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September 30, 2023

Using Permission Seeking to Build Trusting Relationships

When we seek the permission from the individuals we work with, we’re letting them take the lead.

As professionals, the thought of taking a step back, allowing the course of events to be in the hands of an individual we support, can be a daunting prospect. Sometimes, without even realising, we choose to be the authority figure, to make us feel safe and less vulnerable to situations developing off course.

By taking full control of all situations, we’re removing responsibility and ownership from the individual, leaving us alone to steer what will happen next. This approach can be demoralising and can lead to feelings of helplessness. It can trigger low self-esteem, making the individual feel like their voice isn’t valued and that they’re unimportant. This can put an immense strain on the relationship.

When we seek the permission from the individuals we work with, we’re letting them take the lead. They have the opportunity to say no; they can steer what will happen next. It’s an opportunity for us to show them that they can influence events and make their own choices.

Respectful relations

The relationships with those in our care can sometimes be difficult to build and manage. Whilst we’re not there to be the individual’s best friend, we’re also not there to stamp our authority and control a situation. To achieve a successful balance, there needs to be a level of trust and respect that is mutual.

Consider these examples of opportunities to show mutual respect:

    1. Movement: If we’d like a child, young person, or adult to move to a particular place, we can’t assume that a physical hand on their elbow to steer them is acceptable. We need to be respectful of personal space and ask for permission to touch. A non-physical hand gesture can often guide the individual just as effectively.
    2. Communication: It’s sometimes hard not to get impatient when somebody is desperately trying to tell us something at an inappropriate time. We can deflect the conversation by letting the individual know when’s it’s a more appropriate time to continue. By giving an exact time and place, we’re letting them know we want to listen and that their voice is important.
    3. Modelling expectations: Simple acts, such as using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, opening a door for somebody, or asking whether they had a pleasant lunch, can speak volumes. We can lead by example, helping the individuals we support recognise when they’re treated respectfully and feel valued.
    4. Facilitate daily talk: Everyone needs to feel like they have a voice and that we genuinely want to hear it. Positive relationships develop when we invest the time to talk and listen. This doesn’t need to be a timetabled event, but a quick check in and catch up with one another. These moments are key to showing that we care for the individual and that their voice is important to us.

When this level of mutual respect is embedded, the individual is more likely to trust that, in challenging situations, we’re there to act in their best interests.

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