“My clients don’t deserve my bad day.”

A few years back I was interviewing someone who did intakes every single day. I wanted to know what made him tick. And I also wanted to know how he was able to remain so calm and focused as I observed him doing SPDAT assessments.

“My clients don’t deserve my bad day,” said Jeff in a soft-spoken voice staring down at some papers. He said many other insightful thing too. But this one stood out for me. And I have held it dearly since he uttered those words.

I believe that hurt people hurt others. I believe that those in helping professions see and hear the sort of stuff that would make others cringe or feel weary. I believe that vicarious trauma can be real. And I also believe that if we don’t do a check up from the neck up from time to time, mental health can suffer.

But what I strove to do from that day forward was to be as self-reflective as Jeff. His point was a darn good one – we have personal lives too. Life impacts people regardless of our profession, because life does not always go as planned. Do we always have the insight, though, that our bad days (or, I guess, our good days) can have an unintended impact on those we serve? It may be the tenth time a person in need has told their story. As Jeff taught me that day, we need to always be present to take it all in because it is the first time we have the honour of hearing it. If we are distracted by anything in life – the good or the bad – we miss important details and we don’t truly listen nor do we connect.


Jeff works for OrgCode these days.

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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