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spike bullet November 2014 ~ Helpful Conversations - Part 1

Welcome
Chapter 1: Meet Tom and Sally
Resources (links, books, articles, the lighter side)
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color bulletNovember 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 welcome. 

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 Regina's review. 

Welcome

Welcome to the wonderful world of supporting employees and the organization by means of helpful, skilled and informed conversations.

Itís 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.  The 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 conversation specialist.

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 client work.
  • 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:

  • Legally
  • Ethically, and
  • Psychologically.

Quite a tall order and thatís what makes it deeply rewarding.

Letís begin.  Letís have fun.  Bon Voyage!

CHAPTER 1:  Letís Meet Tom and Sally

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.  

The practice was videotaped, then transcribed and edited to disguise their true identity.  Tom 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 that?

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 ... 

  Internet Resources

book graphic  Books

  • Helping the Client: A Creative Practical Guide.  John Heron.  Sage Publications, 2001.  ISBN: 978-0761972884
  • On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy.  Carl Rogers.  Mariner Books, 1995.  ISBN: 978-0395755310
  • Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications and Theory.  Carl Rogers.  Robinson Publishing, 2003.  ISBN: 978-1841198408
  • The Skilled Helper: A Problem-Management and Opportunity-Development Approach to Helping.  Gerard Egan. Cengage Learning (2013). ISBN: 978-1285065717
  • Income Without a Job: Living Well Without a Paycheck.  Michael Jay Anthony, Barbara J. Taylor.  Lulu.com, 2008  ISBN-13: 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.   

world wide web - articles  Articles

Related newsletter articles:
    August 1997 - Improving verbal communications
    April 2001 - Consulting Skills for Managers
    November 2007 - True Community
    March 2005 - Male/Female Communication at Work
    April 2000 - The Art of Listening

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  

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 them.
― 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 around.
― Leo Buscaglia

About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.   We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

spike bullet If you have comments about this month's topic, please let us know or take our newsletter survey.  If you would like to receive free notices of the new monthly topic, please sign up for our mailing list.  See our Privacy Policy

Page updated: December 31, 2014      
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