Rebecca Joy Novell

The creation of a charity, from the very beginning.

‘The first duty of love is to listen’~ Paul Tillich

This one’s for you Fact Fans!

The new Volkswagen Golf has cruise control. The new Volkswagen Golf has Parking sensors- front and rear! The new Volkswagen Golf automatically dims the rear view mirror to prevent dazzle. The new Volkswagen Golf can speak to you in seven languages. The new Volkswagen Golf parks itself.  (Oooh, wow! It’s like some sort of voodoo magic).

Shall I continue? No? But I have plenty more facts for you.

I know all this because I recently spent a four hour car journey with my Dad… and his new car. I love my dad, and I love his enthusiasm. Which is why, at no point, did I throw my body out of the passenger door on to the M6. Not even on the 300th fact. Nope. I sat and I listened.

And listened.

It is only over the last few months that I have truly realized what a skill ‘good listening’ is. I used to resent sitting in Social Work lectures on Listening Skills. Rather ironically, I paid very little attention to the Lecturer. ‘Yeah, yeah, it’s just pointing your ears at someone really, isn’t it’, I used to think. That and not yawning when they talk. And the body language aspect of listening, I think I can do. Eye contact- but not too starey. Open posture- but not slouchy. I would have given myself a solid 8/10 for my listening ability. That was until I met my Placement Supervisor.

I will be writing a lot more about my Supervisor over the coming months. However, all you need to know for now is that the man is some sort of Jedi master.

A few weeks ago, I chaired a meeting with a young man who had recently been released from custody. The purpose of the meeting was to put a plan in place to ensure that he could be reintegrated, successfully, in to the community. There was a small group of professionals there, including my Supervisor and of course, the young man himself. The young man is known to be heavily involved in local gangs. We discussed an array of issues from education to leisure activities. I was very careful to ensure the young man understood what was being said and felt able to contribute and question anything he did not understand.

After the meeting, I was complimented by the other professionals on my ability to include the young man’s wishes and feelings. Then my Supervisor pulled me to one side and asked me what I thought of the young man. I gave my opinion and then he gave his. He commented on the young man’s brief discussion of ‘pain au chocolat’. The young man had only mentioned it for a minute but from this, my Supervisor had then picked up a string of evidence which suggested to him that the young man struggled with his ‘gang identity’. The food he talks about; the way he speaks; his deferential approach to professionals, all suggested to my Supervisor that there was more to the macho, violent image he was portraying.

From what my Supervisor heard in that meeting, I have been able to alter my approach of working with the young man. Rather than focus on gang-intervention work, which would have been my initial approach, I am focusing on all the aspects of the young man’s life which have nothing to do with his gang identity.

The information my Supervisor got from really listening to the young man, has allowed me to build one of those relationships in Social Work that make you jump out of bed in the morning and smile on the walk all the way to work. I could sit and talk to this young man all day, about anything. He trusts me and when things go wrong, he knows he can speak to me. It’s an honest and open professional relationship. If I had focused, as many have done before me, on his gang identity, it may have further cemented that identity for him and I doubt our relationship would have been as successful. Of course this is just speculation, but whereas the young man returned to custody within three week of his last release, he has now been in the community and engaging fully in education, for over nine weeks now, without any further offences.

So I am currently mastering my skills of listening to what is really being said. It is an art form. And what was really being said about Dad’s car was: ‘It doesn’t come with SatNav included’.

Novs x

One comment on “‘The first duty of love is to listen’~ Paul Tillich

  1. mark
    17/04/2012

    Fantastic stuff. Leave off politics and stick to people. X imagine you’re utopia, you’d still have a caseload.

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