The Candle

Sometimes our light goes out but is blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

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I work at what’s known as a “helping profession”: when you spend all day listening to other people’s challenges and frustrations, and when you see yourself trapped by program’s policies and organization’s boundaries, it is easy to burnout.

Today, I attended to an excellent workshop with Bob Shebib on dealing with difficult clients.

I learned, remembered and confirmed a few important things:

  • You can’t change or eliminate a behaviour by complaining, challenging or pointing it out…you need to build the behaviour you want, until the new one replaces the old…;
  • Respect the people who come to you for support, don’t pretend to fix them or have all the answers, don’t pretend to know what they are going through: listen, ask withoutinterrogating, be curious but more than anything,
  • Provide empathy: truly understand what the other person says, meet them where they are (usually at the emotional level more than the cognitive or behavioural) and mirror that to them…finally, between 80-90% of what you’ll see or hear is already in your head (both yours and the person you are supporting); why? Because we all carry history and patterns, expectations, etc.

In Permaculture and systems theory we say: “feed what you want to grow”; we also say: “don’t waste time and energy in fighting a system that is already dying and not delivering what it should; instead, build a system that does (deliver what is needed) and allow it to replace the old one…

I’m also touched by the wonderful colleagues I have the privilege to work, many of whom are also my friends…

When your light gets small, reach out to the others, reach out to your tribe: they have the flame to rekindle yours…and I’m blessed to belong to more than one tribe: the permaculturists, the helpers and those who are building the new system and creating the new behaviours that will eventually replace the old.

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
~ Anne Frank

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