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Sensitive care questions: stepping into the shoes of another person

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Sensitive care questions: stepping into the shoes of another person

Johnathon Abbey

Johnathon Abbey (original January 12 2016)

Often when working with clients and people in need of additional support, I am usually mindful of two things initially. The first is the need to promote resilience and a sense of achievement for the person within their capabilities. The second, which I will focus on today, is checking whether I have put myself in that person’s shoes, to the best of my ability. I find this process helpful to ground my ideas and give a clear perspective instead of just relying on my professional experience. This process helps me hold in mind another person’s journey, and to see a positive vision for them. Some simple, quick questions I have found helpful, include asking myself:

1.What would it feel like to be in the person’s shoes? This helps me take another perspective about the daily experiences of the person, things they might enjoy, as well as those events in their life which have not been favourable.

2.What would I do in the same situation? This helps me think about my own limitations and how I would navigate the same situation.

3.How could you envision a good day for that person? I try to focus on meaningful things in the person’s life which helps them have a great day or at least help with easing times of difficulty.

4.What would you need from others, or would like to say to them, if you were unable to communicate effectively? I try to imagine the myriad of needs I have personally each day, and in some approximation to the person I am working with, to give at least some of these needs a voice where communication is not always available.  I view this as a starting point to help me test whether I have identified needs important to the person.

5.How can I try to sit and “be with” the person? Sometimes in the struggle for answers about how best to support people, there is the other important aspect about avoiding the rush for solutions, and instead being there with the person on their journey and through their difficulty. 

As mentioned, these questions are only quick starting points that I find helpful. I often go over these questions to see if I can gain a closer approximation to the best way to support someone. These questions help me remain person centred and avoid the temptation to rush to immediate solutions. 

Please feel free to leave comments and share your ideas!

Johnathon Abbey, Psychologist