It’s not about you

  • Some ideas on approaching a participant: We know to ask to touch them. We can also ask if they’d like some company, like to talk; ask how they’d like us to be with them, as a listener, a sounding board, peer advisor….
  • Try gentling your word choice: Rather than saying things like “You should…”, ask if they “would consider…”
    • “Would you consider picking this conversation up again later, after you try closing your eyes for a while?”
    • “Would you like to try on the idea of letting go of your anger about that?”
  • Cultivate awareness of the desire to use examples from your own life when something the participant says stimulates your desire to talk. Building awareness of your feelings of stimulation goes a long way to gaining skill in knowing when sharing your examples could build trust and rapport – maybe your solution would work for them?! and when you just feel like sharing your own story too.
  • Let go of attachment to outcomes. It’s not your job to solve their puzzles. Which leads to:
  • Agency! (Jargon alert! Agency: The capacity to make one’s own choices)
    • They’ve got it. Don’t take it from them – help them realize it’s theirs.
    • When you “fix” someone’s problem for them, you take away their agency. For a person in real or perceived crisis, that’s frequently the worst thing you can do.
    • Usually, people want and need to retain their agency.
    • Sometimes, people really want you to take their agency:
    • Make a decision for them
    • Reinforce a prior decision (like not eating ice cream, not smoking or drinking)
    • Fix their problem
  • For severely altered participants who have become a danger to themselves or others, be aware that they both functionally and legally lose that agency. These cases require to a medical supervisor.