I & R Community Specialist Listen for the Good
I grew up hearing people say there are three things you are not supposed to talk about…
What are those three things you might ask? Politics, Religion and Money.
I don’t know who came up with those 3 but I do believe in 2020 people are talking about all of the above and then some. As a young adult I remember hearing this and wondering why I should avoid such topics. As I grew older it quickly became apparent as to why these conversations should be limited to a select few. Everyone has a different opinion regarding politics, religion and money. These three topics invoke a lot of emotion, they can encourage as well as destroy relationships.
The list of things you’re not supposed to talk about gets even longer when you mention gender identity, racism, and defunding the police. Can’t we all just sit around the fire sing America the Beautiful, roast marshmallow, eat s’mores and drink hot cocoa? Yes we can, in order to make America “great again” we need to have positive respect toward people from all backgrounds and circumstances.
When we are engaged in a good healthy conversation in a safe and or courageous space good ideas emerge. In our role as Community Resource Specialist we often get tossed the hot potato of politics, religion and money over the phone. Section 9 of the AIRS 2020 Manual does an excellent job defining and describing our role serving diverse communities.
I won’t waste your time paraphrasing the entire section in this blog. However I couldn’t resist inserting my favorite quote from page 193.
“Awareness of one’s self is the first step to understanding others. People who are secure in their own identity can act with freedom, flexibility and openness toward people from different backgrounds…
Knowing this means knowing that you always have to work at it.”
We are human. We bring ourselves into every call and the tone in which we respond is regulated by the AIRS Standards. The I &R service requires us to respond in a professional, nonjudgmental, culturally-appropriate and timely manner. In my six years of being on the phones with clients I have had to attentively listen without offering my personal opinion on topics of politics, religion and money. In fact, asking a client what is the source of their monthly income can spark an unwarranted conversation about money. Dare I mention the intake process requires specialist to ask a client’s race, ethnicity and military status. And just like that the specialist is knee deep in a conversation about politics and religion.
Over the last 4 years I have had to govern my conversations in the office and over the phone by one of my favorite scripters. Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Oops I just slipped in the topic of religion.
As we close out this year, in the midst of a raging pandemic and plagued by racial divide, I hope you all will join me in my determination to check myself. I’m walking into 2021 with self –awareness, more compassion for diverse groups and practicing self-care. Over the phone we don’t take sides but we seek to find value in the client’s experience.
In I & R we don’t talk in depth about politics, religion and money. Specialist have to attentively listen when callers need to vent their frustration. In that moment we have to toss aside our personal opinions and focus on the need. Often those hard conversations seem to last for an eternity but it’s in those moments I encourage my staff to listen for the good.
Happy Holiday & Happy New Year!!!
Jamie Saunders - December 2020 MAK AIRS blog