Love Me Tender
Dear reader, I hope that you get something from this piece of writing. I assume you would like to, otherwise, why would you bother reading it? (I also hope this beginning hasn’t put you off, by the way. It’s just part of the idea I’m wanting to share. I used to pride myself that I didn’t make assumptions about people, but I believe now they are inescapable – we inevitably make and communicate them all the time).
The central part of this short piece comes from a book I have just written. It contains a thought or two about the therapeutic relationship in solution-focused work, but let me sandwich it with a few related mini-vignettes (two before and one after).
I was preparing to be best man at a wedding, and I was quite nervous. I was reassured by someone (I wish I remember who, it might have been my Dad, I like to think it was) who told me I had nothing to worry about – ‘Everyone will be on your side. They all want it to be great, and they will laugh at all the jokes you make’.
A while ago I went to a Quaker meeting for the first time. There were only two other people there. We put a few chairs out in a circle and then I was invited to sit down. As soon as we sat down, the meeting had begun. We sat in silence together for an hour and at times I experienced a stillness in my mind, body and spirit and at other times thoughts clattered around in my head.
What about the client-worker relationship?
Some people are taken aback by how a solution-focused worker gets straight on with the business of the work, and wonder how this can be done without a relationship being built first… in solution-focused work there is no separate getting-to-know-you stage, but this does not mean that solution-focused workers do not believe they have a relationship with their clients. However, rather than seeing the relationship as needing to be created in order to do the work, we adopt the converse view: the relationship arises naturally out of the work being done. In fact, the solution-focused worker’s view is even more radically different than the traditional counselling position. When asked how he built rapport with his clients, de Shazer once said, ‘The therapist’s job is not to build rapport with the client. Rapport is there already, at the start of the work. It is the therapist’s job not to lose it’… This rather elusive idea can be pinned down by associating it with the fundamental assumption of the approach – if a person is wanting or agreeing to talk with someone, then they must want something to come from this. The readiness to talk suggests that a relationship already exists in embryonic form, the development of which is then helped when the client experiences the worker’s interest in what they want and in their ways of achieving this.
The night before my first Quaker meeting, I attended a live art event, called Live Art Speed Date. I had ‘dates’, lasting just four minutes each, with a number of performance artists. One of my dates was waiting for me in a booth behind a curtain, with the words of a song on a piece of paper in front of her.
After I sat down she told me we were going to sing the song together. She showed me that the song was ‘Love me tender’ by Elvis Presley and we began to sing. Shortly after we finished our time was up.
She had assumed I would sing the song with her and we sang it.