Frontline Initiative Documentation

The Tools of Human Service Worker

Carpenters use tools. Chefs use tools. Dentists use tools. So what tools do human service workers use?

Your tool is YOU! The whole, entire, physical being of you! Your heart, your brain, your voice. Your eyes, your ears, your body.

You use your heart in your work daily. In fact, such a big heart is what drove you to human services in the first place! It provides you with compassion but not pity, sensitivity without overreaction, acceptance without judgment, empathy even when lacking understanding.

Your brain senses the entire situation and separates how to take action or just leave it be; decides when to be right or do right; considers what motivates another’s action or inaction.

Your eyes watch 360 degrees, make observations of behavior, antecedents and consequences, show acknowledgment.

Your voice calms, not incites. Tone reflects respect, not humiliation; your words connect, not disconnect. Whispers are intimate, not stabbing.

Your ears listen beyond words to feelings and emotions: fear or comfort, desperation or depression, joy or reluctant acceptance.

Your face reacts to all of these, expressing confidence and safety. Occasionally a forced poker face can save a potentially bad situation, covering your own bewilderment, fear, insecurity, shock, or humor.

Your body is balanced and paced, its proximity can intimidate or reassure. Your arms enfold another while erasing all trepidation or loneliness.

Ultimately, your hands are all-powerful. Slowly reaching out an open palm to another who instinctively grasps it, says that they’re not alone, we are all only human, with all the limitations and frailties, and that you will walk with them through this human condition.

© Linda La Pointe, MRA, author of The New Supervisor: Strategies for Supporting and Managing Frontline Staff. Used with permission.