The Three R’s of Mindset in Human Services and How Each One Impacts our Perspective and Approach

Whether it is direct service, working with community partners to improve the service system, government policy, or funding – you have to consider the three R’s of your mindset. Each one impacts your perspective and approach. One of the R’s is proven to get better results than the others – though it should be acknowledged that none of them are perfect.


We need to get out of the mindset of retribution. Coercion, threats, intimidation, and/or undue pressure do not result in everlasting change, positive results, “buy-in”, trust or sustainable relationships. It also neutralizes the possibility of creating an opportunity for dialogue when there are divergent points of view.


We need to get out of the mindset of reciprocity. Bargaining, paybacks, obligation through ingratiation, “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”, and/or trade-offs do not result in transparent decision-making. It also fails to take into account that agents involved in the deal making change, as do the circumstances and stakes of what is being reciprocated. An approach that uses reciprocity also runs the risk of someone or organization being asked to bend their rules, amend their values, or turn a blind eye when what they are being asked to reciprocate collides with who or what they truly are – but there is a feeling of owing.


Reasoning is the preferred approach that results in better, longer-lasting, sustainable, transparent and defensible approaches to engagement. With a reasoning mindset there is a presentation of facts (not opinions), an appeal to values, an appreciation of the goals of others (and when and when there is not the possibility of alignment between them), and, an intentional approach to have the mindset fit neatly with the assessed/understood needs of the other party.


As you engage with others, think about your tactics that ground your mindset. Yes, reasoning takes longer. Yes, there are unreasonable people/organizations that fail to agree with facts. But I would be happy to have anybody else know my reasons whereas with reciprocity and retribution I’m not so sure. I would also be happy to know that I prepared and presented facts that were considered and perhaps dismissed, rather than just expecting another person or organization to do something because they were told to or felt indebted to me.

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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