.

Yes, so with all the above going on – or if not all the above then certainly a lot of the above going on with those looking for a job, it borders on cruelty to misread someone’s sporadic attendance as entirely their responsibility or fault and penalize them by removing them. All this accomplishes is adding another failure to their growing list of things to feel bad about.

So when someone doesn’t attend the way you’d like in your class, demonstrate empathy and allow them to continue. Don’t ask why they can’t commit because honestly, they may not be able to articulate all the reasons. As for the others in the class who do show up daily and do contribute and do their best to succeed, praise them for doing so.  You might tell them that you’re taking notice of their good behaviours and that their actions are all contributing to their future success. You might even go so far as to remind them that the stresses they are experiencing may be similar to what others are going through, only the others have fewer resources than they do to cope.

The gift you give your participants is a new perspective; empathy for their fellow classmates. You are suddenly not just teaching people about job hunting or career exploration etc., you’ve just added a life skill; a human element that came as an added bonus not mentioned in the promotional brochure that enticed them to attend.

Well done!

Focus On The Good; Not The Bad


It may have started at home as a child:

“You brushed your hair nicely and I’m glad you brushed your teeth, but your room is a mess.”

Then in school it was:

“Gets along with others, does excellent in Math but could be better in History.”

As a teenager dating:

“You’re kind and thoughtful, but I wish you were taller.”

Finally as an adult the boss says:

“You’re hitting your targets and I’m pleased with your energy, but you could participate more in team meetings.”

Many people will identify with having heard comments such as the above. When you look back at each of them, there’s two positives and one to work on; two good and one bad, two strengths and a weakness. Depends how you hear it, interpret it and understand it.

These comments and their impact divides people into two groups: those that heard the positives and are uplifted and feel good about themselves, and those who zeroed in on the one thing that they aren’t doing well and need to improve upon. Which type are you generally?

For the last two weeks, I’ve been instructing a class of a dozen people who are just learning to use the computer. It’s computer basics, starting pretty much with how to turn it on. We’ve covered terminology, creating and using email, crafting a resume using MS Word, exploring the internet, using job search skills, working with a USB Flashstick, navigating employment websites, and applied for jobs. For absolute beginners, we’ve accomplished a great deal.

Yesterday I gave each person a 13 step assignment which would give them a chance to independently use their skills. Everyone found they could do more than half of the assignment entirely unaided. I’d guess it was around step 8 or 9 where the majority had to pause and ask for help from someone. No shame in that by the way; asking for help with the computer is something I see all the time in workplaces. Eventually the whole class did complete the assigned work, and I made sure to remind them to focus not on what they failed to remember and needed help with, but focus rather on all the things they did correctly and did remember on their own. What each accomplished far outweighed where they struggled.

You see, I believe that people don’t hear the good in themselves as much as they need to. Some in fact, have gone long stretches of time without hearing much at all from anyone when it comes to positive feedback. I think successful people hear and internalize the good when they get mixed feedback, whereas those who tend to only hear the suggestions for improvement tend to have a lower self-image of themselves. Sure we can all improve, but my goodness, there’s so much I see to praise in people.

But surely some of you are thinking, we can’t go around telling people how awesome they are and how great they are doing when in fact they aren’t! If we don’t point out their shortcomings and their faults how are they to improve? I had a boss like that once. He told me it was his job to point out all the little things I was doing wrong when doing one of my yearly performance appraisals. Yet on a daily basis he was happy with my performance. That comment he made during a 3 hour (yep, he thought a 3 hour appraisal was how best to motivate people) meeting where he did nothing but point out little things I could do better resonated with me then and still does 25 years later. His words were, “It’s not my job to point out what you’re doing right, but to point out all the things you’re doing wrong so you can improve.” I started job searching the next day and soon got a better job, more income, and worked at a higher level in the new organization. Oh he motivated me alright.

Perhaps it is the consistent memory of that bad experience that has given me great empathy for people I lead, partner with and instruct. If like me, you are in a position of some authority or influence in your job, it is a responsibility of ours to build up rather than beat down. It’s far too easy to point out what others are doing wrong, where they can improve, how to be better. It’s just as easy to point out successes, achievements, label and reinforce accomplishments. Why not choose to emphasize the good?

The thing is, you and I; we really don’t intimately know the past of many people we interact with daily. We can read notes in a file, but the person is so much more rich and layered than some file. We don’t know how many times they’ve had people they trusted and respected tell them they could do better, BE better. Could be they honestly feel they’ll never measure up; they’ll never be good enough.

Imagine then – and it’s not too hard really – how impactful you and I might be if we built people up with genuine positives. Genuine of course, not invented, but positive comments and praise. Then imagine if that same person heard some good from someone else, then a third person. Why we might actually see people believe more in themselves, like themselves better and build successfully on their successes.

And that my reader, is pretty cool.

Lost Trust In Others?


Many people I meet with trust issues, at one time were extremely trusting in others, however someone took their trust and abused it. Others shared their secrets, failed to respect their confidential and shared information; eventually hurting the person in such a profound way that they’ve never really fully trusted again. So here they are, not only distrusting others, but no longer trusting in their own ability to assess whom to trust.

Being taken advantage of, now the person doubts their judgement in trusting anyone, which lowers their self-esteem – and all in acts of self-protection. Consequently, they never fully trust those around them, doubt themselves and miss out on a lot of good things in life.

Wow! That’s some pretty significant negative consequences, all stemming from being a trustworthy person in the first place (a great personal quality). Can you imagine how a person must feel who goes through this world, never trusting anyone completely; always expecting they’ll be let down and taken advantage of again? Believing the best way to safeguard your personal thoughts, deepest feelings and the things you struggle with is to keep them all to yourself. Is that healthy? Not really.

No, keeping everything to yourself and never trusting others for fear of being exposed and taken advantage of can severely limit great experiences, rich relationships and it’s these that can work wonders on your own self-image. I’m not saying we should all be sharing absolutely everything with all the people around us. No, personal, private thoughts, feelings and problems are often kept exactly that way – internalized and private. Sometimes we can work through our issues entirely within ourselves.

However, there are many times in our lives when an empathetic or even sympathetic ear could be helpful. Someone to hear us out, a kind of sounding board for the things we’re thinking about, struggling to deal with, being weighed down by. When we share the big things with someone, our burden is often lighter, even when they just listen. Of course if we want advice, possible options for dealing with whatever is weighing on us, a trusted opinion from someone who has our best interests at heart can be wonderful.

This kind of person usually isn’t found in the workplace but rather in our personal lives. It’s a close friend perhaps, someone you confide in who takes what you say, doesn’t get alarmed and tell you what to think or what not to think, but simply hears you out and shares what’s important to you just by being there. Workmates we trust in typically hear us talk about working conditions, things specifically related to our jobs like the boss, co-worker relationships, workloads and job satisfaction. Sometimes we might even confide in someone about our plans to look elsewhere for a job without letting the boss know.

If you’ve ever told a co-worker something in confidence and found they’ve gone and made your secrets known to others, you would likely lower your trust in that person, or perhaps rule them out completely with anything significant in the future.

Sometimes of course, the person who breaks your trust does so with your own best interests at heart. They might be conflicted if for example you shared something that would cause financial loss to the employer, or if you were in danger of hurting yourself or another person. Their moral dilemma between keeping your trust versus the safety of others or employer loyalty might cause them great distress.

Some are just naturally better at earning, keeping and returning trust than others. It’s a skill after all; not something we are equally good at. When someone breaks trust, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are inherently bad, or will break trust in the future, but it makes it hard to extend trust a second time.

Now, the sad thing about people who have had their trust misplaced in the past, is that they exist in the present wary of trusting now. Without someone to confide in, they are left to work out their problems and issues all on their own. When trustworthy people do come into contact with the person, the person may miss opportunities that could help them move forward with less stress and much quicker. That fear of perhaps misjudging someone again and having their trust misplaced is greater than the perceived benefit of trusting, so they don’t.

I suppose the greater the fallout from misplaced trust in the past, the more a person withholds their trust in the present; insisting to themselves that they get to know someone over a long time and gauge how they handle small bits of information before ever contemplating sharing deeper issues. Having one’s trust broken is like having an internal scar that only you can see and it can run deep, flaring up when you’re thinking of trusting again – just as a reminder.

When someone does trust you with their feelings and struggles, it’s a wonderful gift. It’s a measure of the value they place in you; both for hearing them out and for what you’ll do with what you hear. You show respect for what you hear and more importantly for the person themselves when you hold that trust firm.

Trusting in others is a good quality to have. My hope is that if you’ve lost the ability to trust, you eventually rediscover the tremendous benefits of confiding in someone, and that your trust in them is rewarded.

Motivational Interviewing: Establishing A Tone Of Trust


One thing I’m extremely thankful for is that I’ve never lost the respect for everyone I meet and that each person who comes to me for help is unique. Every person has their own unique back story, and even if I were to think it sounds remarkably like others I’ve heard, I know I’ve never heard this back story from the person telling it to me now. Remembering to listen with full attention to the person before me is critical if I’m going to create a trusting climate where they feel safe enough to open up and tell me the important things that lay deeper than the surface stuff.

A poor Employment Counsellor – and yes poor examples exist in my field just as there are in any group of people – will neglect to fully listen. One of the most attractive traps one can fall into is to hear only enough from the person you’re helping to figuratively lump them in with others with similar stories. When doing this, your active listening stops, and your mind starts perusing your ready-made solutions that worked in the past, and you pull out solution number 4 and present it as the panacea to solve all this person’s troubles. “I have the perfect answer for you! Just follow the steps of my plan here and you’ll reach the end goal. I’m so happy to have helped!”

That’s just not going to work. What’s more, the person before you is intelligent enough to know you’ve tuned them out and you’re not really engaged with their unique situation. In short, they feel you don’t really understand because you didn’t hear them out; and they’re right.

A situation like this was shared with me just yesterday when a colleague consulted with me about someone she was working with. The fellow has a degree in Economics and some Employment Counsellor in another agency advised him to go after one of the job postings she had for a Restaurant Server. He felt shut down, unheard, misread and told her as much; she branded him a problem client.

Listening sounds like one of the easiest things to do; our ears pick up sounds without us having to turn hearing on and off, so we assume what we hear is 100% of what the person is saying when in fact we don’t. There are techniques like paraphrasing and saying things like, “Tell me more about that” which are designed to both acknowledge for the person that they were heard, and communicate a genuine want to hear more about something. Eye contact is critical too. I mean, how do you feel yourself when someone you’re speaking to breaks that eye contact and looks to your right or left as if something more interesting just happened behind you. You feel that connection is broken.

Have you ever considered your eye contact is one of the strongest ways to forge a bond? All those poets and authors who talked about seeing someone’s soul through their eyes; they were on to something there and they understood. If you want to make a subtle change that requires little effort but at the same time make a huge impact on those you counsel, work on maintaining eye contact. Don’t go for the beady-eyed, burn-through-your-skull kind of freakish look; that only scares others into thinking you’re getting kind of scary.

Direct eye contact that communicates enthusiasm for what this person has to share is what you’re after. From time to time in the conversation you’ll want to speak in a quiet voice that communicates concern and strong interest, such as when they relate something unpleasant. When they share something lighter or amusing, it’s okay to reflect warmth, smile, laugh along with them and that’s the moment to take that look away. Humour is essential to break tension, offer a break between heavy topics, and release some tension.

Of course what all this is really doing is continuing to build a trusting climate between you and this person before you. It is a huge mistake I think to start your meeting off with a statement that says, “We’ve only got 60 minutes to do your résumé so let’s dive right in – where did you work last and why aren’t you there now?” This kind of opening does set the tone that this is a business meeting with a clear goal, but it also communicates your time is more valuable than they are. All you’re going to get now is dates, past jobs and education. All the nuances of why they moved, what they found pleasing, what they want to avoid, where they feel most comfortable or most vulnerable; you’ve shut that down with your opening salvo.

The unfortunate message they receive is that whatever you’re doing in 60 minutes trumps your time with them now. Whether it’s your lunch or morning break, another client squeezed in to your schedule etc. they don’t really care, but they only have time now to do a token resume. The ironic thing? 60 minutes might be the same time you’d need to do a superior job that meets their needs and gets the document finished had you started by thanking them for the opportunity of meeting them and inviting them to share openly and honestly throughout your meeting. Some open-ended questions might set the tone of trust.

Challenge yourself; perhaps today – listen like you’ve never heard the story you’re hearing now; because you haven’t.

For Us In Social Services


Social Services Workers; we’re supposedly the compassionate ones right? We are the ones who are drawn in life to work with the marginalized people in our communities. It is we, who work with troubled youth, the abused, homeless, abandoned, illiterate, physically and mentally challenged. Yes we were drawn here by the desire to care for others, to advocate on their behalf, to guide and support; to lend a hand to the vulnerable.

We’re nowhere near perfect I fear however. No, some of who are the very epitome of everything we value most in the good work we do, are ourselves looking for answers and workable solutions sometimes within our own families. We may have estranged relationships with those we should be closest to. We might have ongoing and escalating battles with our children, parents, siblings or members of our spouse’s families. We are in the end, human beings ourselves coping and dealing as best we can with what life brings our way on a daily basis.

I’m sure that in the middle of the family arguments we have been in for example, we’ve engaged in the process with the same passion, energy and conviction that anyone and everyone else do. It is only after the heat of the moments pass that we step back and reflect on what we might have done differently had we applied the same excellent advice we share with those we work on behalf of in our professional lives. Ah but it seems different at the time doesn’t it?

You’ll see excellent Social Services Workers who are divorced, separated, stressed, anxious, depressed, isolated, poor and chemically dependent. You’ll see among our number the wealthy, introverted, assertive, shy, lonely, both the beautiful and the quite ordinary; the disabled, tattooed and yes even the convicted. We are a collective group in society who goes about doing the work we do looking and acting for the most part human.

We don’t wear capes and have super human powers that make us recognizable heroes on comic book covers. Yet nonetheless there are those out there who admire us and see us as their real life heroes notwithstanding. Some among us do save lives, but not from fiery infernos, evil scientists and arch villains. Hold on check that; there are scientists creating and distributing chemicals that put those we work with at risk of dying, and sometimes we do get people moved into better basic housing that reduces the risk of being killed in some dubious shelter where there are no fire alarms or sprinklers. So maybe we do save people from fiery infernos just waiting to happen.

Yes if you were to assemble all us Social Service Workers in a large room and you looked among us, you’d find a pretty healthy cross-section of the general populations we serve. We’d look pretty ordinary, like the crowd you might see in an underground waiting to board a subway. We’re decidedly nondescript. We’ve no badge that identifies us like a Police Officer, nor a coat of distinction that you’d point to like the Concierge at a Hotel. We are in the end, just a collection of citizens, representative of the people in the communities we work in.

Mistakes we make by the truckload too. Just because we fall prey to the occasional bad choice or poor decision shouldn’t be taken as the personal justification others might cite for ignoring the sage advice we implore them to take. We make so many decisions over the course of a day that it is ridiculous to assume all those decisions will be the right ones. Why on earth would we suspect that we are impervious to error? We actually embrace these moments however; embrace I say because we intuitively know that it is our mistakes that are our greatest opportunities for learning and therefore growth. Some of the wisest among us are the biggest foul ups out there!

Our critics – and there are many of them – point to our very mistakes and say, “How can you claim to be this fabulous Social Services Worker when your own life is littered with mistakes, your personal life is a testament to your inability to make the proper big decisions etc.?” It’s true too; we’re human. We error and we do it often. Hopefully we learn and don’t repeat those mistakes but even in this we find we are human too.

We interact daily with people who sometimes are literally hanging on to a fragment of their sanity; balancing that fine line between living and carrying on versus ending it all and leaving their struggles behind them. The advice, help, suggestions and prompts we give after listening to their individual struggles that torment their souls is always well-intended to help. Still, we’ll lose a significant number of those we work with; some will move, others will succeed, some will just disappear and some will die. Irrespective of the titles we hold, the organizations we work in or the geographic locations in which we find ourselves, we will be fresh and ready with each sunrise to repeat our good work and give it our best again.

So why do we do it? We do it for the very reason we began it of course; we are the compassionate ones. We are the givers; our rewards don’t come with medals, huge salaries and bonuses but with the occasional, “Thanks for keeping it real.”

Thank YOU.

Does Your Organization Encourage Risk, Creativity And Failure?


Has your workplace, and the people who work there, created a culture where creativity and risk are encouraged? Where failure – and learning from it – are not just accepted but encouraged? And is there anywhere in your day-to-day interaction where the words caring and love for each other have their place?

I am part of a group in my workplace that has partnered up with staff from another organization in another city, to explore the topic of Human-Centered Design. We’ve been meeting both apart from each other and collectively since the fall of last year, and with each meeting, we progressively understand more about this concept. We’re getting close to our conclusion, which ironically we hope is just another beginning. There would be limited valued in undertaking any project if it were only academic in nature after all. It will begin and spread throughout our organizations with our group, and it will change how we go about responding to and designing for those we serve.

Here today though, I want to explore with you this idea of encouraging and promoting the elements of creativity and risk, where people feel supported and encouraged without the threat of reprisal and punishment; within a culture of love, caring and trust.

So suppose you are passionate about your work. You’re invested in the work you do whether you’re in an Upper or Middle Management, or front-line role. You’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of the products or services you deliver to your customers or clients. Presumably, you’re not the only one who feels this way, so you’re surrounded by others who have some creative ideas; you’re all rowing in the same direction. If you worked in a physical environment that encouraged this kind of culture, you’d likely make many errors as well as have success in designing the programs and products you roll out. While your successes would be applauded and appreciated for improving the bottom line, wouldn’t it be great if your failures were more than just tolerated, they were equally appreciated because of the information they produced and the learning you could extract from those failures?

I’m sure somewhere in your lifetime you’ve read a quote or seen a picture of a working lightbulb with Edison’s there stating how he failed a thousand times before getting it right. How many times would failure be tolerated in your workplace by your supervisor? I’m guessing you don’t have that kind of freedom to fail without repercussion!

Some organizations discourage creativity and risk-taking altogether. Some organizations permit risk-takers, but only for some people and they are segregated apart from others in, ‘the lab’ or at a certain level in the organization. If you haven’t made it up the chain to that level, you’re expected to do things just the way you’re told without deviation or much thought. How then, once you reach a certain level do you flick on the creativity switch that’s been in the off position for 7 or 8 years for example?

Now, let’s be clear; I’m not advocating to the extreme where an employee takes all the firms liquid assets and risks them in Vegas on one spin of the wheel. That’s risk-taking behaviour granted, but the consequences of failure and chances of success don’t justify the risk.

One of the most frustrating things an employee who embraces creativity and risk-taking can experience is to be supervised by an ultra-conservative Manager who crushes ingenuity, punishes failure, and keeps the creative person chained down; especially if the Manager appears to favour creativity and risk-taking in some other employee on their team. We’re talking personality and chemistry; the ‘I like you but not you’ kind of mentality where favouritism is rampant.

I mentioned workplaces where caring and love are embedded in the culture and how employees are often encouraged to care for each other. ‘Love’ however, is for some a heavy, overly-powerful word that seems out of place. What behaviour would be observed to be an expression of love for your co-workers? Okay get that image of those two in the broom closet out of your head; I’m talking love not sexual intercourse. If it’s okay to love your work, why can’t you just as easily love others that love their work too?

Now I’m not talking about some Utopia where it’s always some big love-in. Seriously, there are people with enthusiasm and passion who are drawn to organizations that encourage a culture of creativity and risk-taking; where people are trusted and encouraged to experiment. These environments acknowledge that with experimentation come trial and error, success and failure; and learning from failure is vital to improving service delivery and improving on the experience of the end-user.

Think about your workplace. Do you have a colleague that is always pushing the boundaries, experimenting and offering up new ideas? Or do you find there’s a person who is always digging in their heels, preaches the status quo and is afraid of change and innovation? Which of the two are you and are which of the two are their more of where you work? If you find you’re in the majority you might feel comfortable, but if you see yourself in the minority you might not feel you fit in on your team or in the organization the way you’d ultimately like best.

Where do Trust, Risk-Taking, Experimentation, Failure, Creativity thrive in your organization?

My Superpower? Seeing Inside People


If you asked me what one of my strengths is, perhaps I’d choose to tell you that I see things in other people that they themselves either don’t see at all, or they are surprised because so few people see it. Many others have this skill and ability, and it’s probably why we gravitate to the helping professions; jobs and careers where much of our time is spent helping other people.

If you think I’m boasting, I’m not. What I’m doing is stating an ability that I have, which is one of my strengths. If put to the test or asked for an example, I could do it in a relatively short period of time, even when meeting someone just once and within a few moments. It’s my superpower. You yourself undoubtedly have skills and abilities that have become well-developed in your job over time, so it stands to reason that I’ve developed job-specific skills too, and this is just one of them.

I’ll give you two examples that just happened yesterday. In one situation I was speaking with a group of seven people about a number of options they might want to pursue in order to become financially independent. It was when addressing the topic of self-employment that I looked right at one man and said, “You for example may have not only one idea, but three or four businesses in mind, and your problem is you can’t focus on one and so you’ve never got started. At that point I could have stuck an Italian sausage in his mouth as it opened in wonder that I’d identified his key stumbling block to even getting going. “Wow! How did you know that? It’s been my problem for years but nobody knows that!”

In the second case, a woman in the same group was sitting with her legs entwined like a pretzel, her shoulders hunched, way too much foundation on her 18-year-old face, and her wide eyes and downcast head screamed that she was shy, introverted and probably hiding acne and as a result feeling insecure. In talking with her 1:1 a short time later, I ventured that as a teenager myself, I had once had an acne problem which had affected my self-confidence but over time it disappeared and I gained the confidence to look in the mirror and like what I see. “You and I both know that there’s a beautiful face emerging and that acne is only temporary.” I said. She shifted in an instant to a talkative young woman who had great eye contact and she said, “Really? Do you really believe that? I mean some people say that but then I think they have to. Do you really believe that?” And I do.”

Now sometimes this ‘super power’ is one I keep to myself or reveal gently rather than with fanfare. There are times I’ll look at a person and tell them that I suspect they’ve been told over a number of years by someone who should have treated them the best that in fact they are worthless and will never amount to anything. And in those moments, sometimes tears start, heads drop, or heads raise and they’ll say, “Is it that obvious?” or, “How did you know that? My dad always told me I’m a loser.” They generally don’t believe me when I then go on to name several characteristics and personality traits they have that I admire and in which they might like to acknowledge.

Now on the sad side, I’ve sat listening to people tell me how successful they plan to be and drone on about their long-term employment goal or entrepreneur idea, and I’ve seen enough in a few moments to tell me that it is never going to happen. And I mean ever. While I’m not one to intentionally put an end to someone’s life-long dreams, there is often a gulf between what a person is really capable of and what they think they are capable of, even with support and advice. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing, and sometimes it’s best to tell it like I see it and then help to reconstruct a realistic plan in which someone can move forward.

And please don’t think I believe I’ve got all the answers. I’m not playing God here and telling people what they should be when they grow up or do to live their lives as I think they should. It’s only about helping them, and sometimes helping people means being honest and direct. Having an ability to anticipate how someone will likely react and delivering things they probably need to hear but don’t want to hear can actually be what they’ll thank you for later. It’s how the message is relayed more than the message itself at times; with compassion and sensitivity.

So if you are in the helping profession, do you have this super power too? I bet the more you deal with people, the better you have become at reading them; seeing the good and the potential when they can’t see it in themselves. I’m guessing you have provided a word or two of encouragement when they were so low they didn’t think anyone could like them, believe in them and see them as valuable.

Well done Superhero’s.