Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Don't ASSume relationships!
Although I'm pretty good at making conversation sometimes I have to watch the questions I ask, especially when I'm distracted. Normally, when someone comes to therapy with another person I ask, "So, are you related?" because you never know if someone is a son, daughter, caregiver, girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband, etc. I don't like to assume those things with strangers because I don't want to offend anyone. If someone wants to expand on their relationship then they will, if they answer and get quiet then I know not to press the issue. I usually just have to feel the person/family out and see how open they are to sharing and conversation.
Last week I asked a client this question and she replied that she was the caregiver. I was sooo glad that I did not assume anything. However, there was another client who had someone with him who, to me, looked really young. I asked, "Is that your son?" He gave me a look and then started laughing and said, "No, that is my younger brother" I was just like, "Oh" as I listened to all the crickets amplifying the silence that followed my mistake. haha.
He was pretty good about it, thankfully, but this is an excellent example of BEING CONSISTENT and NOT assuming familial or any other relationship. The client's brother was young, but not THAT young, he only looked significantly younger. I have not experienced the situation where you ask if one is the wife but she is actually the girlfriend and then the wife comes by later. That has happened to others I know, but thankfully not me!
So, the point of this story is to be mindful of assumptive questions. It's best to ask vague questions than direct, yes or no questions. Save yourself, and the client, the embarrassment.