Social Services Provider: Build Trust As Step 1


When you meet with someone for the first time, one of the best things you can do as an initial step is set yourself a goal of establishing trust. Yes you likely have an agenda in mind of assisting this person move from being dependent on Social Assistance or Welfare to financial independence. However, recognize that while this might be the ultimate goal, you’ve got to get at where they are now on that path to the goal; there could well be several steps they need to take before that final achievement.

This is the dilemma facing so many Caseworkers in the Social Services system; with sizable caseloads and seeing people infrequently, how does not take the limited time they have and just rush full speed at the end goal? After all, there’s administrative paperwork to complete that fulfills legislative requirements to be done which also restricts the time available to discuss employment. Given the meeting might be an hour maximum, there’s not much time to do what needs doing.

One of your first goals should be to find out what’s going on from the person themselves. You can’t do this well if you’re the one doing most of the talking, and you can’t do it at all if you’ve got this preconceived plan on what you’ll talk about and what you’ll get done. My suggestion is in setting up the meeting, invite the person to come ready to initially talk about whatever is on their mind. What would they like to talk about or ask? Even when you’re the one requesting the meeting, you can start by turning away from your computer monitor, giving them your full attention and asking.

When you immediately shift the focus to what they want to talk about, what’s important to them in that moment, you might surprise them. After all, they may be more accustomed to having past meetings driven entirely by the Caseworkers they’ve previously met with. While they might be expecting to sign some papers, talk about their job search and do it all only to remain eligible to get financial help, they really might not think you care to hear what’s going on. In fact, they could be quite suspicious; unsure if they could trust you enough to tell you their truths for fear of having their money put on hold.

Ask yourself this however; isn’t it preferable that you find out what barriers this person is really experiencing that are preventing them from focusing on their job search? As many of us know, there’s often multiple things going on. In addition to diminished self-esteem and a lack of confidence, the person might have a poor landlord their dealing with, no funds to keep their phone activated, issues of isolation from family, past or present abuse and of course transportation problems. Expecting such a person to, ‘get serious and get a job’ is going to fall on deaf ears. No that’s not true… they’ll hear that message and tell you what they know you want to hear but not really do what you believe they’ll do – they can’t!

Step 1 really is building trust. Create the climate where the person feels they can share honestly how they feel, what they cope with daily and where their priorities are and you’re on the way to truly helping. Now be cautioned, you’ll need to use your ears more than your mouth and listen to them. When you hear of their struggles and challenges, you could really be helpful by labelling the skills you hear them describe. They might tell you they’ve been emotionally and physically taken advantage of since they were a teenager, they held down a job for 4 years before losing it when they had to move to get away from their abusive partner, and since relocating to their present apartment they haven’t met any friends and their new landlord keeps putting off needed repairs. Maybe what you hear is resiliency and courage.

Resist the urge to fix the problems right away. Have you heard this before? There’s a good reason for this advice. So often in the role of Helpers we start thinking of the solutions while the person is still sharing their problems. We want to fix what’s wrong; just as we would if we were parents hearing our children tell us their struggles. But you’re not a parent in this case. You risk losing the opportunity to forge a true connection if you rush to solve the problems you hear. You also reinforce their dependency on others to solve their problems instead of letting them arrive at the solutions themselves and reinforcing their belief in their own abilities to do so in the future.

Now I don’t suggest you hold back on sharing possible solutions. Sure, share your resources and places to get the help they could use. As for a job, sure it might be their goal. However, to get AND KEEP a good job, they may need to discuss some things first that increase their chances of long-term success. Giving them the green light to focus on other things and have your support might be the best thing you can do for this person at this moment and remove the job search need entirely for a period.

This is their life journey. You and I? We’re just some of the good people they meet along the way who are privileged to be included.

 

Make Kindness Count


Show kindness to the people you come into contact with each day and you’re doing something thoughtful for both them and yourself. That sounds like a pretty good thing to me. Showing some kindness to customers, co-workers, animals, the environment, strangers, friends and family; it all translates into making the day a better one for all involved.

Need some ideas to get you going? Fair enough. Please comment and add some of your own and pass this piece on to others – maybe an act of kindness on your part!

  1. As you approach a door, take a glimpse behind you to see if there isn’t someone you can hold the door open for. Whether you let them pass ahead of you or you enter first and hold it ajar for them, it delays you for 4 seconds tops.
  2. Acknowledge people with a smile as you walk along a street. Some of the most fragile people in our society feel completely invisible. Yes, something as simple as eye contact and a smile conveys, “I see you” and sends a positive vibe.
  3. Send an email to one person today expressing something you admire in them.
  4. Leave a note of appreciation for the night cleaners who empty your garbage can, dust your furniture, clean your cubicle or office. You may never meet them, but you can imagine the surprise when out of the blue someone unexpectedly says thanks.
  5. Get up and offer your seat to others when on transit. Be they elderly, pregnant, in poor health, or perhaps entirely able-bodied and young, it’s still a nice thing to do. Kindness doesn’t discriminate.
  6. Drop your change into the charity collection box which is probably on the counter by the cashier or just under the drive-thru window.
  7. Turn the tables on the drive-thru employee and as they hand your food to you, look them in the eye and say, “Thank you for this! I hope YOU have a great day!”
  8. If you hear the recycling and garbage trucks coming up the street, walk out to meet the people picking up what you’re disposing of and thank them for doing their job.
  9. On a blistering hot summers day, offer the people picking up your trash a bottle of cold water.
  10. About that clerical support you benefit from each day; tell them how much you appreciate what they do just loud enough so a few of the people around them hear the praise. Keep it genuine and short.
  11. Go through your clothes closet when there’s a change of seasons and bag up any items you no longer wear and drop them off in a charity box or second hand store. Be kind; wash and dry them first.
  12. When others are rude, give them the kindness they may not deserve anyhow. What they are doing might be entirely out of their norm, they might be under extreme stress and pressure.
  13. Schedule family time and make family a priority.
  14. Cut your lawn and keep your weeds down. Neighbours will thank you.
  15. Put a lid on your recycling bin if it doesn’t have one. No one appreciates picking up your plastics and paper which has blown all over the neighbourhood.
  16. Let the faster vehicles pass unimpeded. Does it really matter if you’re not the fastest car? This keeps their road rage down, gets speeders out of your rear view mirror and if someone’s going to get a ticket, let it be them! Be kind to yourself.
  17. Cook dinner; something they love even if you don’t.
  18. Clean up your room without being asked. This goes whether you’re 14 years old at home or 47 years old at the office.
  19. Acknowledge the customer in line if you can’t get to them immediately.
  20. Answer the phone with a smile; it translate better on the other end even though they can’t see your face.
  21. When a co-worker has a particularly challenging time with a problem, offer to lend a hand.
  22. When you walk in to the boss with a problem, have a possible solution to suggest.
  23. Share the road with others whether they are on a bike, walking, jogging, driving a car or truck.
  24. Keep from getting behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking or using drugs. Whether on the lake or the roadways, you’re endangering lives and risking hurting the ones who care about you back home.
  25. If the food or service isn’t up to par, let owners know without being rude, loud or obnoxious. Take the high road and tell them in a helpful way so they can be better.
  26. Thank the newspaper carrier, the postal worker, the hair stylist, the car wash and gas station attendant.
  27. Extend an apology when you know you had a part to play in what went wrong.
  28. Give credit where credit is due.
  29. Praise publicly.
  30. Discipline privately.
  31. When you ask someone, “How are you?” stick around long enough to hear the reply.
  32. Make time for the people you don’t have time for.
  33. Do something fun for no other reason.
  34. Get healthy so you’re around for those who love you and would miss you.
  35. Visit dad and mom; call if you can’t.
  36. Laugh often; your heart will thank you.
  37. Bag your own groceries and speed up the checkout line.
  38. That check out line for people with 1-12 items is for people with 1-12 items.
  39. Recognize the good in others and the good in yourself.
  40. Pat the dog and get out for a walk.