Friday, 10 November 2017

A guide to saying the right thing

As a career practitioner, we are conditioned to focus on the client, and how we can facilitate change - to meet the client's needs - for them. It is so natural for me now, that I often watch in horror as families make other people's crises all about them, and not the person most directly affected. So it was with interest that I read an article recently, which, although almost five years old, used a model that I had not come across before.

This is a wonderful piece of work by Susan (Silk & Goldman, 7 April 2013), called Ring Theory. What Susan proposes is that we map all the people in the situation, and locate them on concentric rings. The client goes in the centre. Then the client's partner in the next ring out. Then the client's immediate family, then extended family, then friends, work colleagues acquaintances, etc. I am sure that you get the idea.

But the genius of this is that it provides a map for us to understand how to behave. Those on the outer rings can only 'dump' to those who on a ring outside themselves. To all rings further in from themselves, they can only offer positivity, help and support. No dumping. No negativity.
Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere.

Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking.  Don't, for example, give advice.

Comfort IN, dump OUT (Silk & Goldman, 7 April 2013).
This is a clear message that working outward is OK for you seeking support, but working inwards is only providing support. Because if we are outside the centre, then it isn't about us. It is about the person who is affected.

That little map provided with Ring Theory makes it very clear what our job is.



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