Anyone Getting Asked What Animal They’d Be?


“If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?”

Even though I know the purpose behind this question, I cringe every time I hear it. For starters, it’s old, tired and used so often as an example of a bizarre question that I wonder if anyone out there actually asks it any more. If you’ve been on the receiving end of this question recently, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Okay, so the point of the question; I mean, what purpose does it serve? Fair enough. That’s a good starting place for any potential question coming your way – know what’s behind the question; the purpose it serves. This type of question was often included in an interview to see how a candidate thinks on their feet when given something unexpected.

These days many people prepare for their upcoming interviews by enlisting the help of a Job Coach, Employment Counsellor, Career Counsellor etc. These people typically help by readying the applicant to succeed by having mock interviews. They anticipate questions that employer’s may ask, then coach their clients on how best to go about answering those same questions.

As an employer, it makes sense that in evaluating the applicants they interview, they want to see a person think and respond as themselves, not someone who is just regurgitating what they’ve memorized or been told what to say. To safeguard against this possibility, they may throw in the odd question that no one could reasonably be expected to ask. For decades now, some interviews have used the animal question or some version of it such as, “What fruit would you be?”, “What colour would you be?” or “What superhero would you be?” and of course “Why?”

Some think it is imperative to choose an animal that has qualities that relate to the job being applied to. A commissioned Salesperson choosing an aggressive animal, someone being expected to make a long-term commitment choosing a dog because of its loyalty etc. As for colour, fruit, superhero etc., it’s the same idea – pick one that you can relate to the desired qualities of the job you are applying to.

Me? I’ve found very few employer’s are using these as much anymore. Their questions are limited by the time set aside for interviews, and the information they need is better obtained asking directly relevant questions.

When I’m conducting mock interviews with those I serve, the closest I come to this is my last question which is simply, “Impress me.” I find it serves the purpose of being unexpected and as I observe their reaction I can see it has the desired impact of having them pause to think. It then gives them the latitude to tell me whatever they feel would best sway my opinion of them in their favour. Think of it like being asked what your greatest accomplishment has been, what you’re proud of, what I would truly find remarkable or something to note about you as we draw this interview to a close. In other words, it’s a chance to make a last impression on me the interviewer. And yes, relate it in your own way to the job you’re applying for now.

The animal question specifically though? I cringe. The way to answer this is easy. Answer quickly instead of stalling for time and stay away from anything questionable such as a weasel, snake or rat. Even if you like these personally, stereotypes don’t endear them to a lot of interviewers. Or be contrary and provocative if you wish and take your chances.

The thing about this question is its comparatively weak and has questionable benefit to anyone contemplating whom to hire. If you nail all the other 8 questions asked and bomb the animal question, you’ll likely still impress. Conversely, answer the animal question well but fail to impress when asked the more relevant questions and all you’ve got is the knowledge of what you’ll choose to be if/when you get asked to choose your next life form. How likely is that to happen?

There are all kinds of versions of the bizarre, unexpected question. “If you were a brick on the wall, which would you be and why?” is another. These also get asked if the interview suspects your answers sound too rehearsed, too practiced, anticipated and the answers simply robotic. So yes, they serve a purpose beyond just playing head games with poor unfortunate interviewees. Most interviewers respect their own time – and yours by the way – far too much to add unnecessary questions.

So I wonder, as an applicant in an interview, when was the last time you got asked such a weird question? Could be this question and others like it are out-dated and not worthy of being delved into much anymore, or perhaps they are confined to certain types of jobs.

Do they ask potential Brokers and Financiers what currency they’d choose to be and why? Has Richard Branson ever been asked to choose between being a Snail or an Aardvark and explain his rationale for making such a choice? I doubt it.

I ponder if Donald was ever asked, “If you could be a playing card, which one would you be and why?” Maybe he answered belligerently that he’d be a Jack of course because they are the ‘trump’ card? Ooh, a groaner!

 

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Has Your ‘Get Up And Go’, ‘Got Up And Gone’?


Do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut? You know, floating along day after day, not really mentally invested in things the way you used to be? Things you once found stimulating and couldn’t wait to get at no longer give you pleasure and they haven’t been replaced with other things to do?

I suppose it depends on how long you’ve been in this state, but if this lack of interest in things has been something you’ve noticed is becoming your new normal, you want to pay attention. Oh and by the way, I don’t mean pay attention to what I’m writing here, I mean pay attention to your inner voice that might be telling you something is up.

It’s that inner voice that tells you something is amiss that you can’t get around isn’t it? I mean, to friends and co-workers, you can generally fool most of them, smile robotically instead of genuinely being happy, be present in body even if you’ve left the scene in your mind. Yes, you can fool a lot people and seem to be your old self, but on the inside, where you know yourself more intimately than anyone else ever could or will, you know something peculiar is going on; something isn’t right.

Now you can do what a lot of people do, which is figure you’re just going through a phase, put it down to a change in the seasons, some mid-life crisis that’s normal etc. In short, you can do nothing and assume things will work themselves out. Maybe in the short-term, this might even be the case.

However, when you notice that your lack of interest and motivation to take part in activities is happening more often and you just don’t find pleasure in many of the things you once did, there could be a greater cause for concern. I mean, how long should you wait before getting some professional opinion on your mental health?

Not being a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist, nor a Mental Health Counsellor, I’m certainly not qualified to give you the expertise those practitioners do. At the same time, I’ve interacted with them on a professional level enough that they’ve passed on things to look for; warning signs if you will.

Now it’s normal to have your interests change over time. So yes, you might have once found bowling was an activity you really enjoyed once a week, but your interest faded and you started spending more time working on needlepoint or you turned to rock wall climbing. The activities themselves aren’t anything to get hung up on, it’s that you moved from one thing to another. What I’m referring to here is to be conscious of when you lose interest in something and it’s not replaced with an interest in anything new. Were it one thing, that wouldn’t sound any alarm, but when that pattern is repeated again and again, such as at work, around the house, the family, friends, etc., well, now you’ve got to pay attention.

Reclaiming the motivation and interests you once had can be quite the process. You might choose to start with a medical check up. Please go and do this for those around you but more importantly do it for yourself. You owe yourself this one. Don’t wait until you have some full-blown major issue and the Doctor says, “Had we caught this earlier we could have done such-and-such but that’s no longer an option.” Yikes! Then you’ll be saying, “I thought I could handle it on my own” or, “I thought this was normal.”

You might have Depression, but I’m not diagnosing anyone – I’m not qualified. Sure things might pass, but not always or likely, not without an intervention and possible treatment. Maybe the Doctor recommends a Mental Health Counsellor, medication or some other options, or maybe they do in fact tell you not to worry. No matter what they might tell you, it is better that you check in and lay things out so they can make a proper assessment.

You are the expert of you. You know when things aren’t normal. In our hustle and bustle society, pressure comes at us more often and from more sources than ever before. Yet, we have more options to take part in things from which we should derive pleasure too. If enjoyment and happiness are becoming harder to find in more parts of your life, heed the signs.

Take work as an example. You may have found that the job you’ve got has become truly a labour. It’s taking an exhaustive amount of energy to drag yourself out of bed, go through the routine of getting ready and you’ve come to just hate going in. You’ve called in sick when you’re not more and more, you’re taking a low profile and only doing what is necessary to keep your job, and you get out as fast as you can at the end of the day – maybe even skipping out early. But when you’re there, you’ve never really mentally checked in at all.

Looking for another job is something you pay lip service to, trolling websites but really there’s no concerted effort to update your résumé or keep any social media profile up.

If you see yourself being described here, reach out to a Doctor or Mental Health Counsellor and sooner rather than later. You’re worth it.

Regretting The Words Left Unspoken


Remember that special person you never told how you really felt? Of course you do because after all this time you just can’t get them out of your head for very long. You wish now you could go back and tell them how much they had an impact on you, how much you loved them perhaps, and you wonder if/how things might have worked out differently if you had.

It’s wondering, ‘what if’ that tantalizes; because it ignites possibilities of what might have happened had shared your thoughts openly. Ah, but you were scared, nervous and afraid of blurting something out you’d come to later regret. Ironically, after all these years, here you are now regretting the words you left unspoken.

It’s very much like that in other situations too; although the people we neglect to say what’s on our mind to aren’t just potential sweethearts. No, sometimes we find we lose job opportunities to others and later wish we had said a few more things at the job interview. This is often especially the case if we sincerely wanted a job bad. It would have been perfect and you have wanted a job like that in a long time, so when the news came that they went with someone else, it hit like a truck. If only you had said what you were feeling, things might have worked out differently.

Or perhaps there was someone you really valued in your past; that person who made a big impact on you. Perhaps it was their influence that set you on the path you later took or are taking now. A teacher, a father or mother, a mentor or some person who inspired you to think differently, perceive things in a new light. You never said how much you appreciated them and now their gone. Whether they passed on, moved away, have dementia and don’t recognize you, or you moved away yourself, the opportunity to tell them how you feel is lost.

Now the only thing worse would be finding yourself in this situation here in the present. You know, feeling so strongly about someone you see in the here and now daily, but feeling timid, awkward, embarrassed or anxious about sharing how you feel. You’re so worried about ruining things or spoiling your chances that you go on being around them in silence. You wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just open my mouth, pour out how I feel? Tell them?” Of course in your mind you worry about creating a wide divide, making things weird, learning that your feelings aren’t reciprocated and as long as you don’t do anything…you’ll at least have what you have now – which is something.

Opportunities to step up and voice your true feelings pop up every day; but not forever. Take your work environment. You really value the support of a co-worker; they’ve passed on knowledge to you, covered for you when you weren’t at your best, listened to you share your frustrations, applauded your accomplishments and even motivated you when you needed it. There they are beside you every day, and having a real heart-to-heart with genuine sincerity, telling them how much they mean to you sounds both the right thing to do but maybe the weird thing to do.

Really though, what’s so weird? How long have you worked together? All those years and the hours you’ve spent in each other’s company? Why should it be weird to shut the door and say, “Hey listen, I want to tell you how much you mean to me, and I’m being serious.” You’ll likely catch them off guard, and they might use humour to deflect their real feelings, but they’ll likely also be grateful. What they feel in any event is up to them. You’ll feel better knowing you expressed your feelings and took that chance instead of regretting saying nothing. Then they retire, take another job, move or have an unexpected long-term medical leave etc. and you lose touch; opportunity lost.

I mentioned the job interview earlier. How many times have you walked out of an interview and suddenly said in your mind, “Oh, why didn’t I just say _____?Should I walk back in? Should I follow-up with an email or phone call? I really want that job! I’d LOVE working there so why did I find it so hard to tell them how bad I really want it!

Sometimes its convention and decorum that gets in the way. It seems somehow inappropriate to tell someone how we really feel. On the other hand we also hear that employers want people who are passionate about the work they do. So when you do find something you’re passionate about; a job or company you’re sincerely excited to work for and will invest yourself with fully, why not just open your mouth and express that.

Just like that mentor, potential love interest, teacher, co-worker etc., you’ve got a limited window to risk expressing how you feel. They won’t stick around forever, and the time will never be any better than it is now – today. If you’ve waited for a sign, this is it.

Look, hearing someone tell you how much they appreciate your support, your love, your encouragement, the opportunity to work with them etc.; it’s all good. We need to get better at telling others just how much they mean to us. Few things are better.

 

Stuck Deciding? Do Something!


So you’ve tried to decide what to do with the rest of your life; you know, what to, ‘be’. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 24 or 53, you can still feel that loss of direction. The longer you go trying to decide without coming to some kind of a decision, the greater the likelihood you’ll feel stuck. This can be the situation in two situations; you haven’t got any idea what to do or you can’t decide between two or more career choices. You may feel trapped, paralyzed, immobilized; take your pick – you’re stuck.

Making a decision on a career would seem to be the first logical step. After all, if you could do this, moving forward would be something you could then do with certainty. In fact, all you’d need at that point was a roadmap on the steps to take to reach your end goal and follow the path laid out. That first step though; deciding on a career, is precisely the reason for your lack of progress!

As odd as it might sound, what appears to be the first logical step is actually not. I mean, what are chances you’ll just wake up one morning and have a eureka moment that will be the moment of clarity you recall for the rest of your life? No likely is it?

So here’s some atypical advice; just do anything. In fact, when you’ve done this, do something else too. Then do a third thing etc. Don’t even worry if what you choose to do takes you further away from one of the things you’ve mulled over as a possible destination. Just move. The reason this sounds odd coming from an Employment Counsellor is that you might think my advice would be to concentrate on deciding what to do BEFORE heading out on your journey to make sure you move in the right direction. Sometimes that is great advice yes, but not if you’re paralyzed and stuck on what to do and where to go in life.

So what does, “Do Anything, Do Something” mean? You could update your résumé, talk with people who have jobs about what it is they do, what they like and dislike. You could do some career searching online, take some courses at a College or University for pure interest, work on getting in shape a bit, losing a few pounds if you’d feel better. Take in some activities you find pleasurable and while doing so look at the people working in those activities and interview them to see how they got started as a possible career. Why you could even apply for a short-term job part or full-time to fill in the gap on your résumé. Volunteering to give back and keep yourself busy and learning is also a great use of your time.

There is a long list of things you COULD be doing, beyond whatever it is you’re doing now – but beware sitting around alone and growing increasingly anxious about what to do with your life out of fear you’ll make a choice you come to regret. Yes that could happen, but what is absolutely going to happen if you do nothing is come to regret the time you wasted stewing over what to do and beating yourself up over your inability to figure it out. That’s not healthy nor is it what will make you happy.

Do anything is good advice. Think about this: If you’ve got a couple of career options in mind and they seem so very different from each other, isn’t it likely that you’d be happy doing either one? Choosing between happy and happy is an easy choice between not choosing and increasing your anxiety and possible depression over being unable to decide. Just choose and start moving.

A great number of people over the course of their lifetime have about 8 jobs and even 2 or 3 major career shifts. So in other words, if you’re like the majority, you’re going to have a variety of work ahead of you, and this isn’t a decision you’ll have to live with forever. You might work in a job and derive income and pleasure from it for a while and then find that other opportunities come along; opportunities that will only appear precisely because you are in the first job in the first place. Why is this? You make new contacts, you pick up and hone skills you don’t have now. You become aware of and exposed to other jobs you know nothing about now. Suddenly those other jobs sound interesting and you start the process of putting yourself in place to take advantage of them when openings come up.

Should you volunteer, you’ll feel good about helping out and possibly get hired. You will no doubt meet people, they’ll see your willingness to offer help, they’ll help you along too. If you have a hobby, you might even find others that supply the raw materials for your hobby suddenly work for a living in a way you might find interesting yourself. Would they help you get started? Maybe.

The worse thing that could happen if you just start by doing anything is you get this feeling that you’re moving in the wrong direction. Guess what? That’s fantastic! Why? Because suddenly, you’ve just discovered that the opposite direction is where you should head. Do a 180 and see!

Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs And The Hotdog Guy


“I don’t know why the City doesn’t do something about them. They just lie there all month until their welfare cheques come. Just get a job!”

The above words were spoken to me only yesterday around noon as I chatted with a hotdog vendor while out on a walk. He was referring to the 4 or 5 people who have taken to occupying a patch of grass on the fringes of a public trail adjoining a downtown mall and parking lot. I’ve noticed them too; one or two sound asleep while a few others sit and chat watching over them and out for them.

The hotdog vendor operates about 5 feet away from them, and while we were there one of the guys came over and gave him the $3.50 for a hotdog. Interesting to hear how the topic changed immediately as he took the change and threw a hotdog on the grill.

I suppose many people see panhandlers and people living rough and feel the same feelings as the hotdog guy. “Just get a job!” But it’s far from that simple. To test that out, I actually asked him when the guy buying the hotdog had walked away, “Would you hire one of them yourself?” and he said, “No way! Nada! Never! Shiftless layabouts.”

That’s probably the case with a lot of others too; they want these people working and contributing and not taking from the tax base, but at the same time they don’t want to be the employer taking them on. Why? Presumably they come with a lot of headaches; reliability, trustworthiness, mental health problems and low motivation.

To an entrepreneur like my hotdog vendor, they are the epitome of everything he’s not. He’s self-reliant, having no one else to rely on to make his income. He can’t just walk away from the job on his lunch, and if he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid – no sick days or paid vacations.

Way back in my College days I recall Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Does that ring a bell? You know, the pyramid with basic physiological needs at the bottom and way up at the top you’d find self-actualization; things like creativity, problem-solving and these just above self-esteem. Here’s your living proof of that pyramid. The hotdog guy expects people to just get up off the grass and function at the top of that pyramid and is angry and frustrated that the system doesn’t punish them for anything less by withholding their money. I suppose he sees that money as his money via his tax contributions.

Before a person can go out and find work they’ll be able to keep, certain things have to be in place. Those basic needs of Maslow’s like food, water and sleep. When you don’t know where you’re next meal is coming from, when it’s coming, where you can sleep in safety for example, a job is hardly your first priority. I know of course that the hotdog guy would argue that the income from a job would provide food and water plus a secure place to live. This is the chicken or the egg problem though, and we’d come down on opposite sides of what needs to happen first.

Without a secure place to live, there’s no income for luxuries like a razor for a shave, and where on earth would a person secure any personal possessions when they have no safe storage place? Moving from area to area around town to avoid charges of loitering and worse, where are they to keep their personal ID? ID that’s needed for so many things we take for granted in society.

If you look up an image of Maslow’s Hierarchy, you’ll find employment and the safety it brings to a person is just above the basic physiological needs. It doesn’t seem like much is need to make it to level 2. Get your food and water, air to breathe and you’re on to stage 2. So if it’s that simple, why are people stuck forever in some cases at stage 1? That answer would take more time than I’ve got here to share.

Recall a time when you were stressed about something and couldn’t turn off your thoughts; that sleepless night worrying over something. If you’ve had a time like this that went on for a few days, your performance at work might have slipped a bit, you may have reduced your social calendar until you felt better, and while you were out of sorts, you probably did your best to work things out. Eventually, you did get out of that bad place, your mood improved and you carried on.

Now magnify that if you will. Imagine multiple problems; anxiety, low self-worth, family dysfunction, vulnerable relationships, poor resolution skills, unable to multi-task, hygiene issues, homelessness, judgement from others, financial dependence, chronic sleeplessness, no family doctor, poor social supports (being others in the same predicament), poor nutrition, lack of shelter, clean clothes, good footwear. Can you picture one person with these issues? What if that person were you? Got that image? Okay, now go get a job.

This piece is going to end without a nice solution. Societies have been struggling to resolve this very problem for thousands of years and have different models of trying to do so. Until they do, some compassion and understanding at the least would be nice if we’re unable to truly empathize at best.

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.

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.