There I was, helping someone
They wondered what they should do
I knew it was a fact, I didn’t know
The one I’m helping;
They’re the one with a clue.
We have to worry when people know
Suddenly what’s best for us
They confuse their role with ours
Those who already know our answers
Ought we really that much to trust?
COUNSELLORS AND MENTORS are wrong when they figure they need to know people’s answers. To have the right advice given to them is not what people are after. If someone has a genuine interest – a real stake in their own life – they will not willingly forfeit their own thought processes and gut instincts so a counsellor, guide, mentor, or confidant can just tell them how to go about the situation.
What people are after is someone who will journey with them; who will listen and quickly reach understanding and know how to add some sort of value that is meaningful to the person being helped.
It’s okay in a helping role to not know the answers to the questions that are raised. Indeed, we, the helpers, ought to be asking the questions, not giving the answers! As we ask questions – inquiring into the lattice of their issues with curiosity – we help them reveal to themselves what the answers are. Only they can know what truly works best or is worth investigating. Our role is to journey. Sure, we can offer suggestions from our experience (“This is what I’ve done” or “This is what I might do, because...”) but to assert our own views as if they were living our lives isn’t right or fair. It’s not what people engage people to help for.
It’s okay not to know; indeed, it’s preferable not to know. To not know, but to inquire into the other person’s context, as if we were them but with the benefit of fresh sense-for-thought, is wise counsel – for them and us.
This counselling process is not about us, the counsellors. Mentors are worthless if they are always asserting what should or must be done. The journey is paramount. The more nebulous the journey – with purpose and intention – the better.
When people engage a counsellor, a helper, a mentor, a guide, they don’t want someone who will solve their problems. They invest in someone who is willing to invest in them. They seek to be understood so as to understand what it is about themselves they need to know in order to go about life.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.