Monday, January 09, 2006

Relating to Others

Why do I want to help others?

My reasons are as much selfish as they are about helping others. I feel that life is not about simply living day-to-day, working for pay, getting further ahead than everyone else, and repeating ad nauseam. I have always taken enjoyment from interacting with people, and came to relish the job I held at the school, because I was in a position to talk and listen with many students. I know that there were a few students who I had a direct influence upon. I spent time with them, engaging them when they were upset, lonely, or vulnerable, and acting as a sounding board, confidant or moral support. There were others, who I befriended in a lesser fashion, because of their age, but with whom I developed a rapport, and I made myself available to help anyone and everyone, in whatever capacity, who needed it. It gave me a buzz to be known by and helpful to so many people.

These days, my life is empty of that sort of interaction, and my job, and the stress of the past few years has left me bored with work, with information technology, and with the feeling that my life hasn’t any real direction. I am of the mind that I will get my own satisfaction from a career in counselling, that this may very well stretch to life-satisfaction – I will be helping others, and, I guess, in my way, I shall be helping others come to moments of self realisation, and moments of epiphany that could change their lives.

Why do others come to me for help?

Others have always confided in me because, I believe, I have an open attitude towards people and life, and rarely speak of my own beliefs. I often engage people with topics of conversation by agreeing to their viewpoint, and currying favour by making them accepted, and as if we have something in common, by siding with them in their views or an argument they might be having with someone else. Often, I make light of situations and belittle problems with humour.

I still make sure that people feel they can ask me anything, by making myself available to them, by showing that I don’t mind putting myself out, and by being open and honest – I very rarely keep what is going on in my own life from other people; I hate secrets, and am honest with my feelings.

How do I form relationships with others – colleagues and those close?

I try to be civil, friendly, and co-operative with everyone I meet. I keep an open mind and an open posture, but also allow other people the chance to make the first move to get to know me, or to engage me. I can be shy or forward, dependent upon my mood, and I become shyer, the more people I am with (who I don’t know), but in either instance, once the first hurdle of name exchanging and the initial conversation of meeting, I relax somewhat. My humour only comes into play after a couple of hours, or after someone else has begun to express their own – humour is an ice-breaker, but used too soon or wrongly, can make people “humour” you; they will shut off from engaging and interacting, and will be more interested in how much longer they have to endure your company.

How do I assess my relationship skills?

It’s not often that I assess my relationship skills; only having moments of self-realisation if I find myself with a pregnant pause, or having said something that I, myself, feel might have been ill chosen. I am more and more finding that if I am bored and I specifically go looking (at work) for someone to talk to, that I tend towards conversation that wouldn’t sound out of place coming from my brother – the kind of talk in which the other person is doing something, I’m not, and the conversation revolves around myself in the hope it might jump start a better conversation – which is kind of sad.

I become ever more aware of myself when I do spend time with my brother, listening to, what I believe is, his self-centred ignorance, the ways in which he attempts to start conversations (having nothing better to say than talk about something that no one else has any interest in or comment on).

At present I still require other people to pull me up on my behaviour or attitude – if my jokes run too close to the taste line, or my comments are too pointed – and though I do then stop, shy away, or apologise, it still takes me a little while to really look at myself and think about why I needed to calm my behaviour down (I immediately use a defensive block, as, I believe, all people do when someone points out something such as a character flaw; this needs to be got over before I can move on, or develop).

What are the qualities I have which I can develop?

I have several qualities that may be developed to assist my skills. I have many frames of reference, several difficult experiences which I have lived through, different groups of people and character types that I have worked or lived with. These frames of reference enable me to empathise with people, because I can better understand certain situations or feelings. Although there are plenty more situations I haven’t experienced, I believe the acknowledgement of such situations and the storing for use empathy is very useful, as it should enable me to find common ground with people, empathise and therefore, find a way to move forwards with them.

I have a humanitarian and spiritual view of people and the world. I do not force my views on others, even if I don’t agree with their views, and I approach situations carefully, so as not to offend. There is little I want from life, am not competitive, and have a desire to be dependable and reliable for other people – I am prepared to help others, and put their needs first.

I have a friendly, open nature, and am not secretive. I have found that people talk to me and feel that they can come to me. Whether I might be judgemental or not, I never display any such feelings towards people I am talking to, or being an ear for, again, whether I completely agree with their view or not. I may express another viewpoint, but never press it, and will allow people to make up their own minds.

I have a strong interest in character development and the reasons why people do the things they do, or believe the things they believe – mostly stemming from needing to create believable characters in my writing. This also means that I am interested in listening to people, what they have to say, and why they say it. I have an honest interest in therefore wanting to assist people in coming to terms with their own problems and seeing their own way through.

Do I have specific blocks in listening to some people?

I am a proactive person, who, when I am in the mind to do things, wants to get on and get them done. In respect to other people, their problems and their needs, I want to get involved, give them advice, show them the path and direct them to what I believe they should do. This is more difficult in the instances of people close to me: family and work colleagues, because I have a better understanding of what is going on with them, am sympathetic, no empathic, and often, am in a situation where I want to help them directly, and don’t have the luxury of time to sit back and counsel them so that they may make the right decision. Sometimes, this may be compounded by situations that either link to me, or have echoes of something that happened to me, or got me worked up – again, I find it far easier to break into type, and offer advice and guidance on what needs to be done, rather than allowing the person to come to their own conclusions – I am worried they won’t do things right, and might be taken advantage of.

I have a very active mind; conversations, scenery, etc, often sparks a memory recall that takes me off topic, or sidelines my thoughts. This isn’t very helpful in a counselling session, where I need to be concentrating.

Because of my active mind, I can confuse myself. For example, when asked a question about mathematics, rather than work out the answer in my head straight away, I worry about doing it quickly, stumble over my thoughts and slow myself down. This is also leads onto coming up with a question I might want to ask, or a direction I might want to take a conversation. I end up spending too much time thinking about that rather than listening. I end up waiting for my turn to speak.

I have an artistic, and open mind. This is useful in accepting new things, different people and situations, but it also means that I can be easily led, accept things that might require more thought, and often don’t express my own views because I believe other people’s have a lot of credence and don’t require my own, or that because of that, might may be wrong. I am not as confrontational, as I should be, in certain circumstances.

I can be headstrong on occasions; ignoring what people say because I believe myself to be right, but this is only occasionally, and stems from a similar notion, that we all suffer, which is some form of ignorance: I’m right, I know I am.

Have I identified some of my prejudices and stereotyped views?

My personal world view seems to thrive on prejudices and stereotypes. It makes me comfortable to be able to situate people into categories – any category. Whether I use that because of my personal fears, or hang-ups, or whether it is because I am personally dismissing somebody’s view, because of who or what I think they are, in a normal, everyday, sense, is irrelevant. I do not treat people too differently because of which group I perceive them to be in – I treat everybody as I would wish to be treated. Where someone is out of order, and I feel safe enough to pass comment, or direct them to do or be, somewhere else, I will do so.

I never refuse to speak to or deal with a person for any reason other than if I don’t like them personally. I will never be rude or racist, sexist, tall-ist, fat-ist, etc, to anyone, or use it as an excuse, because it simply isn’t in my nature.

As the nominated first-aider, at work, I cannot afford to have hang-ups about dealing with certain people, it is unethical, and I won’t have any problem. I may allow prejudices to sway my judgements or beliefs, but I do continue to think upon subjects for some time, and am prepared to change my mind or view.

Stereotyping is a normal characteristic that makes me feel comfortable, since I am able to categorise people – put them in boxes. I never allow it to prevent me from listening to or befriending different people.

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