Listening to friends vs listening to clients





I have a question and don’t know if you already answered something like it. How can you show support for someone without making it about yourself? like *someone talking about a crap thing that…

offsettheshakes said:

this so much. Taught in my Social Work classes. I approve. People learn this.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, this is a really important skill for social workers. That said, I think sometimes people see this as a social work skill, or a therapy skill, or otherwise professional in nature. I think that seeing it that way is kind of misleading.

There are all kinds of relationships in which it’s sometimes important to listen more than you talk, and to create space the other person can fill with what they need to say. Most of those relationships aren’t very similar to social work.

The listening method is the same, but the power dynamics and appropriate boundaries are often very different.

In a social work setting, you have some degree of mandate to respect autonomy, but push come to shove, you also have clinical goals, and it’s very likely that you control access to resources they care about. That matters. It affects how the dynamic plays out. It affects what you can and can’t offer.

Also, in a social work context, you have a mandate to maintain professional distance and avoid getting too involved. The way you listen as a social worker involves, in part, making sure that you’re always maintaining an appropriate distance. When social workers are taught the listening skills I am talking about, they are often taught simultaneously with distance skills, and for a lot of people these end up conflated.

So, to be clear, I am not saying that friends should act more like social workers. Friendship is different. Friendship is personal, and reciprocal. Between friends, the basic context of the conversation is that they *are* personally involved in the friend’s life. Some of the methods of listening are still the same, but some are really different, too.

Friends should not treat friends like therapists or social workers. But friends *should* listen to friends.