One can safely assume that there is always something about a situation the person can
This is a principle which forms the basis of a solution for many who are overwhelmed by their environments.
For example, a social worker is visiting Mrs. O’Leary in her tenement. Mrs. O’Leary has an awful lot of problems and she is telling them to the social worker: her husband gets drunk all the time and never brings home any pay and the furniture is all broken and the children have no clothes and it’s impossible to keep the place clean and so forth.
The social worker can really get somewhere if he can find something that can be confronted by the person he is trying to help and get him to actually do it. Although this sounds very simple and innocuous, it has fantastic workability.
People working in the field of social work usually fail to simply adjudicate the problems involved in the situation and then do something about those problems that can have something done about them and that somebody can confront to do something about them. So as a net result, a social worker doesn’t succeed because he never gives anybody anything they can do.
The well-meaning social worker says, “What you want to do, Mrs. O’Leary, is clean this whole place up, scrub it down from top to bottom—after all, we’ve given you soap. And get your children cleaned up and put in those nice new dresses we sent you. Now, I’ll have a talk with your husband concerning his drinking.”
At this point, even if Mrs. O’Leary would have cleaned up the whole place and put the children in the clean clothes, she and the social worker part company violently. The social worker has just told Mrs. O’Leary something that she knows by experience cannot be done. Nobody can talk to her husband about his drinking. She doesn’t think that even a full-scale attack by the United States Army could do anything about Mr. O’Leary’s drinking. Nothing the social worker does or says from this point on is going to have any effect on Mrs. O’Leary.
Suppose, however, that the social worker listened carefully to Mrs. O’Leary and then applied the principle of giving her something she could actually confront handling. He might have noticed that during their conversation, Mrs. O’Leary had emptied an ashtray for his cigarette. So he says to her, “I’ll tell you what I would do. I would start in on this thing a little bit at a time, and I would get the place cleaned up. Now, why don’t you keep the ashtrays emptied? ” She might even get angry with him, but when the social worker leaves, Mrs. O’Leary will go around and empty the ashtrays.
Finding something that the person can confront handling is essential to getting his or her agreement to handle it. The first level of help is “There is something to be done about it,” and the second level contains the element, “that you can do.” Giving a person something he or she can confront and actually get done starts to give him the idea that the situation can be handled. The next thing you know, Mrs. O’Leary is liable to start getting ideas that she can even do something to make her husband stop drinking.
This principle of giving a person something they can confront doing is fabulously useful in many areas.
People often don’t know how to get any further along in life. They know they cannot make any improvement in life, that it is impossible to be any better at all. But using this datum, one could easily demonstrate, even to a whole group, that it is possible to get better. It would be done in the following manner:
Start by advising the person you want to help, “Write down on a piece of paper a short list of the problems you have in your life.”
When he has done that, ask, “Which one of those is the easiest for you to confront? Now write that down.”
Then tell him, “Write down what you absolutely know for sure you could do about that last thing you wrote down.”
And finally, tell him, “Now, you see what you’ve written down at the bottom of this page? Do it!”
Use of this principle can be of enormous assistance to people—in social work, in leading groups, in teaching and lecturing and many other areas.
Don’t tell people about problems that they know they cannot do anything about and expect them to be enthusiastic about accomplishing anything.
Neither the problem being pointed out nor the suggested solution must exceed the ability to confront on the part of the person to whom it is being addressed. The easiest thing to relay is an idea, but the idea must not violate the potential to confront of the individual who is expected to execute it.
The sequence is: What is the situation? What part of the situation is potentially confrontable? And what part of that situation will somebody do something about?
Most people stop giving advice because the advice they give is never followed. But if one followed the rules laid out here, he would be a very successful adviser.
Since what the people are being asked to do is confrontable to them, they will be able to handle their problems and succeed at it. As a result, they will be able to see and confront more of their difficulties, and the above sequence can be repeated. A new review of the general situation will find that they have an improved idea of what is potentially confrontable amongst their problems.
The only difficulty one can encounter is that people sometimes start moving with too great a confidence and, like a baby who has just learned how to walk, go tearing across the room at a high run. Unfortunately, they usually fall on their faces on about the third step. They can get overly ambitious. That has to be taken into consideration, and the person warned with, “Don’t do any more than this right now.”
If you make it your business to (1) rapidly get an estimation of what a person thinks is wrong; then (2) find out which one of these points he can confront; then (3) find out what he is going to do about that point that he thinks he can do; and then (4) get him to do it, and at that point you become terribly insistent on the subject of getting that point done, you will have agreement with a capital “A” every time.
to face without flinching or avoiding. The ability to confront is actually the ability to be there comfortably and perceive.