Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.
What popped into my mind? “Trust your gut.” Where did I pick up that phrase? I don’t know. Maybe my dad. Maybe some book I read.
I have pretty good instincts when it comes to people. I tend to focus on eyes and body language when I’m meeting someone new, especially in the course of my work day. It’s important for me to get a good sense of the person I’m working with, and I still, after 15+ years, am taken by surprise when someone who is paying for my help sits there and lies to me.
Here’s a good example. Susie (not her real name) was a woman who had clearly been through some pretty rough times. No longer young, it was obvious that she had been beautiful but that life had stolen some of that beauty away.
She fidgeted. She slid back against the sofa, then she moved back up to perch on the cushion as if she were ready to run. She kept fussing at her hair, messing with her clothes. She would glance at me, then quickly look away.
When I asked her to tell me briefly what she hoped to accomplish in counseling, she couldn’t give me a straight answer. She was very good at circumlocution, and the more she talked, the more I saw an underlying and very deep anger. Since being a counselor involves a lot of detective work, had to wonder what was behind the anger.
I asked her. She blinkblinked at me, and said, “What? I’m not an angry person! How can you say that?”
First lie. She didn’t know she had just lied to me, but that’s because she doesn’t see herself as others see her.
I did a little more probing. Finally, I asked, “Susie, who hurt you?”
I got another startle reaction, and she said, “What do you mean? No one hurts me! I’d like to see them try!”
Second lie. This time, she knew she was lying. I knew I was close.
“Susie, let me ask it a different way. Someone hurt you, and I think it was sexual abuse. Who molested you when you were young?”
This time, she just sat there and looked at me for a full two or three minutes, and I didn’t fill that time with words. I needed an honest response.
Then the tears welled up in her eyes and her hands began to shake. “How did you know that? We’ve only been talking for half an hour! I’ve never, ever told a soul–well, except my older brother, but he didn’t believe me. How did you know?”
Well, we’ve made a great deal of progress since then. Now she tells me right at the beginning of a new session if she thinks she was dishonest at the previous session. She says, “You probably already know, anyway, and I’ve been feeling guilty all week.”
A good counselor has to have good instincts. So do parents, teachers, and police officers, and doctors.