Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Explaining 'Important For' with a camping hat

This is the first of a series of occasional articles that share some of the stories I personally use to train the concepts in Person Centred Thinking.

You don’t have to use these stories yourself, in fact I’d prefer you to find your own stories. I’m sharing these stories because they work for me. If you can work out WHY they work,then you’ll be able to come up with stories that work better for you.
The ideas of 'important to' and 'important for' and the skill of seeking a way to find a balance between them that makes sense in the person's life is right at the heart of person centred thinking, so finding a way to explain them that sticks in people's minds is important for a trainer.

When I’m explaining the concept of “important for” it’s easy to say “Important for means all those things that keep us and others, healthy, safe and acceptable within the community.” And that it’s usually other people who are good at spotting what’s important for us. (Which is why self advocates from ‘People Planning Together’ use the gesture of a wagging finger to sum up what ‘important for means to them).
I think telling a story around important for helps  people understand it better than just at this abstract level. I also think telling stories from your own experience works best. So I tell the story of my camping hat:

When I go camping, I love to wear my camping hat. It makes me look like a proper veteran camper. It keeps my head warm and dry when it rains. It keeps me in the shade when it’s sunny. My camping hat is therefore brilliant at keeping me healthy and safe, and is just excellent to wear on a campsite. I really love it!

When I get home, I want to carry on wearing my camping hat. I’ve got used to it. I like how it feels to wear it. But my wife Lorraine tells me “there’s no way you’re going out that front door wearing THAT!” In regular life, it’s important for me NOT to wear a camping hat. It makes me look outlandish and a bit unkempt. My neighbours would talk about me behind my back. My boss at work would not be happy about the impression I’m making to others. The person I care most about would feel unhappy (and Lorraine is very important TO me!)

I thought this was a great story to explain ‘important for’, I told it recently to Julie Malette, and with the expertise she’s built up over years of excellent training she immediately pointed out a way I could turn a good training story into a great training story: BRING IN THE  HAT! Then people would understand just why Lorraine dislikes that hat so much. They would remember how daft I looked wearing that hat in the context of a training. The story would stick in their minds.
So I’m going to have to find a new hat. My old camping hat mysteriously disappeared one day.

Lorraine denies all knowledge…

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