I was enjoying my usual Sunday game of Floorball, and was preparing to leave the courts in Kallang area, when I saw a fellow floorballer (you might want to google floorball if you are not sure what this sport is about) leaving the area.
Thinking of wanting to do some good, I called out to him and found out that since he was going to the MRT train station, I could give him a lift.
What I didn't realise however, was how different the area now was, with the spanking new Sports Hub being recently opened and all. I managed to get myself lost in a sequence of multiple roundabouts, and almost entered the expressway.
I was rather apologetic to the guy, and he was really nice about it. After some discussion i realised that the station was actually nearer to the floorball court area than I previously though, a u turn and another sequence of roundabouts later, we finally found a place that he could alight. Unfortunately he still had to walk some distance to the station.
He was really nice about it, thanked me and got on his way. As I sat in my car, partly due to my strained thighs, but mostly to reflect on what happened, I thought a bit of some "life lessons" I could draw from this incident:
1. Wanting to do good is probably not enough
Evidently, it is not enough just to want to do good (and be the pure hearted social workers that other people want us to be). We need the right information and skills to help, if not we might end up doing more harm then good. Poor decisions and actions had been made with the best of intentions.
If we want to help others, we probably need to think beyond our own agenda, for example, if I have proficiency in doing art so I shall make sure I help everyone through art.
Help needs to be thought through thoroughly: What kind of help does someone need? Do I necessary have the expertise, knowledge of skills to help? Is the help being provided timely? Why am I doing this way of helping over other ways (what is my true agenda?) How is the help provided sustainable? What is the desired outcome of this help?
2. When doing good, we may in turn be blinded by "goodness"
What I am trying to say is this: someone who is being helped might not willingly or openly provide true feedback about the help that they are receiving, particularly if they are aware of how you are probably sacrificing your time and effort to help. Conversely, when we think we are helping and sacricing our time, we might not be too receptive to hear any constructive criticism in the work that we are doing. The phrase "I am already spending my time and energy to help, yet you are putting so many restrictions on me!" is something that has come up before.
Another phrase that might aptly sum up this power differential is "Beggars can't be choosers". The recipient of help is left powerless to respond constructively to the "benevolence" of the generous helper.
What we could possibly do to address this, other than being aware of its existence, is the subject of the next learning point.
3. Consult, even when not in doubt.
When we are helping our clients, or helping people in general, to what extent are we transparent about what we can do, and how useful we can be? Would they be aware of our countertransferences with regards to certain populations (e.g. older adults) or certain family issues (e.g. family violence). Are our clients (as you have probably noticed, I have already generalised this learning experience to my social work practice. What can I say? this is a Social work blog) clear of this help that is being received?
Consultation probably does not just include our supervisors and peers alone, but also our clients. There is probably a need to process our client's experiences and explore how we could have a better relationship of colaboration. Some questions that may be useful in practice could be:
- What are the things that I have been doing that you find helpful?
- What are some things that you wish I could do differently?
- If I were to screw up our relationship, what would I be doing?
- How did you find today's session? Which parts were useful, and which parts, not so?
Will reflect more on this. Do let me know your thoughts and whether you may have used other questions that proved helpful in your practice.