There are four tools that everyone needs in their toolboxes. Not everyone has these tools and they can manage through life without them, but it certainly is easier with them.
I have been a proponent of strengths-based service delivery since before I even knew it was a thing. Strengths-based service delivery is centered around finding the strengths of those you are working with and building upon those strengths by adding more tools. I have taken very personally Abraham Maslow’s assertion that, ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to approach every problem as a nail.’ I am not that much of a handyman or construction dude, but I have done enough shade tree projects to know you have to have the proper tools for the job. The same thing is true of life. If you want to overcome the stressor or difficulty facing you, you need the proper tools to overcome it. Here are four tools that I believe are essential for us all to possess in our toolboxes, whether we are helping other or just looking to overcome our own stressors.
- Empathy – Empathy can be defined in many ways, but simply put it is the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Being able to understand their perspective and see the situation from their eyes. This goes a very long way when we are helping others, because we are able to step outside of ourselves and see things from their point of view and combining that with our knowledge assist them in devising a solution. It is also helpful because sometimes we are wrong and we need to see the other side in order to come to resolution. We need to know how we have hurt someone. We need to be able to understand how others think and feel. Additonally, empathy entails a genuine care and concern for others. This isn’t a sympathetic feeling sorry for others, it is an authentic care for them as people.
- Apathy – This may seem strange, but I have come realize I can only do so much. And it doesn’t matter how much I want something for you, if you don’t want it for yourself you will never change. As long as I can lay my head down at the end of the night knowing I have done all I can do, then I am good. You have to want it to and until you make the efforts to change or adjust, it doesn’t matter how I try to change you. This is the classic ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’ scenario.
- Everyone has at least one strength – This is tough… because it doesn’t always feel like this is true. But deep inside, somewhere hidden amongst the mess is their strength. Is something they do well. Something they are proficient at. Something they are confident in. Finding this strength and building upon it is critical to working with others. And when we are facing our own struggles, it is critical to recall our own strengths and not dwell or wallow in our shortcomings. Which really leads to the last tool:
- We are the same – I learned very early on when working in child welfare (fancy name for the child abuse field), there was a fine line separating me from my clients. This is still true today. I have more tools, more resources, more supports but without them I would be in jeopardy of making choices and decisions I would regret. I have to realize the tools I have doesn’t make me ‘better’ but charges me with a responsibility to help others. This can also be worded as humility. Knowing I don’t have all the answers. Knowing I make mistakes and I am in need of the same grace I am offering you.
Having these tools doesn’t guarantee success or an easy life or whatever. But having them is one step closer to being better prepared to face whatever may come at you today.