Chris Wilkinson column: Good intentions are not enough

It’s certainly not a case of bad intention.

By Chris Wilkinson

When you own and manage a company with around 100 caregivers there are bound to be some interesting interactions.

Our clients are wonderful people who just want to stay at home. They may just need a bit of support to stay as independent as possible in their own environment. Home. But every now and then there’s an interesting situation that comes up that fascinates us. Every single one of our clients has a great story. All have amazing family stories to share. Some have done very inspiring projects. Some have invented. Some have created products or policy that revolutionized their industry. We’ve had a number of clients want us to take them shopping at places we just can’t go. And we even had a male client in past who asked about getting him a prostitute — and he was serious! Some of these requests we get, while sometimes stressful at the time, usually turn out to be one of those stories you keep with you and remember forever.

Recently we had a client’s daughter and caregiver relationship break down. Unfortunately they just didn’t see eye to eye. It’s not that either of them are bad people. They’re not. They both have the best intentions in caring for the daughter’s parent. It just happens sometimes that two people just don’t jive with each other.

It’s certainly not a case of bad intention. And in this case it may not even have much to do with the personality matching — like the Myers Briggs personality testing, which I find fascinating. If you’ve ever done the free online Myers Briggs personality test (there’s a bunch) you know what I’m talking about. This is where you get labeled with the classification letters and find out how you typically focus your attention — Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I); how you take in information — Sensing (S) or Intuition (N); how you make decisions — Thinking (T) or Feeling (F); and how you deal with the world — Judging (J) or Perceiving (P). Personally, I’m an ESFJ — very caring, social, and always eager to help. Interesting stuff. But again, in this case, I think it was more two people just not communicating in the same direction.

And in communication, sometimes it can just take one comment, said a certain way, interpreted by the other in their own way, that completely turns the tide. Shifts the dynamic. Changes the relationship. One word said with a different tone. An unwelcome tone. Even one syllable delivered with a slight edge to it. That’s where it starts. Even if it wasn’t meant that way. That can be the game changer when it comes to two people staying respectful toward each other…or it can be the beginning of the end.

All too often in today’s world we see conflict and tensions arise from communication breakdown. Whether between couples, co-workers, families and even countries — while some communication breakdowns are intentional, most of what we say is unconscious and from communication habits we’ve learned along the way.

And when one person is more willing than the other to work through it, or perhaps has better communication and understanding skills, it’s tough! There comes that fork in the road, or choice point, where one says either, “OK, I’m all in and we will get through this,” or decides, “I’ve tried as much as I can and I’m just not invested enough in this anymore…I’m out”. Whether consciously or subconsciously.

To take full responsibility means we ask ourselves a key question: Do I want to win this disagreement and prove my point, or do I want to develop a stronger connection with this person? And choosing the latter definitely does NOT mean roll over in defeat and give up. It just means understanding and applying Covey’s fifth habit, “Seek first to understand…then to be understood”. When was the last time you threw gasoline on the flames of a misunderstanding, and it helped? Yeah, never.

I’m not going to say that the relationship between the caregiver and daughter should have been repaired. I don’t always have the answer. But I know there could have been more “seek first to understand” employed. In the end, it’s not the end of the world. Another caregiver can replace, and this caregiver, who is very good, will have many other opportunities. Things carry on.

But it’s not always that easy a fix, is it? More often it takes not only the intention, but also the compassion for understanding. The desire. And communication skills — so important. How are your communication skills? More on that next month.

Chris Wilkinson is the owner/GM for Nurse Next Door Home Care Services for Cowichan and central Vancouver Island. For more info visit www.NurseNextDoor.com or for questions or a free in-home Caring Consult call 250-748-4357, or email Chris.Wilkinson@NurseNextDoor.com

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