Developing the Helping Relationship
As a Career Development Facilitator and Consultant, I have learned that in order to do my work successfully, I needed to develop, understand and apply necessary techniques that are familiar to counselors in order to establish and maintain positive working relationships with my clients. Clients are often coming to me in their career transition feeling lost, vulnerable, as well as experiencing emotions such as fear and anxiety. The list can go on. For these reasons, I needed to find ways to recognize and understand the needs of my clients as well as figuring out strategies to put them at ease while we work together. This is what is known as a Helping Relationship.
What are the key ingredients to a Helping Relationship?
- Acceptance/Respect – Acceptance is the act of relating to another individual while respect is the attitude of giving dignity to each individual we come across. Many times these two concepts are easy to come by but other times, particularly when working with a distressed client, it may be difficult. As individuals providing a service, we should be careful to accept and respect our clients just as they are coming to us. One way to do this is to keep in mind that transition is stressful whether it is into a new career, out of (or into) a new relationship, adjustment out of the military or even incarceration. The best way to communicate acceptance is to consistently be pleasant, open and nonjudgmental.
- Understanding – Generally we feel that we are being understood when we believe that we’ve been listened to carefully and thoughtfully by another person, to the degree in which we believe they can relate to our experience. We should be careful to let our clients know that we have heard and clarified what they are expressing to us.
- Empathy – The ability to put ourselves in our client’s shoes; the act of trying to experience life as our client has experienced it. This is empathy. It is a skill that is perfected over time and fortunately for many of us, our constant interactions with clients provide opportunities to build and refine this skill.
- Trust – A feeling that we get when we believe we are safe. This usually comes with the perception that the client is working with an individual who has their best interests in mind. Once trust is gained, the client will begin to open up sharing crucial details we may need in order to help them effectively.
- Warmth/Genuineness – The best way to describe warmth is to say it’s an authentic sincerity. It involves being genuine both through eye contact and through tone of voice. Attending fully to what the client is expressing and sometimes showing humor when necessary can also put the client at ease.
What Tools and Techniques Help Build the Relationship?
- Attending – Pay attention! Attending involves a committed effort to truly hear what the client is saying. Often times this is shown in how we orient ourselves: creating an open posture, maintaining good eye contact and allowing ourselves to relax.
- Listening – Truly listening involves paying attention to two things at one time. We must focus on both the content of the message, and the feeling that is conveyed. Clients will often time partner their verbal messages with communication of their feelings through body language as well as through their facial expressions and tone of voice.
- Reflecting – You’re probably doing this without even realizing it. As an individual who provides a service to others, it is important to understand that you are most effective when you mirror both the feelings and the content of your client’s message. When this is done well, the client will truly feel that you understand them and can relate to what they are going through.
What are some personal techniques you use to build positive Helping Relationships with your clients?