Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Doin' it wrong professionally: Now with more credentials!

I'm in a conference all week.

It's an annual event that happens in my state, and provides several choices for intensive trainings in addiction treatment that last anywhere from one to four full days.  The one I'm taking is for clinical supervision, and my attendance at this event has been graciously facilitated by a former employer, who happened to have an open seat already paid for, and I happened to be the first one to respond to the email.  It turns out that really fast typing is not just a cool parlor trick.

But that's not what I'm doing wrong.  I'm sitting in a room of seasoned professionals-- okay, some of them are seasoned, some of them are just motivated to be in charge of some stuff.  What I've noticed about this bunch of counselors is how much we love to hear ourselves talk.  And this is not a unique group, in my experience.  The funny thing is, as an introductory exercise, the class instructor asked us all to list what we believed were our strengths and our "challenges," and most of the people in this class identified being "a good listener" as one of their strengths.  Um.  Not even close.  Some of these folks are barely waiting for their turn to talk, let alone listening to what anyone else is saying.

I shouldn't imply that I'm not part of the yammering.  But I catch myself at it sometimes, and have to examine my motives for talking in the first place.  I've also been working lately on my own behavior of interrupting people, which seems like a pretty bad characteristic in a therapist.  I notice this behavior much less when talking with patients than with colleagues and with other people, but I can't tell you for sure that I NEVER interrupt patients...  What I do know is that in a room full of other counseling professionals, the only way to get a word in is to talk over someone else.  I have a hard-wired tendency to talk fast and loud, and 12 years of sitting in staff meetings with other therapists has only reinforced this.  I have to work against both my nature and my nurturing in order to not be a complete jerk.

Incidentally, when asked to identify my strengths, I never tell people I'm a good listener.  I'm not sure I am.  But I can be silent when I don't know what to say, and most people think this means I'm listening.  Maybe I am listening, and I just don't recognize it, given the behavior of people who say they're good at it, and then just jabber on and on.

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