Really, why should my clients, or anyone for that matter, listen to me? When it comes to my clients, I’m given power/authority over them. As I have said before, I didn’t go to school for personal support work, I kind of fell into it.
So, at first, this authority was only ‘assigned’ to me. In my mind I had to earn it.
This past winter break I visited my family; parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins and all their young kids.
My Dad was chatting with some cousins of mine, my brother was out back with the dog and my mom was just about to go on a walk with some of the younger kids.
Meanwhile I strolled over to my Uncle J (retired Fire Chief) who was at the BBQ cooking away.
Right as my Mom was leaving with some of the kids to go on a walk, my Uncle J spoke up from the top of the deck and in a loud, deep, firm and assertive voice he said, “Hey you guys, make sure to hold hands and listen to D’s Mom, ya hear?”
As soon as he said that, the kids quickly lined up straight, grabbed each others hands and together started to walk off with my Mom.
I said to my uncle, “Uncle J, I really like how you are with the kids. They listen to you, and don’t talk back. What’s your secret? The reason I ask is because sometimes my clients give me a hard time and I want to learn how to deal with it, appropriately.”
The example I gave him was, there is a client of mine, autistic, that is pretty difficult in terms of his inability to function normally in a social situation. He also has a history of some violence. I see that he has a good heart but his inability to control his emotions when he is stressed or anxious, keeps me on my guard and ready for anything.
The two things my Uncle J told me to ask myself were:
Why should they listen to you?
What do you have to offer them in terms of help or assistance?
Find a way to communicate these to them in a way they understand. Keep in mind some people have different ways of communicating (behavior = communication). Once they understand your high value to them you can become indispensable.
Why Should They Listen to You?
I’m working with this clients’ mother closely to make sure he gets all the support he needs. We talk on the phone or have short meetings to discuss support-strategies.
- active listening
- talking slower and being direct
- not taking things they say personally
- verbal redirection
- money management
- time management
The more I implement these strategies and learn from my mistakes the more valuable I become.
I’ve got to the point now where parents or coordinators talk very highly of me, saying things like, “D is our favorite. He’s a godsend.” or “We just keep giving him contracts!”
As I said, when I first started this new career I felt like I was ‘assigned’ authority instead of earning it. But now I believe I have earned it through rough trial and error ie. experience.
The experience I now have and the knowledge gained from that has filled me with a sense of confidence. When people can see that we have confidence they will respect us and listen to us. Now, when it comes to intellectual disabilities, sometimes they just will not listen no matter what you do or say, and in my case that’s just the nature of the job.
Ten clients in total in just under a year. I currently have eight on the go. Not too bad.
This earned authority translates nicely to earned respect. These clients of mine now respect me enough to listen to me (when they can).
What Do You Have to Offer Them in Terms of Help or Assistance?
From the meetings and workshops I’ve gone to I have seen four basic types of support workers, they are:
Older Men – upper management or driving the small buses
Older Women – coordinators, psw or management
Young Women – coordinators or psw
Young Men – psw
I’ve been told constantly, since I started this career, that Men my age (young Men, twenty nine) are few and far between in this field. At least in my city. That’s a good thing!
Classic supply and demand. I will always have contracts and clients because a) autism and other intellectual disabilities aren’t going anywhere (early detection is on the rise) and b) there are so few of us young male psw’s.
There is probably even fewer of us that make self-improvement a focus of ours. That’s just a guess though. Making the effort to take care of my mind, body and spirit (not in the religious or metaphysical sense, see: Waking Up by Sam Harris) helps me motivate and encourage my clients whenever they need it.
I have several things to offer. I live in an apartment with one roommate, so we have some cool stuff for kids/young adults to play around with, like:
- gaming consoles
- baseballs, gloves, bats other sporting gear
- no parents to tell us what to do!
I also have a car so we can go anywhere in the city, just to name a few, like:
- hockey arenas
Having things like the ones above and having the car, really helps with getting the clients out of their house and being social with other people.
People will enjoy their time with you if you are a fun person, so basically being a cool guy really helps.
However, even though being a real fun and cool guy definitely helps, if you don’t have any boundaries, or know what questions to ask when searching for help, some people may take advantage of you and you’ll find it difficult for people to listen to you.
Why should my clients listen to me? Because I am valuable.
What do I have to offer them? A one-of-a-kind product, me.
I’m glad I reached out to someone I trust for help with something I care about. If you don’t have any you should find people that you can go to for inspiration or wisdom. That’s one of the most valuable things a Man can have in his life.
If you are in a position of authority or have power over other people, the next time you are about to tell someone what to do, ask yourself, “Why should they listen to me?”