November 2014 ~ Helpful Conversations - Part 1
Chapter 1: Meet Tom and Sally
Resources (links, books, articles, the
2014 ~ Helpful Conversations - Part 1
This month, we are starting a series called Helpful Conversations, based on
the work of Regina Wright, a chartered psychologist in Europe. This series
of newsletter articles is based on a one-year university-accredited training program that Regina
created for the National School of Government to teach reflective skills and
individual feedback. Her background work for the training is based on the
work of John Heron, Carl Rogers and Gerard Egan. Regina may be contacted
at HelpfulConversations [at] hotmail.com or by phone in the UK at 0044 1293
518815 (from the US 011-44-1293-518815)
The training was originally created for counselors and has been adapted for
our newsletter series. Since good communications skills are important for anyone in
business, we are pleased to be able to offer this series for our readers with
Regina's permission. Your feedback is
Regina is also offering to give feedback on those who would like to use the
newsletter series as an online course and do the exercises in each
chapter. Send your results and comments directly to Regina via email
to HelpfulConversations [at] hotmail.com using the Chapter
1 Task List (downloadable Word document). There is no charge for
Welcome to the wonderful world of supporting employees and the organization by means of helpful,
skilled and informed conversations.
an exciting, fascinating and very privileged place to be, at once rewarding and
demanding. This book aims to acquaint you, the Reader, with that world.
Supporting employees and the organization is a relatively new
role, about which little has been published. Probably the closest are texts on
counseling at work. However, this kind of work is broader and more complex.
job requires you to hold a:
- Range of conversations (from advice to mediation)
with a ...
- Range of clients (employees, managers, teams, the
organization) about a ...
- Range of issues (from individual personal health to
organization al diversity) in a ...
- Range of settings (from office to hospital) using a
- Range of communication methods (from individual
face-to-face work to organizational presentations).
In effect, you are expected to be a communication and
You will also need to be aware of and be able to manage:
- Overlapping circles of information and confidentiality.
- Complex (and sometimes conflicting) relationships
between individual clients, managers and the organization.
- Personal and interpersonal emotion, distress and pain.
Additionally, conversations need to be tailored to the
particular client. That means:
- Being familiar with various theoretical approaches to
- Being able to adapt oneís approach to client need and
preference: for instance: with one considering practical solutions and with
another other exploring their feelings.
- Choosing and changing Ďgearí as needed. You may see
the client only briefly and refer them on to others or work in greater depth over a longer
period of time.
Last but not least, it means keeping clients, the organization
and oneself safe:
- Ethically, and
Quite a tall order and thatís what makes it deeply
Letís begin. Letís have fun. Bon Voyage!
In this book, we take the nuts and bolts of different kinds of
conversations apart so that you get a good sense of the individual elements that
conversations consist of. This will enable you to tailor your future
conversations more closely to suit a particular requirement, as is necessary in
supporting employees and the organization.
Itís perhaps surprising how much theory is involved in
understanding conversations. Itís a little bit like learning to drive: once
you know how, you forget the initial complexity. At the beginning, it was all
very confusing to remember everything.
Experience shows that learning about
conversations is similar, because we are taking apart something we take for
granted: the ability to converse. We do it every day and probably you are in
this job because you are pretty good at it! So it can feel unnecessarily complex
and somewhat disorienting to put conversations under the microscope.
We take Humpty Dumpty apart in order to then put him back
together again: to become consciously aware of the way best-suited to the
particular task in hand. We do this because helpful conversations are held
ultimately for the clientís benefit. We are accountable for how we manage the
conversations and the choices we make. So letís begin by looking at an example
of a helpful conversation that actually took place.
The context of the conversation
This conversation is between ĎTom,í the client and ĎSally,í
the practitioner. Both were social workers in training at the time.
was videotaped, then transcribed and edited to disguise their true identity.
is speaking to Sally about a real issue that has cropped up in his day-to-day
work. Sallyís role is that of being a colleague who has some understanding of
the situation; of course, she is also a fellow student.
Both Tom and Sally are
keenly aware of the training aspect of this conversation and its overall
background context is similar to that of mulling over a work problem with a
colleague, as one does.
As you read it, you may like to make some notes or
observations. Letís consider the following questions:
- Was the conversation successful?
- Was it helpful?
- What kind of conversation do you think it was (for
example: advice, guidance, etc)
- How do you think the client felt?
- What do you think the issue was?
- How did Sally proceed?
- How else might Sally have proceeded?
- What would have been the advantages / disadvantages of
The full Chapter 1 is available for download as a PDF
file. The Chapter
1 Task List (1 page Word document) is available for download if you would
like feedback from Regina.
Helpful Conversations series ... to be continued ...
- Helping the Client: A Creative Practical Guide. John
Heron. Sage Publications, 2001. ISBN:
- On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy.
Carl Rogers. Mariner Books, 1995. ISBN:
- Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications and
Theory. Carl Rogers. Robinson Publishing, 2003. ISBN:
- The Skilled Helper: A Problem-Management and Opportunity-Development
Approach to Helping. Gerard Egan. Cengage Learning (2013). ISBN:
- Income Without a Job: Living Well Without a Paycheck. Michael
Jay Anthony, Barbara J. Taylor. Lulu.com,
978-0-557-00377-8. Website: www.income-without-a-job.com.
Tap into your own creativity and use your full potential. Learn
how to see opportunities that others miss.
Related newsletter articles:
- Improving verbal communications
April 2001 - Consulting Skills
November 2007 - True Community
March 2005 - Male/Female
Communication at Work
April 2000 - The Art of Listening
The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.
― Thich Nhat Hanh
The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't being said.
The art of reading between the lines is a life long quest of the wise.
― Shannon L. Alder
The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to
― Ralph G. Nichols
Many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request.
ó Phillip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what
another has to say
― Bryant H. McGill
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest
compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life
― Leo Buscaglia
About our resource
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