Leo Buscaglia said, “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.”
As social workers, this is often the largest part of our chosen profession: to help others solve a problems and turn their lives around. How often do we listen to our clients though, and really hear them? Words are powerful, and sometimes profound, but often people don’t have the appropriate words, or know how to express them, and much communication is non-verbal. People often reveal themselves through their actions.
Listening takes patience, it takes a desire to really know another person, it takes removing yourself from what is being said and shown as much as possible-addressing our biases in professional terms. Do we readily do that? Or are we judging on the spot based on a surface presentation or past history or life experience or something other than the person or situation in front of us? Do we see an habitual drug abuser, a domestic violence victim, an angry spouse, a cheater? Or do we see a fully human person, who has many qualities and facets to their life and personality, some perhaps problematic, and some strengths to build upon.
If we don’t listen, and listen thoroughly, how can we ever hope to understand, and if we can’t understand, how can we ever hope to help? We cannot turn another person’s life around. The most we can do is listen, and listen fully, and understand a life is much more than a particular presenting problem. That is the power of listening. It is the power to connect with another human being. Is there anything in the world more profound?
By Michelle Sicignano, LMSW, SJS Staff Writer
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